Why UCF Won’t Repeat in the AAC East

Temple will not be the reason UCF fails to repeat as American Conference football champions after arguably winning the national championship a year ago.

Oh, the Owls might edge out both UCF and USF to win the AAC East for the third time in the last four years, but the Owls will probably not be the primary reason.

History will be.

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Unless you are named Tom Herman, no first-year coach in the AAC has ever won the title.

It’s more likely that Josh Heupel’s first year as head coach will go the way of every other coordinator who has been thrust into the completely different job of running the show for the first time.

There will be mistakes, both big and small, and those mistakes will add up to enough losses to tip the scale toward someone else who already has learned to avoid those mistakes.

Someone like Geoff Collins or Charlie Strong.

The AAC has had some pretty good coaches come through the ranks and leave for better jobs but none, other than Herman, have won in his first year.

There is no inclination to think that Heupel is the next Herman other than the first letter of their last names. UCF deserves all the national championship accolades it can get. The Knights were robbed of the NC in an unfair system and their unbeaten record combined with wins over the ONLY two teams who beat the system’s NC, Alabama, is a stronger case than Alabama can make for itself.

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 03 AAC Championship - Navy v Temple

It’s all about the chip this year for Owls

 

But that was last year and this is this year and Heupel had nothing to do with past UCF successes.

This is his first stint as a head coach and he wasn’t successful in all of his coordinating stops. He was co-offensive coordinator for his alma mater, Oklahoma, until Jan. 6, 2015, when he was fired. If you are fired by your alma mater, that’s a huge red flag. He then went to Utah State to be offensive coordinator for a year before he was hired by Barry Odom to be offensive coordinator at the University of Missouri.

Even with all of the talent at his disposal, including the league’s best returning quarterback, McKenzie Milton.

In football, coaching means more than any other sport—a lot more—and the misfortunes of the never-ending AAC coaching carousel are more likely to be felt in Orlando than Philadelphia or Tampa.

Friday: The Second Time Around

Monday: AAC Facts of Life

Wednesday: Calling All Fans

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The Vague Above The Line Concept

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To no one’s surprise, Boomer is back on top of the kicking depth chart

Somewhere out in San Diego the guys on the desk at Our Lad’s Guide are pulling their hair out trying to figure out the Temple football depth chart after spring practice.

Our Lad’s is one of the few sites on the internet that even attempt to put together a depth chart for all 127 FBS teams. It’s a pretty easy exercise. All they have to do is download the official depth charts on the school sites of 126 teams.

Then there’s Temple.

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This was Our Lad’s guess a year ago

The guys there did a good enough job last year–even predicting that Logan Marchi would be the starter at quarterback after spring practice–and they will attempt to muster together a depth chart now.

Since head coach Geoff Collins does not believe in depth charts and only a vague “above the line” concept, this is a tough enough job for anyone.

Our Lad’s had the roster completely filled in by April of last year even with Collins’ idiosyncrasies.

This year, Our Lad’s Guide has apparently given up on Temple because their most recently published Temple depth chart has plenty of holes and Frank Nutile listed as BOTH the first- and second-team quarterback. That won’t work.

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This is Our Lad’s now.

It is something the fans are interested in, so we will take a shot at the post-spring depth chart.

Offense

Nutile has to be the No. 1 quarterback going in and, based on everything we’ve heard, it’s Anthony Russo No. 2 and Toddy Centeio No. 3. Running back is Rock Armstead No. 1 and Jager Gardner No. 2 with an injury to last year’s No. 2, David Hood, throwing his status up in the air until the fall. Wide receivers have to be Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright with Jadan Blue and Brodrick Yancy as backups. The fullback is Rob Ritrovato (we can only hope and pray that Dave Patenaude uses the fullback this year). We’ll go with potential matchup nightmare Kenny Yeboah as the No. 1 tight end, supplanting last year’s No. 1, Chris Myarick. The interior line starts with Matt Hennessey (center). The strength is the interior of the line with Lansdale Catholic’s Vince Picozzi at right guard and Jovan Fair at left guard. The tackles should be Scranton’s James McHale and Jaelin Robinson. The backups should include Greg Sestilli (C) and former Imhotep four-star Aaron Ruff at guard.

