Honesty Is The Best Policy

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With Temple football, the only thing “forever” is the fans, not the coaches or players.

When my mother was alive and I was in my more formative years, she used to repeat two phrases over and over to me which were not original, but at least profound.

“Honesty is the best policy.”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Temple first-year head coach Geoff Collins’ mom must have said the same thing when he was growing up because, in the six months or so he’s been on the job, he’s been both honest and nice. I haven’t heard him say a negative word about anyone and he’s seemed to avoid the proclamations of loyalty to Temple that got past coaches criticism for hypocrisy, let alone lack of honesty.

I guess Temple fans should be thankful for that much, but the questions about what impact this will have on recruiting have yet to be answered.

Maybe that’s what Collins was thinking back in December when he answered the best question of the introductory press conference this way:

“I’ll tell them I concentrate on the here and now.”

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In true Jeopardy fashion, we will now give you the  question was posed by Temple-made 920 The Jersey sports talk show host Zach Gelb.

“Can you honestly tell kids you are recruiting you will be here when they graduate?”

It has been part of the sidebar of this website to print what I determine to be the best quotes about the program on the sidebar and I have included two quotes from in the past from former Temple coaches.

One, was this one from Matt Rhule:

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That was last year after Rhule signed his second five-year contract.

Another was from Al Golden on the day he was hired. “I’m going to build a house of brick, not straw.”

While Rhule didn’t keep his promise of a year ago, Golden pretty much kept his made over a decade ago. Golden built the program the right way, recruiting a highly-rated (compared to league foes) class every year and making sure the program sustained itself by redshirting a large group of players in order to build depth down the line.

He left after five years, owing Temple nothing, making no promises he would be here for the long haul.

Rhule left the program in good shape, too, yet a lot of fans wished he had been more honest.

If you want honest, you’ve got him in Collins. While it might be nice for recruiting purposes for Collins to say he wants to be “The Guy” who wants to stay and build something more substantial than Golden or Rhule did, honesty certainly is the best policy.

His Mom should be proud.

Monday: Outside Perceptions about the 2017 Owls

Learning From Wake Between Now and C&W Day

It was hard watching in person but even harder watching on TV but a necessary exercise.

In between riding as a passenger on a helicopter and making up catchy slogans to give to a newly minted graphics coordinator, hopefully new Temple football head coach Geoff Collins found time to break down some film in the E-O’s spacious viewing room.

Specifically, the film of the one Temple game in 2016 that Collins saw in person, the Military Bowl against Wake Forest, because, as horror films go, it’s right up there with Poltergeist as scary TV-watching.

NCAA Football: Military Bowl-Temple vs Wake Forest

                   Temple football must resolve not to let the season end like this again.

Over the last month or so, I eschewed some Temple basketball watching (ECU, for instance) to fast-forward past the commercials on my DVR and watch the Wake Forest game tape. The results pretty much confirmed what I saw with my own eyes: It was a poorly coached game from a poorly prepared staff that was too preoccupied with Baylor recruiting to devote their full time to the kids who needed them.

Eight days of missing defensive practices led to some gaping missed assignments (specifically the tight end) and those assignments probably would have been installed into the game plan by, say, the fourth missed practice. As a result, Owls found themselves down, 31-10, and that was too big a hole against any Power 5 team.

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“I thought you had him?” “No, we never went over that in practice because only the offense practiced that day.”

Looking at the film, though, and the camera doesn’t lie when it showed the offensive line being beaten up by a pretty good Demon Deacon defense.  If Collins needs to work on anything this spring leading up to the Cherry and White game (which should at Horvath Field, but will be at the E-O), it’s instilling a toughness in the returning offensive line members.

In all fairness, that could be a talent problem and not something that can be solved in a couple of months. It also explained why Collins is going hard after Georgia Tech grad transfer Trey Klock to replace NFL first-round pick Dion Dawkins but the alarming physical beating of the Owls’ OL that night has to raise some eyebrows.

Ed Foley brought much of that upon himself by running to the right side on 14 of the 15 running plays, perhaps forgetting that he had a first-round NFL draft pick at LEFT tackle and perhaps the best blocking fullback in the country to overload one side.

Still, it was hard seeing the Owls’ line beat up, even if it was only on one side. They will need both sides this fall and that’s a fix that should begin now and probably the biggest learning curve the Owls between now and then.

If the Owls master this lesson, they won’t have to watch as another team celebrates the end of their season again.

Wednesday: Geoff Collins’ Best Job

An Open Letter To Coach Collins

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Dear Coach Collins,

Welcome to Philadelphia and I hope your stay here is both long and successful, although recent coaching stays have been partly successful and not as long as the fans have wanted.

