Shamrock Shakeup Month

finch

Sharif Finch is back to make Mayhem plays like this in 2017.

In a couple of days, a Month of Mayhem will start at the Edberg-Olson Football Complex with the beginning of Spring Practice culminating on Cherry and White Day, April 22.

If successful, fans crammed into that tiny space on that day—when there is a much bigger one available four blocks south—will not notice the difference.

That’s because Mayhem was already pretty much a part of the Temple Defense DNA over the last few years.

footprint

Simply put, the “Mayhem” stat new head coach Geoff Collins admires and bases his defensive concept on counts the percentage of plays on defense that end in a sack, fumble, tackle for loss or interception and those are the kind of stats Collins gears his defensive scheme to achieve. His players then started calling him the “Minister of Mayhem” and the nickname stuck.

If Collins is the “Minister of Mayhem” then he probably already met the “Kings of Mayhem” and they are our own Temple Owls. Going into the Wake Forest debacle, Temple’s DL was No. 1 in the nation in “Havoc Rate” which is a team’s total tackles for loss, passes defensed, and forced fumbles.

In this month of drinking Shamrock Shakes, Collins’ own shakeup should look more like a tweak.

havoc

So while Temple was nation’s No. 1 disrupting defense, at least in the 2016 regular season, can it be better? Sure, if Collins and new coordinator Taver Johnson tweak things a little to accentuate the strengths of the Owls—a defensive line that includes proven players like Sharif Finch, Jacob Martin, Michael Dogbe, Greg Ward, Freddy Booth-Lloyd , Karamo Dioubate,  among others—and masks areas that could be weaker, like the linebackers. Essentially, Temple has a solid group of linemen and defensive backs and will have to replace three starters at linebacker, Jared Alwan, Avery Williams and Stephaun Marshall.

To do this, if Collins plays a 5-2 he will have to replace only two linebacker starters and have a proven player up front to create this havoc we all seek.

Just a little tweak, but an important one to keep a good thing going because the Owls have been all about Mayhem for at least the last couple of years.

Monday: Opening Day

 

Fizzy Finally Gets To Meet The Big Guy

donuts

Dollars to Donuts Geoff Collins has passed the first Fizzy eye test.

Another in the occasional series of stories posted here by former Temple player Dave Weinraub, who was once involved in a benches-clearing brawl at the end of a game at Temple Stadium. Hopefully, he will write about that soon.

By: Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

 

Well gang, it’s not often I have something to comment on before the football season begins.   If I do, it’s usually to bring up something that left a bad taste in my mouth from the prior season.  But I’m not going to even mention anything from last year, as a new era has begun.

collins

Geoff Collins: Diamond Club Gem

This past Wednesday, we had a nice crowd at an “Old-Timers” lunch in the Diamond Club, and had the opportunity to break bread with our new head coach, Geoff Collins.   I’m pleased to tell you I came away with a fine first impression.  Of course, you should trust my instincts.  Everyone knows I’ve been a 92% successful play-caller from the stands.

 

Yeah, I know it’s almost impossible to make a prediction about a coach before he even has his first spring practice.  However, let me tell you why I walked away feeling good about Geoff Collins.

 

  1. He told us about the breadth of his experience, and the coaches he worked with and learned from.  He gave us specific examples of what he learned from some very successful guys.

 

  1. He admitted he thought he was ready to be a head coach a long time ago, but really wasn’t.  (I, on the other hand, I thought I was ready when I came out of the womb.)

 

  1. Even though he hasn’t even had spring practice yet, the legal activities he’s already had with the team seem to indicate he’s already captured their enthusiasm.

 

  1. He’s anchored in reality, and gave an honest appraisal of the fact that we’re only getting, right now, two star recruits at best, and often no star recruits.  He also let it slip in he’s won a national recruiting award.

 

  1. He’s already assimilated to our city.  For example; Although the house he bought is in Chestnut Hill, he tells everyone it’s in North-West Philly because it sounds tougher.

 

If you’ve previously read a few of my critiques regarding our games, you know I’m certainly no “homer.”  With Collins’ background, I’m confident he’ll eventually develop a very strong defense.  That leaves me worried about the offense, with a slew of coaches new to this level.  Of course, there’s always a slew  of “old-timers” ready to give advice.

 

PS:  Good News – The $1.5 million study for the new stadium has been “tabled.”  Has common sense prevailed?

Wednesday: Crunching The Numbers

Friday: Month of Mayhem

Temple’s Hairy Relationship

fullbacksnow

Nick Sharga is the only one not pointing fingers in this photo.