experience

 

Defense

This is one area where I think a starter could be someone who is not yet here in JC defensive end transfer Nickolas Madourie. I think the other DE spot is locked up by Quincy Roche, who had seven sacks for the Owls last year. I would also move former Penn State commit Karomo Dioubate over to his natural position, DE, so he could battle Madourie for that spot. The tackles seem to be set with Dan Archibong  and newly-minted single-digit Michael Dogbe. Getting Freddy Booth-Lloyd on the field full-time with those guys as a 5-2 nose guard would make Temple a much more disruptive team at the point of attack and that should be the whole point of Mayhem. I would play two linebackers and those two would be Shaun Bradley and Sam Franklin. If the Owls go three linebackers, Todd Jones and William Kwenkeu–who had such a great game in the bowl–should see more time.

The backfield entered the spring as a question mark and exited it as an exclamation point. Delvon Randall might be the best  strong safety in the country with Keyvone Bruton apparently grabbing the free safety spot from Benny Walls (who will still see plenty of playing time. Linwood Crump (Jr.) will be one of the corners with FCS transfer and Big South first-team corner Rock Ya-Sin at the other spots.

Special teams

Boomer (otherwise known as Aaron Boumerhi) is back for his third year of solid field goal kicking and Connor Bowler appears to have nailed down the punting spot. Isaiah Wright could be the full-time punt and kickoff returner.

That seems to be the only area of the team that no one needs a depth chart or a program to guess who is out there.

Wednesday: The Surprising Reason Why UCF Won’t Repeat 

 

Pumping The Brakes Means A Left Turn

A week ago, the guy who holds the hammer in this whole Temple Stadium controversy wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer to express his feelings on the project.

If you read the entire thing, he’s against it, essentially saying Temple should “pump the brakes” on a new campus stadium.

The guy is Darrell Clarke. The way politics works in Philadelphia is that the councilman in any district has veto power over a project in his district.

Clarke is not only the Philadelphia City Council President, he is the councilman in that very district. He can afford to tell Temple University to pump the brakes on the project. Temple University cannot afford to wait due to the timeline of its lease with Lincoln Financial Field running out in 2020.

The “community” is vigorously against this project. It’s not 50-50. It’s not even 80-20. It’s more like 90-10. This is not a similar case to what is now the Liacouras Center when palms needed to be greased in order to move the project forward. There simply is not enough oil here to move the gears.

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Darrell Clarke would rather Geasey Field remain an empty lot than a beautiful new stadium

If Clarke says “pumps the brakes” Temple should then recognize what intersection it is approaching and make a left turn.

It appears as though the City of Philadelphia, which really holds the hammer here, will never give Temple the permissions to close 15th Street forever (between Norris and Montgomery) to appease the residents who vote for Clarke in every election. Without 15th closed, there is only one other open space on the Main Campus large enough to build what Temple needs.

The left turn Temple needs to make is at 15th and Montgomery, make a right at Broad Street and travel a couple of blocks south to Masters to build the stadium. The city has no grounds to oppose a football stadium at The Temple Sports Complex since two stadiums have been existing there without opposition for two years and no closure of any street would be necessary. Even if the City would try to block a stadium at that site, Temple–with the most graduates of any school in Pennsylvania appeals courts–probably would prevail on the argument that it was allowed to build dorms and classrooms on its property and should be able to build a needed “multi-purpose” facility there as well.

If not, you can forget about a new stadium at best and Temple football at worst. If Temple football is forced to return to that dump called Franklin Field, the program is doomed. Chester’s 18,500-soccer stadium is a far worse option. If the Phillies ever exit Citizens Bank Park, that would be ideal but that appears to be at least 20 years down the road that is called Broad Street.

The uni would have to do something it said it cannot do—pay the Philadelphia Eagles a $3 million a year lease to rent Lincoln Financial Field on top of a one-time “stadium improvement fee” of $12 million.

Of course, this can all be avoided if the BOT would change plans and build the stadium at The Temple Sports Complex.

On first glance, building a football stadium over a brand new $22 million Olympic Sports Complex would be an admission by Temple that it made a mistake building that facility there and they would not do that.

