Taver, We Hardly Knew Ye ….

aramark

The Aramark indoor football field is twice as big as the old Student Pavilion and the ceiling is high enough for kicking practice.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes from about as interesting an offseason week for Temple football as we’ve seen in some time ….

Doing his best post-Pro Bowl Nick Foles’ impersonation, Taver Johnson walked sideways across the stage at the Aramark Center exactly a week ago and said this:

“How y’all doin’?”

famer

When a Temple Hall of Famer calls, Geoff Collins should have at least listened

Little did those of us in attendance know, at least at that time, that Johnson might as well kept walking and gone right out the side door for good because that’s where he was headed in a real sense. By then, it had to be obvious to head coach Geoff Collins that Johnson was leaving and Collins probably said, “hey, I need you through signing night.”

Going from defensive coordinator at Temple to a defensive backs’ coach at Ohio State is mostly seen as at least a lateral move, certainly not a step up in the coaching fraternity but if it floats Johnson’s boat, go for it. Heck, Taver had the same job at Purdue before being enticed to leave there for the DC job at Temple one year ago.

Temple was ranked No. 56 in total yardage defense and No. 58 in scoring defense a year ago and that screams two words to me: Mediocre and Replaceable. Giving up 28 (really, 21) points to UConn and 13 points to a Villanova team that Rhode Island … Rhode Island … held to six is not a ringing endorsement of last year’s defense.

With the dissolution of the Bruce Arians’ staff in Arizona, there are a number of “overqualified” guys with Temple connections who Hall of Famer Paul Palmer told me were definitely interested in the job: Former FCS Defensive Coordinator of the Year Nick Rapone and Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Famer Kevin Ross.

If one or both are hired, they immediately become the two best defensive coaches on the staff. Both guys are Temple (and Tempe) TUFF, love Temple, and would be a positive influence on the kids and their fellow staffers and the fans. This is about the biggest no-brainer in Temple history. Neither would leave Temple for lesser positions, even at Alabama. Of course, Temple being Temple it hired another less-qualified guy from the one of the same two directional Alabama schools Bobby Wallace last coached, West Alabama. It would have nice for Collins to look around and grab a guy or two from the pre-Al Golden Era at Temple. Sometimes, you think he believes Temple did not have football before 2005. This was one of those times.

“Mr. Mike”

Now that Nick Sharga has left, we all have to find our next favorite player on the Temple team.

(Hell, I’m not the only fan who had No. 4 No. 1.)

Mine has been Isaiah Wright since the end of our season.

wright

Like the guy said on the TV broadcast at the Army game, “Isaiah Wright is a touchdown waiting to happen.”

As I sat down next to long-time buddy and Temple linebacking great Steve Conjar, a guy across the table noticed me and said, “Mr. Mike!”

That guy was Isaiah Wright and it was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He extended his right hand.

“I’m Isaiah Wright.”

“Isaiah Wright, my favorite Temple player. No joke.”

Then Isaiah introduced me to the guy sitting on his right, Linwood Crump (Junior), and I told the defensive back that he was going to be a starter but to not take anything for granted.

He said he would not.

Both can call me Mr. Mike any day of the week and, just maybe, they will give him No. 4 before the start of the season. Whatever number they give him, I just hope they don’t make him disappear like they did with Nick Sharga.

Aramark Center

Moody Nolan is listed as the architect for the new football stadium.

complex

He also did the job at the new Temple football indoor facility called the Aramark Center (the football team shares this spectacular indoor arena with locker rooms and training facilities with the rest of the students). This is a much-larger version of the old Student Pavilion, large enough to get some punting and field goal work in—something that could not be done at what Collins affectingly called the “Mayhem Mansion.”

That said, it takes up such a large portion of the 15th and Montgomery area that it would now be pretty hard to see how a 35,000-seat stadium could fit in a North-South configuration. It would have to be East-West and cross and close 15th Street permanently with the Student Pavilion and tennis courts knocked down. Had the Pavilion been knocked down and replaced by what is now Aramark first, there would have been no need to close down 15th Street.

