Summer Practice: Picking Up That Can

crew

As a matter of comparison, what has happened at the quarterback position since the departure of P.J. Walker has been simply a case of kicking the can down the road.

More precisely, four cans.

This summer’s practice isn’t all about picking up the can with the best ingredients but it will be the most intriguing development.

Collins, correctly, postponed the decision on starter until the summer practice that begins in a couple of weeks.

It probably won’t be announced on the first or second week, but probably settled on by the third or fourth week. No one would be surprised if it was revealed a few days before the Sept. 2 game at Notre Dame. Game notes being what they are, and a national television audience being what it is, the crew of the game probably would want to do their homework on the Temple starter on something other than the morning of the game. So don’t expect a game day surprise.

As it sits now, I cannot tell you who will start.

Collins probably couldn’t either.

That’s because no one really has separated themselves from the other in the four weeks of spring practice. Will it happen in the summer? Possibly, but it’s also possible that the talent level will be so close other factors have to be considered.

In Toddy Centeio, the true freshman from Florida, the Owls have a high upside guy. Maybe the highest. Still, when was the last time a true freshman led a team to a P5 or a G5 title? That’s probably the best reason for a redshirt year that includes time leading the scout team, building up muscles in the weight room and loading the head with modern offensive concepts in the film room.

That leaves Anthony Russo, Logan Marchi and Frank Nutile.

In Russo, the Owls not only have their highest-ranked quarterback recruit since Ron Dickerson was able to convince Kevin Harvey to take his Parade All-American certificate to Temple, but one of the top three recruits of any school from one of the three big Philadelphia City Leagues. Russo has a better pedigree that even a couple of NFL MVPs, Rich Gannon (St. Joseph’s Prep, Delaware) and Matty Ryan (Penn Charter, Boston College). Both Gannon and Ryan had 20 touchdown passes in their final year of high school play; Russo had 35. Same level of competition.

The Owls could go to Nutile, a game manager type who was nowhere near as effective a high school quarterback as Russo.

The appeal of Marchi is that he has the mobility none of the other three have and he’s a year farther along than Russo. Given offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s stated fondness for a dual threat quarterback, Marchi might be the slight clubhouse leader at this point.

Collins and Patenaude will kick these cans down the interstate as long as they can, but somewhere between here and South Bend they will have to settle on one. Right now, they would prefer one of the guys to be so much better than the other three that the player, not the coach, decides.

That’s what summer practice is for but it’s also to make the tough coaching calls if a player doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

Friday: Class Warfare

Monday: House Money

 

 

Real News

There are plenty of reasons to turn to the sports pages nowadays and one of them is the news.

When Team A beats Team B, no one says it’s Fake News. There is a score, a scoreboard and highlights proving it’s real news.

The same is true for college football recruiting.

There is nothing fake about what Geoff Collins is doing by elevating the Temple recruiting pedigree.

Last year at this time, the Temple commits—mostly—had solid offers from schools like Old Dominion, Stony Brook and Towson, while, this year, the solid offers are from schools like Maryland and Mississippi State.

On this day, we can only laud the hustle of Collins and the proof is right there in black and white in the names of the schools he’s beaten for Temple recruits.

Since we left the recruiting trail a few days ago, the Owls have added two more recruits, defensive end Dante Burke of Bishop Sullivan in Virginia Beach (Va.) and athlete David Martin-Robinson of Hempfield (Pa.).

Let’s take Martin-Robinson first.

He could play tight end, linebacker, wide receiver or safety which fits him well within the “position flexibility” concept of Collins’ recruiting.

Maryland and Rutgers offered Martin-Robinson.

As for Burke, he had summer visits lined up to a number of Power 5 schools but said as soon as he set foot on the campus of Temple University, he knew it was the perfect fit.

He had offers from Rutgers, Maryland and Georgia Tech.

With those two in the family, there are 10 scholarships remaining for Collins’ first full class. It’s just another reason to right past the front page into the sports section every morning. If the final 10 are anything like the first 15, this story could get more compelling every day.

Wednesday: Summer Practice Priorities

Friday: Class Warfare

This Year’s Slogan

projectmayhem

No one has confirmed anything about it yet, but after “Leave No Doubt” and “Unfinished Business” were such a success, the hunt for a new slogan may be over.

Right there on a shirt Geoff Collins wore were two simple words with a double entendre: Project Mayhem.