Temple University is a great institution with a special mission and that mission has been so important to a lot of great coaches that they have considered it an honor and a privilege to make it a last stop on the way to Hall of Fame careers. As a favor to yourself, while you still can, please sit down and discuss why with football’s Wayne Hardin, basketball’s John Chaney and Fran Dunphy and 1,000-plus win baseball winner Skip Wilson. You will certainly do both yourself and the university a favor if you do. Start telling recruits you will be here four years from now when they graduate and leave the obscure answers for coaches recruiting against you. Plan to attend the alumni tailgate at the bowl game. Since you will not be coaching, stop by and have a brewski or two in front of the largest two tents of Temple fans ever assembled in the history of the school. That’s some damn good networking right there.  Once back on campus, get to know and love The Bell Tower. It is to us what the Golden Dome is to the Fighting Irish.

Oh, by the way, that’s who we open the season with next year.

Also, keep Matt Rhule’s number on the rolodex and in your contacts and consult with him whenever you have a question about the current personnel. Leave the upward mobility discussions for coaches Chaney and Hardin, though.

The Roster

What Matt Rhule is likely to tell you is this: Although this roster is suffering significant losses, specifically a four-year starting quarterback in P.J. Walker, the program was built with an eye on staying him here a long time so there is sufficient talent in the cupboard to move forward. He did not burn redshirts, like his predecessor, so this is the guy who will likely be your quarterback for the next four years:

You’re welcome. Ask Trent Dilfer if he’d like to be your quarterback coach. If not, Adam DiMichele comes cheaper and would do just as good a job. Consider keeping good guy coaches and consummate professionals in Ed Foley (special teams) and George DeLeone (offensive line) to ease the transition.

The Running Game

While the Owls lose a great running back in Jahad Thomas, they still are deep and talented at that position with Ryquell Armstead, Jager Gardner and David Hood and have a Thomas-like threat coming up in four-star running back Tyliek Raynor.

 

Also, please keep the fullback in the offense because you have a great one returning in Nick Sharga. Watch this fullback:

 

The Case For the Defense

On defense, your strength next year is the line when single digit defensive end Jacob Martin becomes a starter, and medical redshirt Sharif Finch spends his sixth year here at the other defensive end. All Finch has done his entire time here is make plays like this one against a future NFL second-round pick:

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Finch has all the physical tools to become this year’s Haason Reddick. He’s going to have the spent the offseason continuing his rehab and putting up Reddick’s insane numbers in the weight room to set him up for the big payday ahead. The interior of the defensive line is in good hands with Karamo Dioubate,  Michael Dogbe, Greg Webb and Freddy Booth-Lloyd.

With that in mind, and with three starting linebackers departing, please consider revamping the defense and going from a passive 4-3 to an aggressive 5-2. Those five guys can cause a lot of havoc—or mayhem—and you will only need to replace two linebackers, not three. One of the starters should be Jarred Folks but, in a pinch, just know that your starting fullback, the shots fired guy, is a great linebacker as well.

Defensive backs should be in good hands as Artrel Foster (16) returns to start at one corner with four-star recruit Kareem Ali. Jr. at the other corner and Delvon Randall and playmaker Sean “Champ” Chandler at the safety positions. Ali really is the greatest because he’s literally Temple Made as he was conceived at Temple by two great athletes, his mom on the track team and his dad on the football team at the time.

Here’s The Kickers

Welcome to a place where there is an abundance of riches at the kicking position. Austin Jones, who will be a true junior in 2017, had a nation-best 17 field goals in a row before being taken out on a dirty hit at Memphis. He was replaced by a true freshman, Aaron “Boom Boom” Boumerhi, who had a good-enough half year to be named second-team All-AAC kicker. This is a good problem to have. Suggestion: Since Jones has not had a redshirt year, redshirt him in 2017, then redshirt Boumerhi in 2018 and have these guys hang around an extra year or two to get their Masters’ degrees. Or, better yet, PHDS.

Good Luck and see you at the tent one week from today.

Mike Gibson

Editor and Publisher

Temple Football Forever

Thursday: Eye on The Prize

 

Tell Me There’s a Chance

This is pretty much how I feel about the Cotton Bowl right now.

There’s a scene in the 2004 movie “Dumb and Dumber” where Jim Carrey asks a pretty girl to level straight with him and tell him if a guy like him and a girl like her can ever get together.

“Not good,” she says.

“Not good, like one out of a hundred?”

“I’d say, more like one in a million.”