Every time someone posts a head shot of Temple football fullback Nick Sharga on social media, a comment or two will run below it like this:

“Sharga has got to do something about that hair.”

“Sharga needs a haircut.”

My response usually is two words:

“Who cares?”


Any defense that gets
pounded by Sharga inches
up the linebackers and
safeties closer to the
line of scrimmage and
becomes susceptible to
the play-action
passing game

As long as Temple has the best blocking fullback in the country—and a guy who proved more than capable the few times he had the ball in his hands—I don’t care if people think he has too much hair or is completely bald. To me, it’s always how you perform between the white lines. Everything else is superfluous.

That’s where head coach Geoff Collins comes into the story.

Collins’ added the responsibility of “coaching the fullbacks” to his duty as the CEO of the Temple football operation and this match between the follically challenged and the follically gifted should help turn the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine this fall.

That’s because one of the chief concerns any Temple fans felt after the transfer of power between Matt Rhule and Collins would be that the new coach would mess around with a good thing and Sharga’s impact on the team the last two seasons has been a good thing. By coaching the fullbacks, Collins has to study film of what worked well in the past and he must have been as blown away by Sharga as was this South Florida cornerback.

 

In a recent interview with Chris Franklin, new offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude mentioned a lot of his ideas but did not mention Sharga by name. That might have been disconcerting if it were not for the fact that his boss coaches the fullbacks and will want the fullbacks to be featured in any offensive game plan.

“We ran an I-Formation at Temple because we had an NFL fullback,” was the way Matt Rhule answered a question at his first Baylor press conference.

Nothing opens up passing lanes for Temple’s wide receivers—among the top group of six in the country, according to Patenaude—than establishing the run first. Nothing establishes the run better than the tailback following Nick Sharga through the hole. Any defense that gets pounded by Sharga inches up the linebackers and safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and susceptible to the play-action passing game. Fake it into the belly of, say, Ryquell Armstead or  Jager Gardner, after a few 20-yard runs and Temple receivers will be running so free through the secondary that quarterback Anthony Russo will not know which one to choose.

At least that’s the plan.

Or should be.

Collins coaching the fullbacks takes that plan one step closer to fruition and that’s the kind of hairy proposition Temple fans can get excited about.

Friday: Never Forget

Sunday: Fake News

Mulligans and Aliens

americansked

Temple should have capitalized on having this to recruit a decent class this season.

A friend who is an amateur astronomer posted a photo of some far-off galaxy on Facebook and apologized for the quality of the photo due to atmospheric conditions.


A Virginia Tech model,
where you make a bowl
every year and reach
up and win a title
here and there, should
be a realistic
expectation for Temple
at the G5 level

My response was that someone from that galaxy probably posted a photo of the Milky Way with the same apology on, say, Cleon Facebook.

In other words, we’re not alone.

It’s a lesson Temple football fans would be wise to understand today, a couple of weeks after Signing Day. The prevalent feeling on the major Owl message board (Shawn Pastor’s OwlsDaily) is that we’re giving new head coach Geoff Collins a Mulligan on this class, but the next class better be good.

The lesson should have been don’t look back because the other beings in this football universe might be gaining on you.

That’s where the other guy comes in because new coach Charlie Strong did not need a Mulligan to haul in a significantly better class for USF and former Temple head coaches Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule did not need a Mulligan in their first transition classes. Despite working about a month, the classes that Golden, Addazio and Rhule brought in their first time were ranked significantly higher than Collins’ first class.

In between preparing for a medical procedure I should have done 10 years ago but had been putting off, I found a little bit of time to look at those classes.

The Charlie Strong class was easy to find. The other classes were much harder to quantify against this one. (You really only know four years from now but you can compare them against how they were ranked at the time.)  According to Scout.com, Strong’s USF transition class this season was ranked No. 95th with seven three stars. In roughly the same time frame to recruit, Collins had Temple was 127th with only three three-stars. In the same conference, both teams with a new head coach, a significant gap in results.

Strong did not have a championship trophy to carry around on a helicopter, either. It’s fair to compare the two classes. Because we have evidence to work with given roughly the same circumstances, Collins should have done better. You can talk all you want about how it is the “Temple Way” to recruit two stars and coach them up to four stars but if you get three stars, your mathematical chances of coaching them up to four- and five-stars improve. Temple should be OK next year, but the impact of this class won’t be felt until three or four years down the road and that is how a foundation is laid for sustainable success, not just one “up” season followed by a “down” season. At Temple, the goal should not be “up and down” seasons like so many other schools seem to have. A Virginia Tech model, where you make a bowl every year and reach up and win a title here and there, should be a realistic expectation for Temple at the G5 level.

