A lot of us have been holding our breath until our faces turned blue but that process ends today.
At least for me.
College football has changed a lot in the past three years, let alone past 20, but it’s pretty safe to say that the start of spring football practice has always been one of the five most important days of the year.
The others being, in no particular order, spring game, recruiting signing day, opening day and bowl game. (The Cherry and White game hasn’t been relevant for a couple of years but there was a time when it was huge on the Temple football calendar.)
Despite the shaky state of the program, we can now all breathe a sigh of relief.
At least we can assume that the guys who practiced today are all in and will be Temple football players this fall and that’s significant achievement in this day and age of the dreaded transfer portal.
My biggest breath was reserved for one guy who has been my favorite Temple football player over the last two years: Jadan Blue. (Even though you see some spellings as Jaden, the school’s official website has him listed as Jadan and we will go with that.)
He’s a game-changing type player who caught three touchdown passes in a competitive game against Memphis and probably will leave Temple with a lot of receiving records. If he gets double digits in terms of touchdown receptions for the 2021, he could be the next Owl drafted in the first round (hell, Jalen Reagor had only nine TD catches his senior year at TCU and got drafted in the first round).
He is the only Owl in the history of the school to catch 95 passes or post 1,000 yards or more in a single season. When you think players with the talent of Van Johnson, Leslie Shepard, Steve Watson, Randy Grossman, Robby Anderson, Rich Drayton, Keith Gloster, Willie Marshall or Bruce Francis never put up those kind of numbers, that’s saying a lot. Hell, Jim Callahan caught six touchdowns in a single game (and Francis five) but neither of those guys caught 95 balls or got 1,000 yards in a single year like Blue did in 2019.
Truthfully, I thought he was a goner to the portal but I’m glad he stayed.
If Temple is going to be competitive this fall–and that’s a big if–Blue will be a big part of it because he is in a receiving room that is, without question, the most talented room in the AAC. Randle Jones, on the other side, is a flat-out stud and Purdue transfer Amad Anderson is an accomplished and proven Big 10 receiver.
If Duece Mathis can get those guys the ball, Temple can turn the scoreboard into an adding machine at Lincoln Financial Field.
The problem is the other side of the ball. I don’t see the Owls getting enough pressure on the opposing quarterback to disrupt things on the defensive end nor do I see them being able to stop the run consistently enough.
They could lose a few games 39-38, 41-29 and 45-40. Or maybe win them that way.
That’s a problem, though for defensive coordinator Jeff Knowles and line coach Walter Stewart to solve. No amount of X’s and O’s can make up for the J and J’s (Jimmie and Joes).
In the meantime, we’ve gotten this far and enough of the “good guys” have stayed to at least make things interesting on one side of the ball.
The best of the good ones just might be Blue, which best describes the color of my face while holding my breath and hoping he would stay.
Editor’s Note: It’s very rare that we get an email with this much thought, no insults, and this on-point about the Temple football program. Since I agree with 99 percent of what this young man says, I will print it unedited in its entirely. (The only part I don’t agree is giving over the keys of the program to untested Fran Brown but that’s his opinion so I left it in. He did not want to use his name so I’m going to keep it out.) The “young lady” he refers to below is Morgyn Siegfield, who now works for the University of Kansas.
I really haven’t felt a need in a long time to express my dismay about the Temple football program. But as my sucko-meter has gone off multiple times this year, I have some things I need to get off my chest.
Look, I wasn’t crazy about Geoff Collins; I always had the sense that he was learning on the job. But one thing he did well was relate to his players and the public. I just never realized how important it was and is until I saw Rod Carey.
Let’s recap the many ways he has sucked so far, shall we:
1) In an early interview with Owl Sports (with a young lady whose name I forget), he was asked about “Temple Tuff.” It was a softball question that the interviewer threw at him to let him affirm Temple’s brand. His answer: something to the effect of, “Where I come from, you don’t say you’re tough, you just are.” That was the first indication to me that this guy was a schmuck.
