Impressive Early Camp Haul

buckethats

Recruits naturally gravitate to the charismatic Temple staff.

The official name of the Temple football camp currently underway at the beautiful $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex is “The Geoff Collins Football Camp.”

Like anything else, at least for branding purposes, that should be tightened up.

Call it Camp Haul.

Like the hotcakes served for camp breakfast, the scholarships available to recruits to a school in the top five in the nation for developing NFL players are going fast.

After the first couple of days, Collins quadrupled the number of verbal commits he was able to get by Memorial Day a year ago with four solid verbals as noted here in this article on Shawn Pastor’s excellent site, OwlsDaily.com. On Tuesday, he added another commit to bring the total to five and counting.

Some are smelling what The Rock (Armstead) is cooking and committing to the only school that plays FBS college football in a World Heritage City.

They are called verbals for a reason because the ink doesn’t even touch the dotted line until late December, but there is reason for optimism here. Last year, the Owls made the early signing date pretty much mandatory for their commits and that allowed them to lose none to Power 5 poachers. In each of the previous 10 recruiting seasons, either Al Golden, Steve Addazio or Matt Rhule lost at least two prior verbals to P5 schools. Probably the most notable of those was Akrum Wadley to Iowa.

Not only have the Owls attracted the interest of some pretty good players, they have been able to expose a culture of winning and having fun doing it to a whole other group of players. They’ve been able to point out to recruits that, in all of college football, Temple has been in the top 10 both academically and in producing NFL prospects and that’s a claim that can be backed up by the numbers.

This is what happens when you hire a guy as a head coach who was a recruiting coordinator for Georgia Tech and Alabama. He not only has connections, he knows how the job is done and is able to pass it along to his own recruiting coordinator.

By our math, these verbals leave 21 spots open in the current recruiting class.

Like hotcakes, they are going fast.

Friday: Colors and Karma

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Settling The Greatest Team Debate

I honestly had never watched the great Dave Smuckler play until reviewing this today.

Sitting in the press box at the Meadowlands on a Saturday in December of 1979 and watching Temple dismantle a pretty good California team for the Garden State Bowl, I was pretty much convinced I was watching the greatest Temple football team to that point.

The other thing I remembered from that day was thinking I was freezing to death.

It would not be until 2009—almost 30 years later to the day—that I was convinced I was freezing to death standing outside tailgating before a late December game in Washington, D.C.

bright

Fullback Mark Bright was MVP of the GSB

That caused me to flip through the pages of the 1980 Philadelphia Bulletin Almanac. It said the temperature at kickoff at the Garden State Bowl was 40 degrees. The kickoff temperature at the Eagle Bank Bowl against another California team, UCLA, was 11 degrees with a wind chill of -11.

The point of this story is perspective. Even though I am partial to the 1979 team and still tailgate with many of them, feelings should never be confused with evidence.

My FEELINGS were that I was cold that day in 1979 but the evidence was of a much colder bowl game in 2009.

It’s all about perspective and solid evidence. The same can be said for being the best Temple team of all time. It’s not that the players of today are bigger, faster and stronger than those of the past (arguably, because it’s hard to imagine anyone stronger than, say, Joe Klecko). It’s what you do against the college football landscape as it existed and exists that determines a legacy.

The goal posts haven’t moved since 1934. If the 2018 team wants to be the best Temple team of all time, it will have to do something the other two teams haven’t done: Finish in the top 14 in the nation.

sugar

That said, after another look at the Bulletin Almanac (before Google, the greatest research tool ever), we’re going with the 1934 team as the best team in Temple history. Not only was it the first team to play in the Sugar Bowl (a better bowl than Eagle Bank, New Mexico and Gasparilla), the Owls of that day were unbeaten in the regular season. The Tulane team the Owls lost to in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1935 was better than the Cal team that the Owls beat in 1979 because the Green Wave finished 11th in the nation. In the only “poll” of that day, Temple finished 15th. In 1979, the Owls finished 17th in both major polls. The 1979 team was special in that it was 10-2, with losses to only Penn State (after leading at halftime) and Pitt (a 10-9 final). Had the Owls been able to win both, and also a more high-profile bowl game, they probably would have had a strong enough schedule to be declared national champions.

Pretty heady stuff.

In the 1934 season, Tulane was co-SEC champions and shared that title with Alabama, the co-National champions that year.

I would rank the 1979 team as No. 2 and the 2016 team, the AAC champs (a team in the top 25 for much of the second half of the season), as No. 3. No. 4 would be the 2011 Owls of Steve Addazio, who not only beat an 8-4 Wyoming team in the New Mexico Bowl but destroyed a Power 5 team, Maryland, on the road, 38-7. That was the same Maryland team that a week before had beaten Al Golden’s Miami team, 32-24.

No. 5 would be the 9-1 Owls of 1973 and they probably would have been higher if they had been able to beat Boston College that year.

