Outside Perceptions

ndodds

Notre Dame fans seemed shocked by the line.

Every once in a while, it’s a useful exercise to step outside the box and view what other people are seeing.

Perspective is important. A year ago at this time we were incredulous that a lot of people had written Temple off, saying “Temple will take a step back.” We outlined five reasons why 2016 was the step forward year, not the step back one, and cautioned those know-it-all outsiders to not be surprised.

Winning 10 games, plus the AAC title, was that step forward. At the same time, we also wrote in this spot that 2017 would be the “step back” year, but we wrote step, not steps. To me, this team is an 8-9-win team, not a 6-win team, but only time will tell.

One outsider has completely gone off the rails, though, picking the Owls as the 111th-ranked team in the Orlando Sentinel preseason polls.

orlando

Not a very well-researched article. (Or even well-edited. In the first graph, she says the Owls are No. 111. In the second graph, it says “our ranking is 112.” Which is it?)

One-hundred-and-11th (or 12th) is not even six wins, but more like two or three. There was not a lot of thought process involved in that ranking.

Then there is this:

notredamepoll

Consider the above a baby step forward. “How many wins in a row will Notre Dame have IF it beats Temple?”

When this series was first announced seven years ago, the word IF would have been laughable but, after the inferior 2015 Owls (compared to the 2016 version) hung with the then No. 9-ranked Irish, it is best for ND fans to take this game more seriously than the 2016 Owls took their opener.  Last year’s Temple team beat Navy, 34-10. Navy beat last year’s Notre Dame team.

Plenty of variables for the 2017 Owls make this season harder to predict than the last two, but the defense should be as good or slightly better and the offense should be slightly worse. One is what kind of head coach Geoff Collins will be. You’ve got to assume he won’t be the stumbling bumbler Matt Rhule was his first two seasons. Also if  Anthony Russo can just duplicate the first season of P.J. Walker (20 touchdowns, eight interceptions), the Owls should be fine in that area, too. Having covered high school football in Philadelphia for much of the last 30 years, Russo is by far the best talent to come out of this city since Matt Ryan committed to Boston College.

At the end of the regular season the last two years, the Owls were ranked in the Top 25. One-hundred-and-eleven is just dumb, though. In the college football world of recruiting and redshirting, it is impossible to drop from the top 25 to the bottom 15 in just one season.

This team will compete for a third-straight spot in the AAC title game. Whether they can get there with eight wins, as opposed to nine, is a question too hard to answer right now.

Wednesday: Mr. Nice Guy

Friday: Spread This

Monday: 5 Reasons Why The Owls Will Contend 

An Unfinished Line

At the seven-minute mark, coach Collins says “top 25 program.” Otherwise, great interview.

There is one thing Geoff Collins keeps saying that he probably should reconsider.

Every chance he gets, the new Temple football head coach says his team is a Top 25 program two years in a row.  In reality, it got close to the Top 25 and tripped before getting to the finish line. In all of the graphics put out by the Temple football twitter, the claim is that the program is a Top 25 program.

wake

Getting close doesn’t put you in the top 25, at least not yet. That’s a little like Philadelphia Park putting a sign up on the track proclaiming Smarty Jones was a Triple Crown winner despite being edged out in the final leg, the 2004 Belmont Stakes.

If the NFL draft proved anything, it was that Temple’s talent is probably seen by the professionals as superior to both the talent of Toledo and Wake Forest and the Owls did not make the most out of that talent on two very important nights and paid a pretty steep price for it.

draft

I think we all know what the reason was: Coaching. Matt Rhule treated the Boca bowl as a vacation and Toledo took care of business. Rhule skipped town before we knew how he would treat the Military Bowl. The legacy there is simply that the entire defensive coaching staff missed eight practices leading up to the game to recruit for Baylor and the results on the field were painfully apparent.

Now the baton has been passed to Collins, who must take it across the finish line.

Repeat as champions AND win the bowl game. Do that, and then rightfully claim to be a Top 25 program.

Not before.

Winning the AAC title is always the goal, but the legacy of Temple finishing in the Top 25 remains unfulfilled. If the Owls win the title again this year, and that’s a tall order indeed, finishing the season holding a trophy that could get them among the final elite should also be as important.

To me, finishing in sports is important and, while the Owls had an impressive finish to their regular season with a AAC title—hey, that’s a good thing to promote—they are not a Top 25 program yet.

Until you actually achieve something, it’s probably best off not claiming to have done it.