He had previously said publicly how excited he was to be the new coach of the Temple football team, going as far as saying that Kraft could make his buyout sum as much as he wanted. He was expressing his gratitude and suggesting, ostensibly, that he was going to be here for a long time. And what does this douchenozzle say in his interview with Owl Sports? At the first chance he gets to affirm the Temple brand, a phrase the legendary John Chaney invented, he basically says, “meh, whatever.”
2) He fires Ed Foley. WTF???? Everyone likes Ed Foley. If anyone is Temple, it’s Ed Foley. He was here from nearly the beginning with Al Golden, I think. Did he have a little bit of Matt Foley in him? Sure. But he was a really good coach. Our special teams under him were special!!!
So what does Carey do? He fires Foley, which must have been handled poorly as Foley felt a need to express his disgust via social media, and then decides they don’t need a special teams coach. Only problem is they ended up really sucking on special teams!! Then, the following season, Captain Mayonnaise assigns one of his lackey’s to be the new special team coach. As if we didn’t notice!
My sense of the matter is that he was probably just jealous and felt threatened by the relationships Foley had cultivated with the team and university. A confident man uses that to his advantage, he doesn’t fire the guy. My guess is it probably impacted player morale and trust, too.
3) He not only gets rid of Foley, but he gets rid of the “Wildboys” nickname that had been a holdover from past defensive lines dating back to the Matt Rhule era. Collins had the smarts to keep it. He probably realized the players on the defensive line liked it. So here comes Carey saying, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and we’re getting rid of that tradition.”
Right move: Getting rid of signs and charts on the sideline
Wrong move: Getting rid of a tradition that was started in the Matt Rhule era
4) He gets into a public spat (at least on social media) with the Imhotep coach. I think it started with his mishandling of a Tyreek Rainer situation, and things blew up from there. Hey good luck recruiting Imhotep after that! This has traditionally been a hard school to pull a recruit from so maybe you could argue that the damage was minimal.
But he just strikes me as a yokel with zero ability to politic.
5) Good players start transferring out. Kenny Yeboah, Quincy Roche and, now, Ray Davis. All three of these guys are very good players with potential NFL chops. I’m almost certain Roche will be a second or third rounder, (even with a low sack total this year.) Losing these guys can’t be a good look for your program. I don’t recall Temple coaching staffs from the past losing a high caliber player like Roche. That’s just irresponsible. And guess what? Don’t be surprised if Ifenyi Maijeh is next! In his last interview, he mentioned that he has options after this season. He didn’t specify, but he also seemed a little bothered. This is a subjective interpretation, but that’s how I saw it.
6) He seems to be very rigid in his protocol for player interviews. If you go to the Temple website to look at football related videos, you’ll see that the player interviews are chaperoned, if you will, by the coaches. In other words, a journalist asks a question, and then the coach connects the player to the question. My conclusion: It looks and feels like the coaching staff is paranoid that these kids are going to say something wrong or bad about them. Again, I don’t recall this ever being done in the past. Who knows, maybe his rigidity and paranoia is symptomatic of the reason some of these kids are transferring out?
7) And look at the product we see today. This team is a shell of themselves. Yes, injuries and covid cases have impacted them. But it’s also impacted the teams they’re playing. And the loss of these three transfers is totally on Carey. The defense is just crap; they can’t stop anyone. And that’s on Carey, too.
His QB, Russo, who was recruited by Matt Rhule, has looked good. He’s been able to score the football. And I give Carey a little credit for his offensive line maneuvers (utilizing lighter players / zone), but that’s it. This team is blah. They’re just not very good. They reflect the personality of their coach.
They’re semi-good. They’re quasi-good. They’re the margarine of good. They’re the Diet Coke of good, just one calorie, not good enough.
Mike, Carey is just not a good fit. I get it; Kraft was under a lot of pressure to hire someone. And Carey was available. But I tell ya, I really liked Fran Brown. In my opinion, people made too much of him not being ready because he hadn’t been a coordinator. Well, you know what, there was another guy who hadn’t been a coordinator before he got the job at the University of Minnesota, and his name is PJ Fleck. How’d that work out for them?