There is a precedence, though. A few  years earlier, the same board of trustees spent $12 million less to build an Olympic sports complex in Ambler that included also baseball and softball and abandoned it for the Broad and Masters facility.

If they can do that then, they can do this now. The Olympic sports teams can be moved back to Geasey Field.

Running out of time and options,  it is the logical thing to do and, in this political climate, the sooner the better.

Monday: Above The Line

New Slogan: Mayhem Is Here

here

At this time a year ago, the slogan on the shirts at the Edberg-Olson Complex was “Mayhem is Coming.”

A year later on Cherry and White at a much better venue, The Temple Sports Complex, there were a few “Mayhem is Here” T-Shirts visible (although I could not find where to purchase one).

The change of slogans pretty much is an indication of how far we’ve come in expectations. I did not see much defensive Mayhem until the final game of the year, a 28-3 win over Florida International in the Gasparilla Bowl.

owlstudents

Let’s hope that it becomes the norm, not the exception, this year.

That’s the biggest difference this year could make in that a proven SEC coordinator has finally put his defense in place with the kind of talent that can get to the quarterback and cause significant disruptions at the point of attack. That’s my definition of Mayhem: Hitting the quarterback so much he either fumbles the ball or forces interceptions.

The other pieces to this puzzle seem to be fitting quite well.

jimnutile

Frank Nutile’s game is very similar to Jim Plunkett’s

Quarterback

At this time last year the Owls had four quarterbacks. As they say, when you have two quarterbacks you have none and four just doubles that equation. Now the Owls have one of the very few returning bowl-winning quarterbacks in Jim Plunkett clone Frank Nutile and have seen significant improvement from backup Anthony Russo. Toddy Centeio is the special packages (wildcat) quarterback and Trad Beatty could be the quarterback two years down the road if he’s redshirted. This position was a question mark last year and is now an exclamation point. The receivers are in good hands (pun intended) with holdovers Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright and newcomers Jadan Blue and Sean Ryan, among others.

Offensive Line

Owls’ coach Chris Wisenhan said that the three interior linemen anchored by Dave Rimington candidate Matt Hennessey could be the best in his five years at Temple. That’s saying a lot since Kyle Friend was a pretty good center and represents a significant upgrade from this time a year ago.

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Running backs

Ryquell Armstead, who had 916 yards and 15 touchdowns two years ago, is back to full health after being banged up much of last year. He is being pushed by Jager Gardner, who was even worse banged up in that he had to take a redshirt year. Gardner, as a true freshman, set the Temple record for longest  run from scrimmage (a 94-yard touchdown against SMU). Considering that the Owls were down to using a fullback (Rob Ritrovato) at tailback due to injuries, the Owls are in a much-better spot.

Defensive Line

Another area of strength as Michael Dogbe earned a single digit and former Penn State commit Karamo Dioubate joins Dan Archibong and Temperor in Training Freddy Booth-Lloyd on a line that can cause Mayhem all by themselves. Dogbe, Dioubate and Archibong have position flexibility as tight ends but hopefully head coach Geoff Collins leaves those duties to Chris Myrick and Kenny Yoboah.

Linebackers

They looked young and lost last year but are the strength of the team led by Shaun Bradley and former St. Joseph’s Prep first-team All-Catholic Todd Jones.

All in all, what a difference a year makes with some additional help on the way in August.

Don’t order National Championship game tickets quite yet, but a Lincoln Financial Field AAC championship game is not out of the question.

5 Takeaways From Cherry and White

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Temple was able to close two roads and have recruit only porta potties

This year Cherry and White was more than a game or a day.

It was a two-day celebration of how special a place Temple University is, starting with the surprise celebration in Center City on Friday night attended by over 200 of Paul Palmer’s closest friends.

 

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That was important because Palmer’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame this December doesn’t just lift him up but all of Temple football because he is the very first Temple player ever inducted.

Then, the next day, over 5,000 fans attended the Cherry and White game and, while there is always optimism on this day, this seems a little more well-founded than other Cherry and White Days. Head coach Geoff Collins addressed the football team afterward and told them they were a very good football team on the way to being great.

No denying there is plenty of talent there, but how that talent translates into number of wins is a matter of debate. It SHOULD be more than the seven last year, but whether that is eight or 12 or somewhere in between won’t be proven until December.