If the powers that be are still looking around for something catchy, Collins may have either stumbled upon it or developed it by stroke of inspiration, if not genius.

Leave No Doubt made its mark because it was born out of Kenny Harper’s heartfelt speech to the team at the end of the 6-6 season. Many people thought the Owls deserved to make a bowl off that 2014 season, but it turns out they were one of four 6-6 teams left off the bowl list.

Harper’s departing words speaking to the juniors were: “Next year, leave no doubt.”

Leave No Doubt became the slogan and it led to a 7-0 start, a win over Penn State and a Game Day appearance with visiting Notre Dame.

That was tough to top but “Unfinished Business” was born out of reaching the AAC title game, but losing it to Houston on the road.

Thus, “Unfinished Business” was a natural follow-up to “Leave No Doubt.”

Those slogans produced a pair of 10-win seasons and projected progress.

For the Owls to progress this season, they would have to slip through the head of a very small needle—winning the AAC again and THEN winning a bowl game. That’s really the only way this season would be considered better than the last two.

Since “Let’s Win The Title and Top That Off With a Bowl Win” is too cumbersome a slogan to fit on a T-Shirt, I’ll take what Collins was wearing the other day.

Project Mayhem.

Project (noun) Mayhem in that this new philosophy is a project that could be worthy of entertainment dollars and Project (verb) Mayhem as in project Mayhem on the opposition, especially on defense, resulting in sacks and turnovers.

If both lead to the more cumbersome slogan becoming a reality, then Project Mayhem will be as hard to top as Leave No Doubt and Unfinished Business were.

Monday: The Newest Additions

Wednesday: Summer Practice

Friday: Comparing The Classes

 

This Was The Week That Was

 

Haason Reddick gives a shout out to Temple Football Forever at the 2:29 mark of this video. What kid would not want to be a part of this?

 

Back in the 1960s, a political satire program appeared on network television for a couple of years called “That Was The Week That Was.” It was hosted by a guy named David Frost and gave an actor named Alan Alda his first national exposure.

For first-year Temple coach Geoff Collins, that week was this week and it might have been his best week ever as a  football coach anywhere, head or assistant. For a guy who ran the recruiting at Georgia Tech and Alabama, that’s saying a lot. Any Temple fan skeptical of Collins’ long-term commitment to the Owls (raising hand here), can now be disabused of the notion of a quick exit. This week of recruiting proves that he at least plans to be here for a long time better than any words that might come out of his mouth. As a start, this is the kind of class you build if you want to beat Power 5 schools three years down the road. At the very worst, he is building a house of brick, not straw.

commits

The Owls got 13 commits and before anyone rains on their parade and says wait until February to see if those commits are still around, remember that most people are men of their word. It’s the exception, not the rule, when a player de-commits from his original commitment.

There are a couple of reasons for that and one of them has to do with first impressions being important. A player often gets a “gut” feeling for a school and that feeling in the gut seldom goes away. The first love usually is the strongest one. The second reason is that the school that showed the initial love gets the benefit of the doubt.

Temple is a hot school right now and not only from a football perspective. All studies have indicated that incoming college students want an urban experience, not a rural one, and football players are no different. For the past four years, Temple has broken records for applications. These students could have gone anywhere. They chose Temple as the place they want to be. Philadelphia is a big plus as well, after recently getting the only “World Class City” designation of a city in the United States and being named the second-best travel destination for vacations. When you go to a school, you go for the full four-year experience, not just the football side.

experience

Plenty of fan spirit around Temple football these days.

Nobody is vacationing in, say, Piscataway or State College.

Speaking of Piscataway, it was rather amusing to watch the reaction to the announcement of St. Augustine Prep running back Kyle Dobbins. A thread was started on the Rutgers’ football site noting that Dobbins would make his announcement at 8 p.m. on Monday. One of the first posts was asking him to please pick Rutgers. Another post followed with a “praying hands” icon. When Dobbins finally picked Temple, the tone changed. In a matter of three hours, the kid went from “please, please, pick us” to “he sucks and Ash probably didn’t want him anyway.” Only one RU poster called out his fellow ones for the hypocrisy. Par for the course over there.

madchuck

All the things that make Philadelphia a vibrant destination city for tourists make it an incredibly exciting destination for potential students.