And Fran Brown can recruit! We’d have all of these NJ recruits right now if Kraft would have made the bold decision to hire Fran Brown. And I suspect none of those guys would have transferred out with Fran as the coach. Fran’s strength is his people skills. He was the perfect choice. He’s young. He’s charismatic. He’s local. This is his recruiting footprint. It is absolute nonsense, if not racist to suggest he was too young or needed more seasoning as a coordinator.
Another guy to consider for the job is Kurt Sirocco. He went to Temple (didn’t play because of injury), got both of his degrees here, and got his coaching start here. He’s now doing quite well at U of Minnesota as their Offensive Coordinator. I suspect his name will be tossed around for head coach openings in the near future.
But going forward, I suspect that Fran Dunphy, being the gentleman that he is, will give Carey every chance to right the ship. So we could be stuck with this guy for another two years, at least. Ugh.
“Even if I was with the Patriots, I’d be asking Tom Brady to read the option and run every once in a while. Yeah, I know it probably wouldn’t work there, either, but that’s the only offense Mike knows how to run.”
There are plenty of things to be thankful for as Thanksgiving rolls around today. This season flew by and there is at least one more chance to get together with my football friends on Saturday, so there’s one thing.
Maybe a bowl game if it’s in D.C. or NYC as well.
Keeping this post to football, though, I’m thankful for two people this year what I believe is far too much criticism on social media: Our quarterback and head coach.
First the quarterback.
Adam DiMichele’s first two full years at Temple were 2006 and 2007
As Temple fans, we can pretty much agree on the following:
Steve Joachim, Henry Burris, P.J. Walker, and Adam DiMichele were great quarterbacks wearing the Cherry and White.
Anthony Russo’s first two full seasons at Temple compares favorably with any of the great quarterbacks at the school, even with a full game left in the regular season.
Anthony Russo’s first two years at quarterback–with a full game to go–stacks up with the first two years of any of those above quarterbacks and he still has another year to go, so that’s something to be thankful for.
Henry Burris’ first two full years at Temple were 1994 and 1995
I’d love to see Russo run a similar offense to Joachim (the veer), Burris, Walker and DiMichele (NFL-type pro sets) but his stats in variations of the spread have been pretty darn good. Give him a more traditional NFL-type offense than a college one and he would thrive. Nobody asks those NFL quarterbacks to run with the exceptions being the Jacksons and the Wilsons.
To me, the No. 1 stat for a quarterback is wins and losses. Russo was 7-2 last year as a starter (losses to Villanova and Buffalo went to Frank Nutile and the win over UConn to Todd Centeio) and is 7-3 this season and about to finish 8-3. That’s 15-5 and only Joachim, the Maxwell Award winner as a national college football player of the year (1974) was better in his two seasons (17-3).
No other quarterback was close in modern Temple history and that’s pretty rarified air.
Steve Joachim’s first two (and only) seasons at Temple were 1973 and 1974. Surprisingly, he had a much better passer rating at Penn State (162.5) than he did at Temple (141.7).
The next most important stat is touchdown/interception ratio and Russo improved on his 14/14 line with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.
In the area of cold statistics, Russo completed 418 passes in 721 attempts for 5,049 yards with 33 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Compare that to Joachim’s first two seasons (208 completions in 380 attempts, 3,262 yards with 31 touchdowns and 23 interceptions).
Henry Burris and Adam DiMichele could not compete in the area of wins but put up some impressive, albeit, inferior statistics to Russo. Henry, a legend in the CFL, completed 354 passes in 709 attempts for 4,720 yards with the same amount of touchdowns (33) but four more interceptions. ADM? 273-443, 3,113, 22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his first two full seasons.
P.J. Walker had 20 touchdowns to 8 interceptions in his first season but never had a better TD/INT ratio after that. He did throw for nearly 3,000 yards in each of the years after Rhule ditched the spread option for more of a pro-style attack using a fullback. That led to a championship appearance one year and an outright championship the next. There is still time for Russo to do that but he will need to get some help from Carey in the form of an offense more suited to his passing skills than his running ones.