Friday: Capitalizing On The Draft

 

 

5 Takeaways From The Spring Game

A great moment for Temple football.

One of these days someone at the Philadelphia headquarters of Comcast is going to wise up about the Temple football spring game.

On Page 39 of Saturday’s Philadelphia Daily News, Notre Dame’s spring game was listed at 12:30 live on NBC Sports Network. Thumb down a little further at 3 p.m. and you can find the Penn State spring game live on BTN. Go down a little more and you can find the Rutgers’ spring game at 5 on the same network.


Matt Rhule stunted the
development of the program
in two ways, I think,
last year. One, was rather
obvious. Temple blew out
seven teams but P.J. Walker
played, for all practical
purposes, all of the downs.
Why, in God’s name, did Marchi
or Nutile not get significant
throws in those wins?

Yes, Rutgers, a football program that even sucks at cheating.

Meanwhile, at noon, when the Temple football spring game was kicking off the Philadelphia CSN channel was showing a Poker tournament.

Poker.

I guess the AAC will have to get their own network for the Temple spring game to ever be broadcast because Comcast figured Poker would have higher ratings in the nation’s fourth-largest market.

As the old Peter, Paul and Mary Song says, “When will they ever learn?”

Ironically, the best place to watch the Temple spring game on Saturday was on TV, roughly at 11th and Diamond. I tried going inside and standing on the back row of one of the stands. Between ducking under the umbrellas raised below me in an annoying persistent rain to see the plays, I gave up at halftime and watched on a big screen TV just outside Lot 10. (Greatness Doesn’t Quit beat Temple TUFF, 17-14.)

You could learn a lot watching that way and these were our five biggest takeaways:

centeio

Todd Centeio Is The Most Talented Quarterback In the Program

That doesn’t mean the true freshman should start, but it does give me a lot of confidence in the future. The kid has the “It” factor that I’m not sure all of the other three guys have, but he could certainly benefit from a redshirt year where he gets to spend a lot of time in two rooms—the weight room and the film room. I hope new head coach Geoff Collins doesn’t make the same mistake old coach Matt Rhule made with P.J.—burning the redshirt when Rhule had a perfectly good quarterback in Chris Coyer to hold down the fort. P.J. would have been starting at ND this fall in a more perfect world.

nutile

Frankie Juice is a Great Nickname

Frank Nutile (pronounced New Tile) had a nice game with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run, but I don’t think that separated him from either Logan Marchi or Anthony Russo. In fact, of the three, Russo’s 7-for-11 day was probably the best passing day and, if I were a betting man, I would put five bucks on Russo starting the Notre Dame game. All three players have a ways to go and that’s why I would not put 20 bucks on it. I wonder if Collins giving Nutile a sweet nickname (Frankie Juice) puts him ahead of everyone else in Collins’ eyes? We will find out by the first Saturday in September, but I would have liked to see one guy come away with a 25-for-32 day with 319 yards and three touchdowns.  That did not happen.

gardner

Jager Gardner is The Real Deal

Matt Rhule stunted the development of the program in two ways, I think, last year. One, was rather obvious. Temple blew out seven teams but P.J. Walker played, for all practical purposes, all of the downs. Why, in God’s name, did Marchi or Nutile not get significant throws in those wins? Probably for the same reason Gardner did not get a redshirt. Rhule knew he was outta here and used all of his available chips and overplayed the starters, thinking short-term, not long-term. Gardner getting only 27 carries all of last year was a complete joke and a wasted redshirt. Gardner will have a great year this year, as will Ryquell Armstead.

The Defense Will Be Great

Last year, “they” (pretty much the misinformed outside fans who don’t know anything about Temple football) said the Owls would take a step back due to losing three NFL draftees in Tyler Matakevich, Matt Ioannidis and Tavon Young. Those of us closer to the program knew better, said so beforehand, and were proven to be right. This year, the Temple defense, which has a single digit guy (Jacob Martin) starting at one DE and perhaps one of the best playmakers in Temple football history (Sharif Finch, five blocked punts, crucial interception against Christian Hackenberg) starting another, will be better if Taver Johnson can be the DC that Phil Snow was. The interior line is terrific (Michael Dogbe, Freddy Booth-Lloyd, Greg Webb and Karamo Dioubate) and will cause a lot of Mayhem this season. Cornerback Mike Jones went from being called the “late-round steal of the 2017 NFL draft” by Mike Mayock to Temple starter. Good move by Jones, who had an interception and a fumble recovery, and could move up to the third round or better in the 2018 NFL draft with a great year at Temple.

parents

Somebody get Collins a hat with a Temple ‘][‘ on it.