Here are five takeaways to consider:

Last Line Of Defense

When you lose three of four starting defensive backs—guys who were the last line of defense for an AAC championship team two years ago—there is a sense of urgency to plug those holes and, in Keyvone Bruton, Rock Ya-Sin and Benny Walls, the holes seem to be not only plugged but tightened. After Mike Jones was called for a bogus interference play on an interception in the Houston game, Jones seemed to back off the rest of the season. Bruton, Ya-Sin and Walls have a lot of athleticism but no quit in them.

crowdpic

Every seat on both sides of the field taken plus a larger number of standees ringing the field

Building Depth

We all know that Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright are probably the most talented wide receiving tandem in the league but, after losing dynamic players like Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings, it was important to find reliable backups. Enter Jadan Blue, who caught three touchdowns for the Cherry team in a 28-24 win. Sean Ryan, the true freshman from NYC, also looks like a contributor. If they can bring to the table what Kirkwood and Jennings did last year, there is not going to be a dropoff in the wide receiver room.

Bowl Winning Quarterback

With 40 bowl games, there were only 20 bowl-winning quarterbacks last year and many of them either graduated or will be in the NFL draft. That means Temple has one of the few proven bowl winners back in Frank Nutile. Fortunately, head coach Geoff Collins is showing no inclination to make Nutile a tight end. When Matt Rhule took over the program in 2013, he took a 2011 bowl-winning quarterback and made him a tight end. Those days are over and that bodes well for the 2018 season. That said, Collins said Temple is one of the few programs with four quarterbacks who are now ready to play. They only need three, so hopefully they can redshirt one.

seats

Every seat was taken on both sides of the field and fans were ringed tight throughout

Venue and Crowd

With 5,000 fans—every one of the 2,500 seats in the soccer stadium was taken and there were at least that many, maybe more, standing on the sidelines—this was the perfect venue for the Cherry and White game and Collins acknowledged that afterward.

logical

It was pretty apparent to everyone there that the spot is probably more doable for a stadium than the Geasey Field location. Temple made a mistake putting the Olympic sports there and probably should be big enough to admit it should the politicians deny the university the proposed 15th and Norris location. I hate to be a party pooper, but I don’t see how the university overcomes the obstacle of closing 15th Street to build the new stadium so Broad and Master becomes a viable option in that it is ALL on Temple property and Temple can probably sue the city in state and federal court to build whatever it wants on that site.  But that would take eating the $22 million mistake and building a football stadium on the site of the other sports stadiums. That said, speaking about pooping ….

Recruit Porta Potties

Without getting into names (there could be an NCAA violation involved), we were told there was at least one five-star and several four-star recruits in attendance. If the Owls’ recruiting class gets ranked higher this year, credit the “recruit-only porta potties” that were next to the recruit-only tent. That’s no shit (see lower right in the diagram at the top). I asked an all-time great Temple player who shall remain nameless if they had recruit-only porta potties when he was being wooed to Temple and he said, “I think they gave me a bottle to pee in.”

Wednesday:  The difference a year makes

Friday: Pumping The Brakes

5 Things To Watch for at Cherry and White

proof

Take this from a guy who has been to the past 43 Cherry and White games: This one as all the makings for being one of the best.

Trust me.

I’ve been to the worst.

Last year, was Worst No. 2 only behind Worst No. 1 at Lincoln Financial Field a couple years earlier. Nothing worse than 1,000 fans in a 70,000 stadium watching a spring game.

Last year, the weather almost topped it.

ryanerasmus

A year ago almost to the day I stood on the top bleacher at the Diamond Street end zone with an umbrella over my head and ducking behind the 6-foot-4 guy standing on the bleacher below me to get a view of Logan Marchi throwing two interceptions off his back foot. He was BY FAR … FAR … the worst of the four quarterbacks playing that day but somehow he started the opener at Notre Dame and was only able to put up 16 points in the next game against a team Rhode Island scorched for 20 points.

It sucked big time.

This year, with 2,500 seats in the beautiful new Temple Sports Complex, I’m pretty much guaranteed of a good view.