P.J. Walker went from 20 TDs and 8 INTS to a sophomore slump of 13/15. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards ONLY after Rhule switched to a fullback-oriented play-action passing game in P.J’s final two seasons.
For someone who remembers and cringes thinking about the quarterbacks of the Al Golden Era and before that, I’m glad that Anthony Russo is my quarterback.
Carey has deservedly received some criticism here because he did not tailor his offense to the talents of his players but I’m also glad he’s my head coach for one reason.
Manny Diaz could have been.
This was our blog post on the day Temple hired Manny Diaz. We were off only about 348 days.
Diaz lost to a team, FIU, last week that lost to both Tulane (42-14) and FAU (37-7). He lost to a Georgia Tech team that Carey beat 24-2.
I have to laugh at the
criticism of both guys,
Russo and Carey. Guess what?
Jalen Hurt and Nick Saban
are not walking through that
door to quarterback and coach
Temple. If you don’t like
Carey as Temple coach, who
would you have hired instead?
Chris Creighton? Lance Leipold?
I don’t think either would
have done appreciatively
Despite my criticism of Carey’s blind spot (not running a play-action run-oriented offense to open up passing lanes for Russo), I’m also glad he’s my coach because there is no way Temple beats Georgia Tech, Memphis and Maryland with Diaz as my coach.
I have to laugh at the criticism of both guys, Russo and Carey. Guess what? Jalen Hurt and Nick Saban are not walking through that door to quarterback and coach Temple. If you don’t like Carey as Temple coach, who would you have hired instead? Chris Creighton? Lance Leipold? I don’t think either would have done appreciatively better here.
To me, if Carey had run a pro set with a fullback and two tight ends and established the running game against Cincy, Russo would have had plenty of time to find receivers on play-action fakes and thrown four touchdown passes in a 40-15 win instead of a 15-13 loss. Scoring points on Cincy with the talent Temple has on offense (Russo, Ray Davis, Jager Gardner, Jadan Blue, Isaiah Wright, Branden Mack, Kenny Yeboah, etc.) should not have been that hard. The system has to be designed around the talent and this system does not do that. That’s what I believe now and that’s what I believed after Matt Rhule’s first two years of doing the same exact thing before Matt adopted our suggestions in Year Three. (Matt admitted to me in a phone call that he read this blog the entire year he was an assistant at the New York Giants. I doubt he stopped once he became Temple head coach.)
Maybe Carey will have a similar Ephinany after his first year like Rhule did after his second. I think Rhule was more pliable but I hope Carey surprises me.
Is there room for improvement for both coach and player?
That’s why next year is an important one for both and a major reason we should give thanks today and be excited about the future.
Only two players on the current Temple roster return inheriting their single-digit roster numbers.
One of the byproducts of the next month will be to find seven other guys to join Chapelle Russell (3) and Shaun Bradley (5) as the toughest non-offensive linemen on the squad.
Taking a guess at the other spots is a little like filling out the March Madness brackets next week: A fun endeavor but probably not 100 percent foolproof.
The good news is that there are probably about 20 deserving tough guy candidates out there. Before the players even vote, we’ll take a guess at these seven with the assigned number in parenthesis:
Dan Archibong (photo by Zamani Feelings) is a good bet to earn a single digit.
Dan Archibong (9) _ For my money, the toughest and most talented player along the defensive line and ready to take the mantle from Michael Dogbe as the leader on the defensive interior.
Zack Mesday (4) _ Granted a fifth year of eligibility (see above video), this tough guy worked his way from walk-on to starter following the same path of fellow walk-ons to starters Nick Sharga and Rob Ritrovato so we will give him the same number.
Anthony Russo (8) _ Probably deserves P.J. Walker’s former number due to having to deal with the punishment of working with former offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, whose concept of max protect was telling Russo to slide. Russo should thrive under a system with a little less RPO and a little more emphasis on the run game and play-action.