Who Will Be Punting?

For the first time in Cherry and White Game history, I never saw a punt return, a punt or a kickoff return. The last time I checked, you’ve got to do all of those things in a “real” game and it would have been nice for the kids to do that before the 4,000 or so fans who attended in the rain on Saturday. I suppose they will do it in the summer before nobody, then try it again before 80,000 at Notre Dame but that sets them up for a shellshock moment. Never forget Jim Cooper Jr., who never survived his opener at Notre Dame.

In short, unlike superfan Ted DeLapp, I’m not confident in winning at Notre Dame. However, I am very confident in this team kicking the living crap out of Villanova the next week and that will be the jump-start to anything from a 7-10-win season.

Hopefully, that’s good enough for a championship and a bowl win. Those two things might get next year’s spring game on TV.

Anything short and we’re looking at a lot of Poker faces.

Wednesday: Cherry and White Slideshow

Friday: The Temple NFL Draft

Monday: Poker Chips

5 Questions Dr. Kraft Should Answer

Cherry and White Day is high noon on Saturday at the Edberg-Olson Complex.

The day means different things to many people, but mostly it is a gathering of fans and friends who have not had the opportunity to meet in months all over the shared passion that is Temple football.

It also has been another thing in recent years and that is running into people who are plugged into what the university is thinking, like Dr. Patrick Kraft, the athletic director, and DIck Englert, the school’s president.

Both are approachable and friendly and both TRY to answer fans’ questions honestly.

Cherry and White Day would be a good time to get answers from them, particularly Dr. Kraft, on these five questions:

best

Why is C and W Still at the E-O?

With the opening of the sports complex four blocks south that includes a 2,000-seat soccer stadium, why cram 5,000 fans into a 500-seat hole anymore? South Florida has proved for the last two seasons that you can hold a spring game in a soccer facility and Temple should do the same. Two thousand seats plus the 500 portable seats the school brings to the E-O every year should make everyone comfortable. There is a field hockey game at 1 on the adjacent field but the soccer stadium is open. It should have been used this year and certainly should be used next season.

nonew

How close are we to an announcement on the stadium?

We’ve been hearing behind the scenes that all systems are go on the new stadium, but there have been mixed messages. Moody Nolan, the architect, has been quoted as saying that the stadium is on hold. Is it? Or have the reassurances that everything is a go are meant to keep the private donations flowing? Why can’t the university set a date to make an announcement one way or another? It is time to bleep or get off the pot.

artwork

What’s the holdup?

We’re aware that the city certainly is an obstacle, as are the 20 or so people from the community who seem to come out to Stadium Stompers’ meetings. Why hasn’t the school approached City Council with even an initial proposal?

When Will the Revolving Door Be Replaced?

The doors to the Edberg-Olson Complex seem to open in a normal fashion. You pull them open and hold them open for the women and the older fans to enter. Around the head coach’s office is a revolving door, and has been since 2010. What is the university doing to assure fans and recruits that the new coach they hire one year isn’t going to leave the next?

Was the subject of coaching stability ever brought up in the Geoff Collins’ interview?

Or was it conveniently ignored like the Elephant in the Room? Inquiring minds need to know and there would be no better day to know at least some of these things than Cherry and White Day.

Wednesday: 5 Football Things To Look For

Friday: What They Are Saying ….

Monday: Complete Cherry and White Review

It’s (Not Always) Sunny in Philadelphia

kraft

While the helmets look great, Geoff Collins and Pat Kraft never addressed the question of football coaching stability at Temple.

Today starts about the best week of weather in Philadelphia this season, splashing sunshine for most of the rest of the week.

chumpie

With this kind of weather, Collins should be out-recruiting Florida, Georgia Tech, SMU, UCF and UNC.

There will be sunshine all over the city, except for that little cloud that seems to always hover around Geoff Collins’ head.

It’s there simply because of what he did not say in his signing day presser. Sometimes, I think the guy could have used a good speechwriter because, while a lot of his bullet points hit home that day, it was what he did not say that will always cause some Temple fans like me to look at him with askance.