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”

That’s kind of how I feel about Temple football’s chances of securing the G5 slot in the NY6 today.

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                                                It will be 70 in Philly on Saturday, but only 63 and windy in The Big Easy.

It’s a chance, not one in a million, but maybe one in 200 or 300, and that’s what I’m going to want to achieve first. We’re going to have to talk about “settling” later, but I’m not one of those people who say “don’t look past Tulane.” I’m looking past Tulane because the job of the kids and the coaches is not to look past Tulane.

Look past Tulane, and there’s East Carolina, the same ECU team that lost at home, 55-31, to SMU. That was the same SMU team that got smoked by Temple, 45-20 (and the Owls led, 35-0, at the half). So, yeah, I’m looking past ECU because it’s the kids’ job and the coaches’ job not to look past ECU and I am pretty confident that they are  as laser-focused on doing that job that they were on the Unfinished Business trip to New Orleans.

That brings us to the AAC title game against a more beatable foe, where it’s Navy or Tulsa, than the Houston team the Owls had to face a year ago.

Win there, and even then the Owls will need help but if Western Michigan or San Diego State falter, which is possible (look at the MAC championship game upsets over the last decade or so), and the Owls’ seven-game winning streak in essentially a Power 6 league, is as strong an argument for a high ranking as any other G5 team.

That would put the Owls in an extremely attractive bowl, the Cotton, against a marquee opponent. One of the possible opponents is LSU, another is Penn State. Since PSU-Temple will not be on the schedule for a long, long time (possibly ever), I vote for that game as the best-case end to the Temple season. (For those of you who say they try to avoid regular-season rematches in bowl games, Temple-Army is one of the projected games by a major news website so you can have that rematch, I want this one.)

While a game against someone like Wake Forest in Annapolis or Georgia in Birmingham is more likely and not all that unappealing, as long as there’s a chance to get a date the best-looking girl in the room, that’s what I’m going for now. That would give the Owls a league title, a top 25 ranking, and a chance to end the Penn State series with a win if that’s how the game falls.

That’s a pretty smoking-hot date.

Just do not give me Rosie O’Donnell (a MAC team) or Amy Schumer (a CUSA team) when you are telling me there’s a shot at Jessica Alba (NY6).

One in a million maybe not, but as long as there is a chance we can float that out there as a nice dream scenario. OK, now back to thinking about Tulane.

Friday: Trap Game My Butt

The Path Forward

Thanks to Paul Palmer for the audio file and Ricky Swalm for the YouTube work.

For someone who never used a drug harder than an occasional Coors Light and never understood the power of drugs or addiction, I’ve been overdosing on a couple of things over the last 48 hours.

Strawberry (I call them Cherry) Twizzlers and the 32-second drive.

I can’t get enough, eating the Twizzlers and snorting the video below. There are a couple of things worth noting in the video, the smarts and sheer courage of Ventell Bryant in both getting out of bounds and getting up and staggering to the line of scrimmage before the final play and the presence of mind of his teammates to get him lined up. If Bryant stays down, a 10-second runoff happens and the Owls lose. Also, P.J. Walker made four great throws and the last one under a significant amount of duress and, of course, the Keith Kirkwood great catch. Also, Anthony Russo’s participation in the celebration is noteworthy. One whiff of any of those things creates a significant high combined with the munchie Twizzlers.

My addiction, though, is harmless. If the team and the coaches have not moved on from Saturday night’s high, going to rehab will be a necessary trip on the way to a six-win season. What the victory on Saturday purchased in currency was very valuable, their own destiny, with regard to an American Athletic Conference championship and a possible double-digit-win season. They need not rely on anyone else but themselves to win the title. If they had lost, they would have needed help.

That cannot be understated because of what is ahead of them in the very next game.

South Florida will come into Lincoln Financial Field on Friday not only as the preseason favorite to take the AAC East title, but as six-point favorites over the Owls. If the Owls can somehow make one more play than USF, like they did against UCF on Saturday night, the path to an AAC title opens as wide as a six-lane highway in rural Montana. USF is the toughest game left and the teams after USF, like Cincinnati and UConn, have serious flaws than USF doesn’t have. If the Owls can somehow win out—and there are only five games left—they will LIKELY host the AAC title game in Philadelphia. (West contenders Houston, Navy and Memphis could not each other out of hosting the game.)

Houston, which was ceded the title by most a few weeks ago, does not seem so unbeatable anymore. Navy beat the Cougars two weeks ago and Tulsa—a team that struggled against SMU—probably should have beaten them on Saturday night.