Here are the five things I’m looking for:

Ambiance

You might say I’m a dreamer but, as the Beatles would say, I’m not the only one. This is kind of a mini-preview of what to expect at the new stadium. I have serious doubts that this will ever be built but there will be 5-10,000 people there tomorrow and tailgating in that confined space I believe is doable and will be fun. I will get back to you on those points Monday. The new stadium won’t be the same experience as Lincoln Financial Field but it could be better.

forecast

Weather

Mid-April is always a crapshoot in Philadelphia. Last year, to be kind, sucked. We got soaked. Everyone brought an umbrella. This year, with an 80-degree and sunny day forecast, I’ll probably be wearing the 27-10 Penn State T-Shirt.

Coaching

tuff

Last year, it was a clusterbleep because these were first-year guys doing a first-year thing. Let’s hope it’s more focused this season. To me, I want to see kicking in a game situation (punting, punt and kickoff returns, field goals under pressure) and we saw none of that last year in the rain. This is the one chance to kick a pressure field goal in the rain and to see the new punter. That would be nice.

juice

Position Battles

This might be the most important. We all know that Juice is No. 1 and Anthony is No. 2 at quarterback. Isn’t that a much nicer spot to be than we were this time last year when no one had a clue? Absolutely. Let’s move on to other important spots like defensive back, where Benny Walls is battling Keyvone Bruton for the free safety slot opposite strong safety Delvon Randall. I personally think the Owls are in good shape with either guy but, if one guy comes up with two picks on Saturday, it would be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup. Who will emerge as the No.3 wide receiver?. I think it could be Sean Ryan but Jadan Blue could prove me wrong. Right now, Isaiah Wright–a touchdown waiting to happen–is my current favorite Temple player (following in a line that included Adam DiMichele, Bernard Pierce, Tyler Matakevich and Nick Sharga). Him and Ventell Bryant are the two best receivers in the AAC and it’s not even close. Let’s find a third tomorrow.

Gambling

They say you are a sick mofo if you bet an NFL preseason game. You need to call Gamblers Anonymous, though, if you bet the Cherry and White game. That said, after carefully perusing the rosters, I think Cherry wins this one: Say, 17-7. I don’t think they gave the White a shot. Not betting a penny, though.  More than gambling, though, might be the gossip and since I have the ear of one or two donors, I will be able to garner some of the lowdown on the new stadium. Let’s just say I’m not optimistic at this point. I hope I hear differently on Saturday.

Monday: Cherry and White Takeaways

 

The Scrimmage: Sensitivity and Football

additions

Nowhere in any of these stories dating back to 2013 on this site will you find a negative word about Frank Nutile.

Someone is sensitive out there.

Sensitivity and football usually don’t mix and we got a post the other day saying because we have been impressed with Anthony Russo this spring we are “not giving Frank Nutile the respect he deserves.”

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Sensitivity and football usually don’t mix and we decided not to run the comment because it mentioned a valued poster (not me) and that’s against our rules to personally attack another poster.

Even more important is the flawed premise of the post: That we don’t love Frank Nutile. Liking what Anthony Russo brings to the table in no way diminishes our respect and love for Frank Nutile. The two thoughts are not mutually exclusive.  It’s OK to love BOTH Frank and Anthony and wish that both get playing time without diminishing the other.

Here’s what we have said about Frank in our most recent post:

dibsters

How the hell can anyone interpret that as a knock on Frank? Heck, I think even Frank thinks that if he has the same first seven games that Logan Marchi had he would deserve to sit. That said, I hope Frank does a Peyton Manning impersonation the first seven games.

If anything the most recent scrimmage proved it that Temple’s quarterback position is in a lot better shape now that than it was this time last year. Frank is No. 1 and Anthony is No. 2. Last year, four guys were No. 1 and head coach Geoff Collins said all four would play in the first game.

He lied, primarily because he trusted his offensive coordinator too much to make the decision. The OC recruited Marchi for Coastal Carolina. Marchi was the fourth-best quarterback in the Cherry and White game and that wasn’t even subject to debate. The other three were about the same. Now there are checks and balances in place in that Marchi is gone and Ed Foley is assistant head coach in charge of the offense.

Nutile no doubt is THE guy but competition is good for any organization and anyone who doubts that is a fan of the wrong sport.

Friday: 5 Things To Look for On Cherry and White Day