Now it is really hard to conceive of a stadium fitting into the old Geasey Field square footage alone but that could be the least of Moody Nolan’s problems.

Friday: Thoughts on The AAC Schedule

Advertisements

Owls Need Experience at DC

cardinals

When Matt Rhule was putting the final piece to the puzzle that was his Temple coaching staff, he said to me over the phone two days after he was hired that “I have a older guy with a lot of experience in mind and with a young coaching staff, I think that’s the kind of guy we need.”

I later learned that was Phil Snow.

After a rocky start at Temple, Snow put his defense in place and, by the second AAC championship game he coached in, there were few better in the country. I wasn’t a big fan of Phil at first, but he won me over four years later when it took him that long to put in his defense.

formerowls

All but one of the above played for Rapone at Temple

Geoff Collins might be wise to consider the same approach now that Taver Johnson is headed to Ohio State to essentially fill the 10th coaching spot Adam DiMichele filled at Temple.

With all due respect to Andrew Thacker, he simply doesn’t have the experience at an important position that a school as large as Temple should demand.

Nick Rapone, who was the defensive backs coach with the Arizona Cardinals (Temple West, located in Tempe) for Bruce Arians, does and he has the ability to put any type of defense in at a faster rate than even the Sainted Phil Snow did for the Sainted Matt Rhule. You want real Mayhem? Hire Nick Rapone.

Rapone’s daughter graduated from Temple and Rapone himself has some deep ties to Philadelphia and the Owls, having served two stints as an assistant here already.

As DC at  Delaware, Rapone was a part of two NCAA national runner-up teams, including in 2010 when he helped the Blue Hens to a 12-3 record and a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title. Rapone was named the 2010 FootballScoop NCAA Division I FCS Coordinator of the Year as his defense led the nation in scoring (12.1 ppg), ranked fifth in total defense (280.7 ypg) and was 12th in rushing defense (105.3 ypg). The secondary included four All-CAA performers, including All-American selections Anthony Walters and Anthony Bratton at safety. The Hens also ranked ninth in the nation in passing efficiency (102.7), and the team’s 21 INTs were the third-highest total in the nation at the FCS level.

He was the Owls’ defensive coordinator under Arians and the Owls more than held their own as a defense against two top 10 schedules under him.

Most importantly, he’s available and he does have extensive DC experience at the highest levels of football, not at developmental programs like Kennesaw State.

That’s what Thacker does not have nor did Johnson. Neither of those guys have any history of stopping offenses. Rapone has a long and storied one.

Like Rhule said back then about Snow, I think that’s just the kind of guy Temple needs.

Collins should at least pick up the phone and give him a call.

Or vice-versa.

Valentine’s Day: Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes

Friday: A Closer Look at the AAC Schedule

Monday: Developmental Program?

2/21: Philly Special

2/23: New Transfer Rule

 

 

 

The King of All Classes

 

 

 

Cincinnati has Tavion Thomas, Temple has Travon King.

While no one really knows if either one will make an impact with their respective schools, the takeaway from National Signing Day on Wednesday was that Temple went for length and speed and character and Cincinnati reached for the stars.


You can talk about length,
speed and character until
you are blue in the face,
what matters most is wins
on Saturdays. That’s really
all that matters

Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back from Dunbar in Dayton, picked his nearby hometown squad after decommiting from Oklahoma. His final three were Cincinnati, Tennessee and Ohio State.

File that name away because what Cincinnati and the other AAC schools do is important in comparison to what Temple does. Cincinnati had the No. 1 recruiting class as ranked by the website 247.com (recently merged with Scout.com) and while the same service ranked Temple’s class as its best ever, it was still behind the Bearcats.

All you have to do is check the number of five-stars and four-stars on rosters like Alabama and Ohio State over the past few years to determine what the meaning of them on the field can be.

recruitingsnip

Geoff Collins, also a second-year coach, has not signed a four-star yet.

Maybe next year.

No one at the signing ceremony at the Aramark Facility (a huge upgrade, by the way, from the Student Pavilion) seemed to mind.