They lost that game, 45-0, but redeemed themselves the next season with a 34-7 win over the Eagles before nearly 20,000 fans (capacity house) at Temple Stadium. The team the Owls thumped, 34-7, in 1974 finished 8-3 but did not beat a team with a winning record.

By then, though, it was too late. The Owls finished 8-2 in 1974 but immersed themselves into the Temple record books with a 14-game winning streak over two seasons (the longest in the nation at the time). Greatness might not quit, but it has standards much higher than a 6-6 regular season or 45-0 losses.

The benchmarks are set for these Owls of 2018. Finish ranked a consensus No. 14 or higher and they are the greatest Temple team of all time. It won’t be easy, but greatness never is.

No members of the 1934 team are still alive but I do know that nothing would please members of the 1979 team more than these Owls being able to forge that kind of legacy.

True greatness, not slogans, will be the reward.

Friday: Temple TUFF and SOFT

 

6 Grim Facts of Life In The AAC

footballs

No matter how Mike Aresco wants to look at it, there are at least six—maybe more—identifiable facts of life in the American Athletic Conference.

The sooner the member schools come to grips with them, the better:

power

There Is No Such Thing as a P6

Ideally, the way to get to the big boy table for the conference is for it to be added to the group of haves known as the Power 5 (SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac 12). That is not going to happen no matter how many down markers are labeled P6.

Everybody Wants Out

With the possible exception of Wichita State, just about every member school wants out. They are all working behind the scenes to impress the P5 in the unlikely event that one of the P5 members is kicked out. Everyone who is in is grandfathered in and no one will be kicked out.

Basketball Teams Will Continue to be Marginalized

As Temple hoop fans found out in 2010 when the Owls had a higher RPI, strength of schedule, more top 25, top 50 and top 100 wins than three Power 5 schools, the P5 got the benefit of the doubt. That’s because those schools have an inordinate number of representatives on the selection committee.

legit

An AAC Team Will Never Win The Football National Championship

If UCF did not win the NC last year, no AAC ever will. Central Florida did everything it was asked to do—win all of the games on its schedule, win a NY6 bowl game and beat the only two teams that handed the eventual champion, Alabama, its only loss. The system is so skewed that the AAC is so screwed. For Temple to get a Final Four slot this year, for instance, the Owls would have to win all 12 of their regular-season games, the championship game at Lincoln Financial Field and Boston College and Maryland would have to win the ACC and Big 12 titles respectively. Even after those unlikely scenarios are achieved, an invite is not a slam dunk and the haves will probably find an excuse to keep the Owls out.

Transfer Rule Will Make Things Worse

With the new transfer rule coming into effect for the 2019 season, things will get worse, not better, for AAC teams as some of the elite players who have proven themselves as freshmen and sophomores are lured to the larger conferences ostensibly for the purpose of positioning themselves better for the NFL Draft.

The Window Has Been Slammed Shut

For schools like UConn, Temple, Cincinnati and Houston—at one time seen to be attractive additions for a P5 school—the tiny window of opportunity to join the big club has been slammed shut. There is only so much of the TV pie to be sliced and the people about to be eating those 64 pieces want to get their mouthful and won’t be handing scrapes to the few pressing their noses against the window. There doesn’t seem to be any talk of expansion in the future.

Wednesday: The Temple Drafted Guys

Friday: Calling All Fans

Monday: Ranking The Greatest Temple Teams

 

New Slogan: Mayhem Is Here

here

At this time a year ago, the slogan on the shirts at the Edberg-Olson Complex was “Mayhem is Coming.”

A year later on Cherry and White at a much better venue, The Temple Sports Complex, there were a few “Mayhem is Here” T-Shirts visible (although I could not find where to purchase one).

The change of slogans pretty much is an indication of how far we’ve come in expectations. I did not see much defensive Mayhem until the final game of the year, a 28-3 win over Florida International in the Gasparilla Bowl.

owlstudents

Let’s hope that it becomes the norm, not the exception, this year.

That’s the biggest difference this year could make in that a proven SEC coordinator has finally put his defense in place with the kind of talent that can get to the quarterback and cause significant disruptions at the point of attack. That’s my definition of Mayhem: Hitting the quarterback so much he either fumbles the ball or forces interceptions.

The other pieces to this puzzle seem to be fitting quite well.

jimnutile

Frank Nutile’s game is very similar to Jim Plunkett’s

Quarterback

At this time last year the Owls had four quarterbacks. As they say, when you have two quarterbacks you have none and four just doubles that equation. Now the Owls have one of the very few returning bowl-winning quarterbacks in Jim Plunkett clone Frank Nutile and have seen significant improvement from backup Anthony Russo. Toddy Centeio is the special packages (wildcat) quarterback and Trad Beatty could be the quarterback two years down the road if he’s redshirted. This position was a question mark last year and is now an exclamation point. The receivers are in good hands (pun intended) with holdovers Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright and newcomers Jadan Blue and Sean Ryan, among others.