A simple speech like this AFTER THE WAKE FOREST DEBACLE would have done the trick, as short at the Gettysburg Address:

Tapping on the microphone, Collins opens up:

“Test. Test. Is this thing working? You will all have to excuse me because there  were a few words I did not say on the day I was hired that I feel I should say today. I have a few prepared notes for this occasion so I thought I’d jot a few down. Four scores and less than a month ago, this great program beat Navy and looked poised to enter the final AP Top 20 for the first time since 1979. That Navy team was playing better than just about any team in the nation going into that game, so a convincing win for us should have assured a final Top 25 spot.

“That did not happen for a couple of reasons. One, Matt Rhule, who is a good friend of mine, took what he thought was an opportunity of a lifetime and was faced with the difficult decision of leaving the very kids who helped give him that opportunity. Having been at that Wake Forest game and witnessed the half-hazard lead-up to it, I can say that, while Ed Foley did a great job, he did not have the requisite staffing support leading up to the game to adequately prepare the team.

“While researching this job, I came across a couple of sentiments I want to express today.  The day Al Golden was hired here, he said he wanted to build a house of brick, not straw, and I echo that statement today. The day Steve Addazio was hired from the same school which produced me, he said he wanted to reach out to the Wayne Hardin guys and so do I. Those are the true Temple legends, not the guys who graduated after 2010.

“When Matt was hired, he said he wanted to sign a 15-year contract. To me, a contract is a two-way street. My signature means I will hold up my end of the bargain. All I can say about that is to tell you right now that this is my opportunity of a lifetime, Temple. Not Baylor. Not Florida. Not Mississippi. While I cannot tell you what the future holds for me, I can promise right here and now to you and them that no future Temple team will be without the full coaching staff, including me, while going for a bowl win and a Top 25 ranking. That means too much to this great school and I will never dishonor this school. I wanted to clear this up because I felt I left some things hanging on the day I was hired. Thank you, and I want to open this up for questions.”

Thunderous applause all around would have greeted similar sentiments, but none of the sort came. Instead, Collins followed up on signing day by recruiting a class that suggested the house would be more straw than brick, and propped up by the foundation his predecessors laid. That leads to the inescapable conclusion that this staff is outta here with the first overachieving season, maybe even this one. Some people say that we as Temple fans should accept our fate as a steppingstone, but I’m not ready to do that. The notion that this staff might use Temple, heck probably will, is not good.

Looking up into the sky, that’s not a sunny prospect for the long-term viability of Temple football. There is still time for Collins to change that perception, but those days are dwindling down to a precious few. Cherry and White Day would be a good day to clear this up and remove that cloud for good.

Wednesday: No Punter, Big Problem

Friday: 5 Questions Pat Kraft Needs to Answer

Geoff Collins Could Be Better Than Rhule

collins

Geoff Collins will be speaking at Rutgers and telling them to get ready for an ass-kicking in 2020.

When a former Temple quarterback called me on the phone to break the news that the Owls had hired Geoff Collins back in December, the news came from somewhat out of left field.

I had heard all of the names, but Collins was not one of them.

Until, of course, the day he was hired. I was headed out the door to work when the phone rang and not paying attention to the news or sports.

“Mike, what do you think of this new guy Temple just hired?”

“What new guy?”

“Geoff Collins. It’s all over ESPN. I really like him.”

“The Florida guy?”

“Yeah, him.”

I knew Geoff Collins was the defensive coordinator at Florida, but that was about it. I also knew that Florida’s defense was to the SEC what Temple’s defense was to the AAC, so that was a big plus.

I did know another, more important, thing. Compared to some of the clowns Temple either released to Marc Narducci or Nardo came up with on his own, Collins, to me, was Vince Lombardi. Surely Temple could not have been serious about hiring a coach fired by Delaware (K.C. Keeler) or some of the other suspects mentioned.

Compared to those guys, Collins was solid as a rock.

Take away the worst recruiting month I’ve ever seen at Temple, Collins has not disappointed.

He has said all of the right things.

He has emphasized making a system tailored to the players he has in the program now, rather than bring a system and try to force it onto what could be ill-fitting players. I like the way that he has bonded with the players in practices. I like the way he appreciates fullback Nick Sharga, like we all have learned to do, and plans to feature him. I like the way he is letting the quarterback situation play out, rather than naming a quarterback now and regretting it later.

I also like the way former head coach Matt Rhule leaned on him to make some key decisions within the program and the way Collins has followed the program from afar for the last four years.

All of these things suggest than Collins will hit the ground running, unlike the stumbles and bumbles of the first two Rhule years.

There are two sides, in my mind, to the Geoff Collins’ coin. We glossed over the shiny side in today’s post.

Monday: The Other Side

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