There were many of the obligatory ohhs and ahhs watching the highlight films of the Temple recruits. Here is the complete breakdown with heights, weights, 40 speeds and even some academic achievements. Nary a negative word will be found about this class on Pravda or any other site that covers Temple regularly using notepads, pen and tape recorders and “making phone calls”, but we will try to offer some balanced objective perspective here untainted by receiving a paycheck from Temple.

At the end of the presentation and remembering the similar feeling I had watching recruiting highlights the last three years, I got up out of my seat and the first thing I said to Temple linebacking legend Steve Conjar was: “How do we ever lose a game with these kind of players?”

(I did not have the heart to mention maybe it’s because we do some questionable, OK stupid, things like passing on first-and-goal at the Army 1 when we had the best fullback in the country available to lead block for a running back who gained 151 yards that day.)

It’s what you do with the players once you get them that determines wins and losses.

King represents what Collins is trying to do with this class. Collins called King a “designated pass rusher” and he had a couple of those in this class. If Temple can find a DPR who is also able to play the run well, that will be the guy who sees the field.

It would be nice to have reached up and grabbed a (five) star or four stars, but this is the process at Temple now and we won’t know if it’s a better one than the other teams in the conference until a couple of years from now. You can talk about length, speed and character until you are blue in the face, what matters most is wins on Saturdays. That’s really all that matters.

For now, though, the guys already in the program will have to make their mark. For the guys signed with this class, a little more patience is required.

Monday: Possible Johnson Replacement

Wednesday: Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes

Friday: Developmental Program?

5 Unanswered Questions

tuff

The thing about coaching changes is that bumps in the road are going to be an expected part of the process.

No one—at least the people I talk to—expected to hit this many major potholes on the way to what was largely an under-performing season in 2017. Plenty of starters and key contributors returned from the AAC championship team and Matt Rhule did not leave the cupboard bare for first-year coach Geoff Collins. Talent-wise, this was a team that should not have lost to UConn and Army. You may say that is crying over spilled milk but leaving that milk there without cleaning  it up could make next season more sour tasting that it should.

Part of the process is asking hard questions and answering them honestly.  So far, no member of the Temple football media (to our knowledge) has asked any of these five questions of  Collins and getting these answers by Cherry and White Day would be nice:

sharga

5) What happened to the fullback position at Temple?

Matt Rhule said he had an Epiphany after his second season that the way to create explosive plays in the passing game was not by spreading the field with receivers but by establishing the run behind a blocking fullback and then using play action to get receivers open. That plan worked for two 10-win seasons and Collins seemed on board with it as late as the season-ticket holder party in August. What happened? Will Nitro be used as a fullback this year or is the fullback position done at Temple? (And don’t say the fullback isn’t used in college football anymore. Just because other teams don’t use the triple option, that doesn’t mean that Navy will stop using it. The fullback fits the Temple TUFF football philosophy as the triple-option is to Navy. Run the ball, play great defense and special teams and hit explosive plays in the play-action game is what got Temple consecutive double-digit win seasons)

4) What happened to Jared Folks?

How does a guy start in the AAC championship game for a great team one year and become a non-factor for a mediocre team the next? Inquiring minds need to know.

nutile

3) How could it have taken them seven games to figure one quarterback was better than the other?

Despite saying for nine months leading up to the opener that all four quarterbacks were “equal” Collins rolled out an under-performing quarterback for seven games before an injury allowed Frank Nutile to play. Fans immediately saw that he was the far superior quarterback in the Army game. How could a highly paid coaching staff miss that?

2) What did Collins mean by his “square peg, round hole” comment?

Before the bowl game, Collins said that the offense didn’t come around because “I think we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole on offense.” What were they trying to do that was wrong and what fixes did they apply to make it work?

journey

1) How could they have screwed up the kicking situation?

All over college football, you could see kickers on Power 5 teams miss chip-shot field goals but Temple had two kickers, Austin Jones, and Aaron Boumerhi, who were elite. That was an asset they should have extended by playing the healthy one and redshirting the other.  Instead the Owls tried to use two kickers from the jump. The Owls could have used Boomer for the extra year. Now Jones is gone and odds are the next one probably won’t be as good as Brandon McManus, Jones or Boomer. Great kickers are hard to find as Rhule found out in his first  year on the job.