Collins, a skilled recruiter with an impressive pedigree, is mining those assets and, so far, he is coming up with Gold. You can bet that he will be digging for larger chunks in the months ahead.

Monday: A Closer Look At The Commits

Sustainability

Pedersen

If Geoff Collins commits to Temple like Chris Pedersen did to BSU, that would stabilize things.

One of the side benefits of this Labor of Love called Temple Football Forever is reading some of the comments.

Generally speaking, the comments are a little more insightful here than they are on Philly.com or OwlsDaily or Owlscoop.
Maybe I’m just biased, but that’s the way I feel. I think part of the reason for this is that we discuss issues here related to the viability and sustainability of the program and do not generally delve into puff pieces on the players. The reason for that is simply that this site is dedicated to the long-term fans of the program. Players come and go, parents come and go and coaches come and go, but the fans are here forever. This site is for the fans of the program for the past 20 years or longer and hopefully for the fans of the team for the next 20 years. That’s why the future is such an important topic here.
Hence, Temple Football Forever.
A couple of recent ones knocked my socks off and pretty much explained where we are as a program and why we are there.
kjone

To me, there’s a fourth option here and that is to go the Boise State route and find an outstanding coach willing to put eight years in the program like Chris Pedersen was with BSU.  For awhile, Boise State had its pick between the old Big East and the Big 12. It picked the old Big East, but when the Big East became the AAC it opted out. For Temple to truly become the “Boise State of the East” it’s important that Temple become that wanted commodity. Is it realistic? Boise State is not the university Temple is in any non-football respect, so if the Broncos could do it there is no reason Temple cannot. For me, the way to do it is better vetting of future Temple coaches. I cannot believe that the subject of the coaching revolving door did not come up in the Geoff Collins’ vetting process, but apparently it did not. For that, shame on Pat Kraft and Dick Englert. It would be terrific if Collins himself says he wants to break the recent run of coaches who have left the kids holding the bag and stay here for a long time but I don’t see that happening, either. The closest thing he has come to saying that is that he “tells the kids we love them” every day. If you love them, tell them you will never leave them and keep the promise.

These kids have been burned by Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule. It would nice for them to not be shuffled from foster parent to foster parent every few years.

KJ is right, though, the current path is not sustainable because inevitably Temple is going to swing and miss on hiring a head coach and that is going to lead to three-win seasons. Even the best ADs don’t hit homers with head coaching hires all the time. Once you’ve teased the fans with success, they don’t want to slide back.

The other great comment was from JoninOhio here:

jontwo

Jon’s points are terrific, too. Temple always seems to be on the precipice of building a great fan base, but a loss to Army before 35,000 Temple fans last year was a blow from a fan standpoint the team never recovered. That happens every season Temple suffers a disappointing upset loss. Two steps forward, one step back.

This year that can all change. A win over Notre Dame would open some eyes and be a huge step forward toward sustainability.  Remove that revolving door in the coach’s office at the E-O on top of that and away we go.

Friday: A Cracker Jack Surprise

Sweet Home Recruiting

alabama

There’s three seasons of Temple football, the fall, the spring and recruiting.

Temple did well in one, not so well in another and the jury is out on the third.

Of course, the most important season is the fall but without the other two there can be no tangible success. The jury is always out on the spring, because that’s always the good guys versus the good guys. For the elation of every great touchdown class in the spring, there’s the nagging thought that maybe the secondary is not as good as advertised. That happens every year.

Now we’re in recruiting season.

So maybe that’s why it was heartening to hear that Geoff Collins sent some of his staff down to Alabama for a recruiting seminar.

A lot of people among us felt that the Owls should have had a better recruiting season off an AAC championship, even with a new coaching staff. There was enough evidence to support that theory as Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule all had significantly higher-rated recruiting classes in their transition years than Collins did in his.

There was definitely the term “mailing it in” used on the recruiting effort of this staff and it’s hard to defend against it. It certainly seemed like that from my perspective, considering a new coaching staff without a lot of local ties would “settle” for not building a long-term foundation and instead look to live off Rhule’s recruits and move on to the next job.

It’s hard to scrub that image from the minds of a lot of Temple fans, including me. A top-rated AAC class in 2018 would erase that perception but we are not off to a good start.

aacrecruits

That’s why they have to get their act in gear for the season that takes place most of the summer.

Maybe going down to Alabama to listen to what Nick Saban has to say will help, but probably some good old-fashioned hustle and shoe-leather might do more good.