The Owls’ defense appears to be coming around, shutting out a UCF offense over the last two quarters (19-0) that scored 47 on ECU.

Anything is possible if the Owls focus on Friday and stay away from the munchies and that anything might be a championship.

Thursday: Game Preview

Saturday: Game Analysis

Owls Turn To Boomer Sooner Than Expected

Aaron Boumerhi now unexpectedly gets forced into the spotlight.

At opposite ends of the Commonwealth (yes, it’s a Commonwealth and not a state) of Pennsylvania reside the worst and best names for a starting kicker in the long and storied history of college football.

Pitt has a guy named Chris Blewitt (pronounced BLEW IT) as its placekicker.

Temple now has a guy named Aaron Boumerhi and it is the very best kicking name in the country because it is pronounced BOOMER-EYE.

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                               Aaron Boumerhi’s community duty included helping his fellow students move into the dorms.

After starting kicker Austin Jones was the victim of a cheap shot in the middle of the field at Memphis (not called), he is out for the season and Boomer is your new kicker. All we know about Aaron is that he stroked one right down the middle for an extra point. While at Philipsburg-Osceola High, he did not have many chances for field goals but he later became a camp warrior, going to numerous kicking camps and scoring high enough to earn a shot at Temple.

Owls’ coach Matt Rhule speaks highly of him, saying at one time that he considered using Boomer as his kickoff guy this season because he has a “Brandon McManus” leg on kickoffs. We all know McManus, err, boomed many of this kickoffs not only through the end zone but once or twice into the seats in his four years at Temple and now is a NFL star.  Rhule “ruled” against it because he wanted to preserve Boumerhi’s redshirt so he could kick through the 2020 season.

The best-laid plans often go astray due to things coaches cannot control like cheap shots.

The bottom line on Boomer is that he’s got a good leg, but is he as accurate as Jones was? Probably not since Jones hit a NCAA-best 17 in a row before missing two at Memphis and, in reality, we don’t know if he’ll perform at a high level. His extra point was fine and, if the Owls can rely on him in that area and the short field goals that Jones made routinely, that is really all they can expect.

If however, he turns out to be another Brandon McManus, that will be a bonus no one expected. We should find out for sure before long.

Saturday: Game Day Preview

Sunday: Game Analysis 

Sound Bites or Empty Words?

Not thrilled about the players talking about those other games as not counting.

Our only post-debate reference of the evening refers to the Donald Trump statement about Hillary Clinton’s “empty words” and “sound bites.”

By no means are we taking sides in this particularly onerous election, but the phrases reminded me of Temple football’s AAC opener on Saturday afternoon (noon) against visiting SMU.

That’s because if the words “Temple TUFF” are something other than empty words or sound bites, we should be able to discern that by 3:04 p.m. tomorrow. For the past 365 days, we’ve seen videos of Owls in the weight room, Owls doing sprints on the snow in February, even Owls toasting marshmallows in the Poconos.

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                       Romond Deloatch

All of this physical and mental bonding was supposed to make the Owls “Temple TUFF” which is to imply that the Owls are tougher than their AAC foes and that, by taking things into the fourth quarter, that toughness is the difference between victory and defeat.

The Owls are a little less than two-touchdown favorites and should take care of business in workmanlike fashion on Saturday. We also thought that on opening night and we were, if not shocked, surprised that things went the other way.

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                                   Bulk of the rain should be gone by start of tailgate and remain that way throughout the day. Don’t be fooled by the high of 71. I froze wearing my Eagle Bank Bowl T-shirt even though last week’s high was predicted as 76.

As I see it, this team is tough enough but doesn’t play smart enough. When you lose the cerebral game, that usually falls back onto the coaches. In my mind, this team should have beaten Army and Penn State and because of a flawed game plan (Army) and some undisciplined play (Penn State), they have two losses.

The trouble aspect is that players have been quoted as saying that those games are practice games or, as one player said, tune-up games, and did not count. In college football, where you have only 12 games to show people how good you are, every game counts. It took the Owls four games to figure out that Romond Deloatch is their best rush end, but that’s something that should have been figured out by Cherry and White Day, not as the result of a sack in the fourth game of the season. Hopefully, the coaches have figured out that Nick Sharga and Brian Carter would be more helpful as full-time defensive players than part-time offenders. Maybe that will take until the sixth game of the season but, geez, we hope not.

While it would be nice to see TEMPLE SMART for a change, a heavy dose of TEMPLE TUFF should be able to get this job done.

Otherwise, Temple TUFF is nothing more than a couple of empty words or a nice soundbite.

Tomorrow Night: Game Analysis