Wednesday: The Coaching Shuffle

Friday: Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Monday: Strange Hashtags

Heating Things Up: Hiring Adam DiMichele

Every once in a while, Temple coach Geoff Collins does something that makes you think he gets his surroundings.

Hiring Adam DiMichele certainly qualifies with one of those somethings.

DiMichele is now the “recruiting coordinator” and the 10th fulltime assistant as allowed by the NCAA as of last Tuesday.

Hey, he could have hired another Coastal Carolina guy.

DiMichele kicks McNabb's butt

Adam as a Philadelphia Eagle (hey, they still need a backup to Sudfeld)

I’m not so provincial that I believe Collins should hire all Temple guys to coach at Temple but, with Adam, I’ve got a soft spot.

Including P.J. Walker, Steve Joachim, Matty Baker, Tim Riordan, Henry Burris and Lee Saltz, Adam DiMichele is my favorite Temple quarterback of all time.

Notice I wrote “favorite” and not “best.”

Favorite is because he was the conduit between a lot of bad years and a lot of good ones.

Sitting at Franklin Field right behind the late, great Peter “Doc” Chodoff watching Temple get waxed during the Dark Ages that culminated in a 20-game losing streak, Doc turned to me and said, “Mike, why does every other team have a better quarterback than Temple?”

“I’ve always said the same thing. Seems like it’s been that way forever, Doc. I don’t know.”
Doc Chodoff got a field named after him a few years later, right around the time  I got my quarterback who was better than the bad guy’s quarterback.

His name was Adam DiMichele.

DiMichele was the bridge between the 20-game losing streak and what Temple football is today. Had not Buffalo completed an inexplicable “Hail Mary” pass, he would have led the Owls to a bowl game in 2008.

Had not Joe Paterno denied him a transfer waiver, DiMichele—not Chester Stewart nor Vaughn Charlton—would have been the quarterback in the 2009 Eagle Bank Bowl and there is no doubt in my mind he would be the difference.

DiMichele was part of a lot of great plays while at Temple, my favorite being the “fake knee down” against Navy in the 2008 season. Temple looked like it was going to run out the clock but DiMichele feigned the knee and pulled it up just before it hit the ground and found Bruce Francis 30 yards behind the nearest defensive back. Francis walked in but the Owls lost that game, 33-27, in overtime. The year prior, DiMichele flipped the ball back to D’yonne Crudup on a double-reverse and Crudup tried to hit him in the end zone for a game-winning TD against UConn, but DiMichele tipped the ball to Francis, who caught it but it was ruled a non-catch.

DiMichele was always the quarterback of a fullback-oriented offense that head coach Al Golden and offensive coordinator George DeLeone believed in and was the beneficiary of a strong running game that set up great play-action passing. Hopefully, Adam will have enough influence on Dave Patenaude to go away from Coastal Carolina Soft back to Temple TUFF. If anyone can convince Patenaude to put Nitro back there leading the way for Rock and David Hood, it’s Adam DiMichele.

More than that, though, he’s got to convince Collins and, by getting hired, he’s at least halfway there.

Monday: The 2018 Power 5 Opponents

Geoff Collins’ Shocking Admission

 

dunce

Go through the posts on this website and you will find several references of Temple’s offense being one where the coaches tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.

shargamilk

So you can excuse us for wondering just where Temple head football coach got this notion from when he uttered this quote at the inaugural Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl press conference.

“I think we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole on offense,” Collins said. “Once we got a good taste of who our personnel was on offense, it kind of took off.”

Collins could have saved a whole lot of time and heartache by reading what was posted here in September.

Maybe he did.

This is what we wrote in a post on Sept. 22, after a 43-7 loss to USF:

“Ask any Temple fan who followed the team over the last 40 years (I will raise my hand here) who the best set of receivers are in Temple history and that fan will probably say the current group of Ventell Bryant, Adonis Jennings, Keith Kirkwood and Isaiah Wright. Any offense that has those four guys on it is not rebuilding, it should be reloading.