“I’d like to welcome our group from Temple,” we can only imagine hearing Saban say. “The best advice I have to improve your recruiting is to get in the SEC, play all of your games on Saturday and pack the house.”

Golden did it by coming to Temple with built-in relationships with high schools within the recruiting focus area and Rhule did it by enhancing those relationships. Maybe after listening to Saban, picking up the phone and calling Al or Matt might be worth the dime.

Friday: Fizzy’s Corner Returns

Monday: Sustainability

5 Reasons Why Owls Could Repeat

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 03 AAC Championship - Navy v Temple

The AAC title would be a nice keepsake item for the Owls this season.

The Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is a very nice place, one that Temple football fans called home for the last two games of the 2016 season.

One of them, a father of a recent player, mentioned to me that he would not mind if the thing could be placed on a forklift and plopped right onto the site that for years was Geasey Field. Not a bad idea, I said, if it could find into that spot.

As I walked out of that stadium in late December, I remember thinking another thing.

I liked that stadium a whole lot better the first week of the month than the last. It looked like the Taj Mahal on the first Saturday of the month and, after a 34-26 loss to Wake Forest, like Northeast High.

Playing and winning a meaningful game made it a whole lot better-looking.

Temple has been in the AAC championship game the last two years, losing the first, winning the second.

Few expect the Owls to return for a third-straight time, maybe even host it,  but I don’t think it’s impossible.

Here’s 5 reasons why the Owls could repeat:

sharga

Don’t Mess With a Good Thing

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude mentioned that the Owls would keep their identity as a run-first, pass second team, then talked the out the other side of his mouth in the same sentence, saying the Owls could go to multiple receiver formations as well. The Owls have the best blocking fullback in the country, Nick Sharga, for one more year. If they are going to go to multiple wide receivers, do it in 2018, not 2017. At his Baylor press conference, Matt Rhule said the Owls ran the ball simply because “we had a NFL fullback.” They still do.

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Mayhem Takes Over

The T-Shirts the university sells isn’t just an empty slogan: Mayhem Is Coming. That’s because everywhere Temple coach Geoff Collins has been he has structured a defense based on pressuring the quarterback into mistakes, like fumbles and interceptions. In players like Sharif Finch and Jacob Martin (defensive ends) and tackles Michael Dogbe and Karamo Dioubate, they have guys who can get to the quarterback and strip the ball from him before he’s able to get a pass out of his hands. At least that’s the plan.

russo

Quarterback Separation

Anthony Russo is the best quarterback prospect out of the three Philadelphia City high school leagues (Public, Catholic, Inter-Ac) since Matt Ryan played for Penn Charter. Russo’s stats playing better competition than Ryan dwarfed the current NFL MVP (Russo had 35 touchdown passes his senior year as opposed to 20 for Ryan). Yet Russo hasn’t been able to establish separation with fellow quarterback contenders Logan Marchi, Frank Nutile and Toddy Centeio. If he does in the next few months, watch out.  Really, all any of the quarterbacks needs to do is match P.J. Walker’s first year (20 touchdowns, 8 interceptions) because the running game with Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead could carry this offense.

Infusion of Confidence

A win over Notre Dame in the first game would inject an infusion of confidence into the players that could carry over into the rest of the season. Face it: They all seem to like Collins, but nothing would give Collins credibility to his players like beating ND on national TV. They could ride that Tidal Wave through the AAC. How sweet would it be for Temple to beat Notre Dame and then see the Irish go on a six- or -seven-game winning streak after that?

kraft

Game Day/Week Coaching

While Rhule, like Al Golden, were great program CEOs and very good recruiters, they had some brain farts on game day that caused Temple fans and ex-players to shake their heads. Such an example occurred against Army in the opener last year when the Owls played their base 4-3 against a triple option, instead of plugging the A Gaps and forcing Army’s quarterback to beat them in in the passing game. Another example was a poor week of preparation prior to Penn State led to 120 yards in Owl penalties in a 34-27 loss. Cracking the whip during practice the week before might have cut those penalties in half and meant the AAC champ winning at the Big 10 champ. Huge opportunity missed not only for Temple but for the G5. If Collins does a better job at studying opponent’s game film than Rhule did, he could steal one or two more wins than the so-called experts expect.

Those one or two extra wins could make all the difference in the world.

Wednesday: P5 Misconceptions