An AAC trophy should have meant a better haul than the 2017 class Collins was able to bring to 10th and Diamond and long-term is where the impact will be felt. Without helicopters or AAC trophies, Temple coaches have done better with roughly a month to recruit.

transition

 

While it might have been tough to expect Collins to do a whole lot with this class, the evidence is there in black and white that he should have done better. In college football, getting to the top is tough but staying there is tougher so capitalizing on a championship season when you can with recruiting should have been prioritized.

There are a lot of football teams in this universe and, if you slip up one year, they could be passing you in two or three. There are no Mulligans when you are not alone.

Saturday: Fun With Graphics

Press Conference Translations

alexholley

Fool us once, shame on you.

Fool us twice, shame on me.

Fool us three times, and we never get fooled again.

That’s where the relationship now stands between many (not all) Temple fans and new head coach Geoff Collins and very little of it is the poor guy’s fault. In fact, it might be the way the fan base accepts the revolving aspect of every subsequent coach who walks through the Edberg-Olson door.

In various ways, Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule pledged fidelity to the Cherry and White only to exit stage left at the very first opportunity to jump to a Power 5 program. The last coach said it would take a perfect job for him to leave Temple and he left for a job that is far from perfect. Golden left for a school, Miami, that he knew was about to be hit with sanctions. Addazio left for a Boston College team that went winless in the two major sports (football and men’s basketball) in the ACC last year. That’s pretty hard to do.

Meanwhile, Temple wasn’t a bad job in comparison. The Owls won a pair of AAC East title and an overall title under Rhule, and beat a Big 10 school, an ACC school and a SEC school in prior five years.

What Coach Collins Really Said …. Translations
“It’s been a busy month-and-a-half since I last saw you guys.” “Between press conferences, my ex-buddy Matt Rhule stole two of my recruits.”
“It doesn’t matter what the outside people say about the number of stars we have. We play. We’re tough. We’re going to work. I think that’s a pretty special edge to have.” “I’m going to have to do what Matt did. Coach the two stars up to four stars. It’ll be a little different from Florida, where I could coach a four-star up to a five-star so we’ll see what happens.”
“We went into Florida, we went into Georgia and in the future, those are going to be targets for us but in this day and age, especially in the culture that’s in Philadelphia, we make sure we surround this area and supplement people from Florida and Georgia and other places.” “Matt got Harrison Hand and Rob Saulin to decommit from Temple to go to Baylor and I tried to get a couple of the kids I was recruiting for the Gators to do the same, but it didn’t work out.”
“The way the recruiting weekends have been set up, the staff has done an amazing job … they dove in and whatever needed to be done, they did it.” “I wish the basketball team would have had a packed house for one of those weekends so we had a little more juice in the building.”
“It’s nice to walk around this great town and get noticed. To get noticed in Philadelphia, it’s mind-blowing.” “I like South Philly macaroni.”

So excuse some Temple fans for looking for clues about how the new guy will handle the Elephant in the Room. There have been two tests of Collins so far and he has not passed them. In the press conference, he stumbled over a question from Zach Gelb about promising current recruits he would be here when they graduate by saying he tells them only to be concerned about the present.

Keeping all of the Rhule recruits and bringing in a good core group of three-star recruits who would be key contributors three years down the line would have been another sign that Collins was planning to stay for a while, but this class screams short-term solutions and not long-term ones. Plugging immediate holes, like cornerback, but not addressing long-term needs for accomplished linemen on both sides of the ball could be interpreted as the moves of a guy who plans to be here one or two years at most and bolt like Usain.

This is a dangerous development for at least a couple of reasons. One, at least Rhule followed the “Golden Rule” of Al that he was here to build a “foundation of brick, not of straw.” Even though we all knew Golden was looking to get out, he didn’t cut corners. He built the program by recruiting what he called a “full team” every year, 25 guys (11 offense, 11 defense, a couple of specialists) and then redshirting the guys who needed the year in the weight room. Addazio departed from that plan by burning redshirts and also recruiting for immediate needs (i.e, Montel Harris to replace Bernard Pierce).

The second, and probably more important, residue of this is that this forces Temple to keep hiring new head coaches every couple of years. If Collins is the “home run” Rhule says he is, the next guy after him might not be. No one can expect Pat Kraft to make a great hire every time. Charlie Theokas hired Jerry Berndt and Ron Dickerson and Dave O’Brien hired Bobby Wallace. The recent run of Golden-Daz-Rhule has been decent, but the percentages don’t look good if you look at the big picture.

Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit home runs every time he came to the plate. The next guy is just as likely to pop out as he is to slam one over the fence. One day Temple is going to have to find a way to remove that revolving door from the E-0 and make it a vault.

Or at least one of the good ones is going to decide his Acres of Diamonds is right here.

Friday: The Schedule

Helicopter Recruiting

Did not like the way this chopper took off. Ed Foley must have been flying.

Helicopter Parenting is a term that has been around for a while and it means a parent or parents who take an excessive interest in the lives of their children, almost to an unhealthy level.

helicopterparent

Geoff Collins thanks God he landed safe and sound.

A much more recent phrase is Helicopter Recruiting, and that has an entirely different connotation. What might be unhealthy parenting usually translates into healthy recruiting and recruits almost universally love to be recruited that way.

Plus, it enables a coach to get to a lot of places on the same day.

Count new Temple football head coach Geoff Collins as a devotee of Helicopter Recruiting, something old coach Matt Rhule did not particularly like.

The first coach from the area who did this was Greg Schiano at Rutgers eight years ago and it produced some outstanding recruiting classes for the Scarlet Knights.

Right now, Temple fans will settle for Collins holding serve with most of Rhule’s 16 committed recruits and that apparently is the plan. If Collins can poach a couple of Power 5 recruits, something that Rhule and Al Golden seemed to do toward Signing Day, that can only be considered a bonus.

Really, Collins cannot be fairly judged by this recruiting class. We hear he’s a great recruiter, but that will be determined by his next class, not his first. One recruit we can talk about is Florida quarterback Todd Centeio because he already is enrolled at Temple and in the luxurious Morgan Hall. He’s a three-star and undoubtedly will give the other quarterbacks a run for their money.

Todd Centeio already is enrolled at Temple.

We usually do not like to talk about specific recruits in this space because of two reasons. One, these guys have not signed their names on the dotted lines yet and, two, the NCAA has specific rules against contacting recruits and we adhere to them.

If such news breaks our way, we’ll report it but, for now, we will leave the Helicopter recruiting to a good pilot named Geoff Collins.

Tuesday: The Patenaude Effect

Cherry and White Bowls Matter

NCAA Football: Military Bowl-Temple vs Wake Forest

These are the disturbing images Owls have seen walking off the field the last two seasons.

rockets

The next time someone tells you a bowl game is a meaningless post-season exhibition game, tell them the story of the last two Temple football seasons.

Each time, the Owls flushed down the toilet the priceless ring of a Top 25 finish by losing to underdogs.

That meant that Vegas had faith in the Owls—1.5 favorites over Toledo and 12.5 favorites over Wake Forest—but that circumstances prevented the Owls from winning and appearing in the Top 25 for two straight seasons. Vegas is usually right, so something went terribly wrong for the Owls at the end of the last two seasons.

If that weren’t enough in and of itself (it is), consider this: Top 25 voters the next year, for the most part, are lazy journalists who just list the teams who were from the Top 25 the year before. Those teams have a built-in advantage over the rest of the other 102 FBS teams because, once in that Top 25 club, you have to play your way out. It is much harder to play your way in from the outside.

That’s the way college football works.

Had the Owls, No. 24 in the CFB poll, beat Wake Forest, they would have likely risen above fellow state school Pittsburgh, the No. 23 team, that lost to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. Had they beaten Wake Forest coming off a win over Toledo the year prior, they would have established themselves as a more permanent Top 25 presence and that perception in a pro town like Philadelphia would have been invaluable.

We now know why that did not happen. The Owls went heavy on the fun and sun in Boca two bowls ago and, this year, the entire defensive staff missed eight practices leading up to the bowl game.

A Temple program that hemorrhages coaches out the door of the E-O is doomed to this fate, unless new coach Geoff Collins sticks around for a few years. He almost certainly is assured to be here through a bowl game next year and this is where the Owls must make their move for 2018, by establishing themselves in the Top 25 with a bowl win and setting themselves up for upward mobility a year after that.

The Owls should be in a bowl next season and, once there, the entire Temple community from the Board of Trustees to the football element must realize how valuable it is to win this time. That should be the “unfinished business” Collins makes sure is transacted next year under, hopefully, a new and more original slogan.

 

Wednesday: Waiting For A Puff of Gray Smoke

Friday: God And The Power 5

Sunday: Threading The Needle