Emphasis on “should be” because the coaching is the X-factor here. Temple won the past two seasons because it catered an offense to suit the talents of its players, and did not try to force fit a square peg (spread offense) into a round hole (play-action offense). A good head coach tailors a scheme to the talent he has, not the talent he wants.”

Better late than never, but putting the square pegs into the square holes and the round ones should have been something that was figured out by August, not by the end of October. The real sad thing is that Collins seemed to be onto it at the season ticket holder party when one season-ticket holder asked him to “never take Nick Sharga out of the game” and Collins responded by saying that he would not and, if anything, Sharga’s role as a lead-blocker in a play-action-oriented offense would be greater than it was a year ago. For reasons only Collins knows, he lied. Maybe he allowed offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude to have too much input.


At least Collins dictated a heavy dose of play action over the final six games of the year and that saved their season. That was the personnel they had all along.


“Temple won the past two
seasons because it catered
an offense to suit the
talents of its players,
and did not try to force
fit a square peg (spread offense)
into a round hole
(play-action offense)”
_ Temple Football Forever, Sept. 22, 2017

“I think we were trying to kind
of fit a square peg in a round
hole
on offense. Once we got
a really good taste of who
our personnel was,
it kind of took off.”
_ Geoff Collins, Dec. 6, 2017


The Owls took way too long to figure out that they never needed a “running” quarterback as much as they needed a guy with a big enough arm to get the ball to their most talented players on offense, their wide receivers. They figured out too late that many of the “drops” they suffered in September were the result of these same receivers circling back on poorly thrown balls. When they inserted the guy with the big arm, those receivers caught balls in stride and away they went, usually into the end zone.

Collins followed the outline of the advice, although we would have liked to seen more running from guys like Ryquell Armstead and David Hood behind a guy like Nick Sharga.

Maybe next year with those two behind a guy who goes by the nickname of Nitro, opening passing lanes for a guy who goes by the name Juice.

Let’s hope a second-year coach isn’t as slow on the uptake as the first-year one was. One of the fastest ways to fix a problem is to recognize it and, with that one quote, Collins showed there is hope for a better future plan.

Monday: The Padre Pio Factor

Wednesday: Bowl Preview

Friday: Bowl Analysis

Christmas: Season Analysis

FIU: Looking In The Mirror

fiustadium

FIU fans have seen a stadium rendering;  (most) Temple fans have not.

If Florida International’s football program looks familiar in the Gasparilla Bowl on  Dec. 21, Temple fans might be onto something.

In many ways, it will be like looking into a mirror.

Here are 5 similarities:

  1. Both the Owls and the Panthers are located in major cities and have similar missions, educating the poor and middle class and paving the way for upward mobility.

2. Both teams have stadiums at least on the drawing board. Only major contributors have seen artist renderings of the proposed new Temple Football 35,000-seat stadium, while everyone in Miami has seen the plans for the new FIU stadium (artist rendering above), a 25,000-seat expansion of the current Raymond Silva Stadium on campus.

fiucollins

Collins getting his FIU swag on

3. The last time FIU hoisted a bowl-winning trophy Geoff Collins was on the field. Collins was the defensive coordinator of a FIU team that won the 2010 Beef O’Brady Bowl. (Hopefully, that happenstance will not be repeated this year.) Seeing Collins in that FIU uniform is just another reminder that his family is used to more moves than an Army officer’s family and that he probably won’t be here for long either.

4. Both programs play second-, third- and fourth-fiddle to other football programs in the same market. For FIU, the Panthers have to struggle for space in the newspaper with two Miamis (Hurricanes and Dolphins). For the Owls, it usually page nine of a Sunday paper that only seems to have eight pages of Eagles’ coverage.

5. Both teams have beaten and lost to the same opponent this year.  Central Florida crushed the Panthers (61-17) and the Owls (46-19); Panthers beat UMass (61-33) as did the Owls (29-21).

Monday: The Year In FIU football