Isaiah Wright (1) _ Anyone who makes first-team All-American as a special teams’ performer is a tough guy. For the first three years of his time at Temple, two coaches have talked about getting the ball “more” in Wright’s hands but there’s only so many plays a wide receiver or wildcat quarterback can get. If Wright moves to tailback, he’s going to get the ball 15-20 times a game more and Temple’s offense should be 15-20x as effective.
Sam Franklin (7) _ Franklin has been a “jack-of-all-trades” for the Owls, playing safety, defensive end and linebacker and effective in all three spots. It takes a tough and smart guy to learn three positions at the same time. He’s been a great leader who will probably slot into a starter’s spot wherever he’s needed.
Branden Mack (6) _ Nobody made more clutch catches in traffic than this former Cheltenham High star, including the catch that tied Cincinnati with 22 seconds left in regulation. Mack rips the ball out of defensive backs’ hands. That’s a tough guy.
William Kwenkeu (2) _ Wearing No. 35, Kwenkeu was the defensive star of the Gasparilla Bowl, a game he registered his first career start and had a pair of sacks. Due to a change in coordinators last year, he did not play as much as he should have but he has both the talent and toughness to reclaim his spot in the lineup.
The worst thing Pat Kraft could do for Temple is to bring in another team’s coordinator
More than any other recent hire, Temple athletic director Pat Kraft has a lot of moving parts to deal with in his search for a Temple football coach.
At times this week, he’s got to feel like one of those contestants in that Lincoln Financial Field shell game–find the Owl under the football helmet as the helmets jump all over the place.
The most important sentence is underlined
The moving parts existing now were not necessarily there the last time.
This team coming back is POTENTIALLY a great team, losing 19 seniors but only a handful of those seniors played key roles and, the ones who did, have backups that can easily replace them. (Just one example is losing receivers like Ventell Byrant and Brodrick Yancy but having upside guys like Branden Mack and Sean Ryan coming back.)
Nothing will continue this train moving forward than two things: 1) a guy who has been a head coach before and doesn’t have to learn to be a head coach on the job or 2) a guy who is familiar with the talent at hand and how to use it.
Is there a guy out there who possesses BOTH important qualities?
The time for bringing
in a coordinator who
has to learn how to
be another team’s
head coach on Temple’s
dime at the expense
of the Temple kids
should be over
Winning now should be the most important thing and, Kraft has to be thinking if he hires the Texas A&M coordinator, the Alabama coordinator or the Miami coordinator winning now becomes more difficult. At least that’s what I hope he is thinking.
So, the moving part, in that case, is that you don’t want to hire a guy who is new to the team and takes a year to figure out the relative merits of both the personnel and the ideal offensive and defensive schemes that fit, you risk taking a team with 10-12-win potential down to a six-win (or worse) season.
Basically, that’s what happened in Geoff Collins’ first year. His learning curve was too steep and Temple gave up a free year so a coach could learn both on our dime and our time how to be Georgia Tech’s head coach. The bottom line is Temple got one good year out of a two-year, $4 million investment.
Finding a guy who has been a head coach before and who at least as a rudimentary concept of the current Temple talent probably is the best way to go. Buffalo’s Lance Leipold, who studied Owl film the week before he was able to devise a way to beat them, seems to have all of the moving parts. You can’t go wrong hiring a guy like that.
Failing that, Ed Foley–who was a head coach before (albeit a losing one) and understands the Temple talent and how to use it–probably would be a safe choice. Fran Brown would be less safe, but more welcome in the clubhouse than some big-time team’s coordinator. The time for bringing in a coordinator who has to learn how to be another team’s head coach on Temple’s dime at the expense of the Temple kids should be over.
This time, finding the guy who maximizes the talent currently on the team should be the way to go.
Otherwise, Temple football will be someone else’s Guinea pig and finding a pig under the helmet instead of an Owl won’t get you that Jumbotron Prize pack.
Thursday: How Manny Diaz Wins The Press Conference
Friday: Fizzy’s Thoughts on Temple’s Overall Situation