Offensive Line

Owls’ coach Chris Wisenhan said that the three interior linemen anchored by Dave Rimington candidate Matt Hennessey could be the best in his five years at Temple. That’s saying a lot since Kyle Friend was a pretty good center and represents a significant upgrade from this time a year ago.

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Running backs

Ryquell Armstead, who had 916 yards and 15 touchdowns two years ago, is back to full health after being banged up much of last year. He is being pushed by Jager Gardner, who was even worse banged up in that he had to take a redshirt year. Gardner, as a true freshman, set the Temple record for longest  run from scrimmage (a 94-yard touchdown against SMU). Considering that the Owls were down to using a fullback (Rob Ritrovato) at tailback due to injuries, the Owls are in a much-better spot.

Defensive Line

Another area of strength as Michael Dogbe earned a single digit and former Penn State commit Karamo Dioubate joins Dan Archibong and Temperor in Training Freddy Booth-Lloyd on a line that can cause Mayhem all by themselves. Dogbe, Dioubate and Archibong have position flexibility as tight ends but hopefully head coach Geoff Collins leaves those duties to Chris Myrick and Kenny Yoboah.

Linebackers

They looked young and lost last year but are the strength of the team led by Shaun Bradley and former St. Joseph’s Prep first-team All-Catholic Todd Jones.

All in all, what a difference a year makes with some additional help on the way in August.

Don’t order National Championship game tickets quite yet, but a Lincoln Financial Field AAC championship game is not out of the question.

New Uniforms?

eastjumbo

These uniforms are probably the best ones featuring the Temple ‘][‘ on the helmet

In the grand scheme of things, uniforms rate somewhat behind coaching, talent, practice facilities, stadiums and fan bases in terms of importance.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t important at all because they are.

During one of the great Temple wins recently—an overtime win at UConn in 2012 that made the Owls 2-0 in a one-time BCS league—it was with great pride that I noted that the Owls did it wearing what I thought was their best uniform combination:

Cherry pants, white stripes, white jerseys, cherry helmets.slight

They played well and looked good.

It is against that backdrop that I cringed when I heard Temple was getting new uniforms by the end of this month.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

At Temple, it ain’t broke but fixing it could break it.

All over the NCAA, I see teams with awful-looking so-called “modern” uniforms—Maryland comes in the 2011 Temple game comes to mind here—getting their asses kicked by more traditional uniforms.

Temple’s uniforms have remained pretty much the same through the years.

When Al Golden got here, he eliminated the Temple ][ on the helmets for a very good reason because he felt the “football brand” at Temple when he played at Penn State represented toughness and that brand was having TEMPLE spelled out across the helmets.

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 31 Temple at Navy

That brand was created by Wayne Hardin in 1970.

“We want people to know who were are,” Hardin said. “We’re Temple. We’re spelling it on the helmets so they won’t forget who we are. There are plenty of schools that have T’s on the helmet but not many that spell the name.”

That brand continued until Jerry Berndt brought the T back because Penn, the Philadelphia team he formerly coached, had a P on it.

To me,  that wasn’t a very good reason.

Golden brought TEMPLE back on the helmet and that lasted until a bald-headed guy who shall remain nameless brought the T back. I’m OK with the ‘][‘ because it is the school brand but not OK with an entirely new look because it is supposed to be attractive to recruits.

Something tells me the new uniforms are going to be closer to a Maryland-type monstrosity—the Under Armour CEO is a Maryland grad—than a more traditional Temple look.

Whatever it is, if the word TEMPLE comes back on the helmet, that would be an acceptable step forward and a fitting tribute to the Hardin Era.

Monday: Spring Phenoms Old and New

Wednesday: The Scrimmage

Friday: 5 Things To Look For At Cherry and White

The Fun Starts When The Winning Begins

practice

There used to be an old Beach Boys’ song about a Thunderbird and one of the lines was:

“She had fun, fun, fun until her Daddy took the T-Bird Away.”

We don’t think that’s on Jeremiah Atoki’s play list today at Temple football practice, but it sums up a lot of what has been going on with Temple football the last two years and something we had not seen for the prior 100 or so years:

  • No depth charts
  • Plenty of swag
  • Endless search for Mayhem
  • Only scholarship D.J. in college football
  • Position flexibility

A lot those topics are all about injecting fun into college football for the other 104 scholarship athletes on the roster. If you do those things and lose, it’s called shtick.  If you do those things and win championships, it’s called innovation.

As a cub reporter for the Temple News, I had a sit down with then Temple football coach Wayne Hardin in his cramped McGonigle Hall office and asked him what was the most “fun” thing about being Temple football coach.

celebration
Winning at UConn on a last-second FG: Doesn’t get much more fun than this celebration

I’ll never forget his answer.

“To me, the only thing that’s fun is winning,” he said.

On his last day as a head coach, he mentioned to me he was quitting at the end of a mediocre 1982 season. Standing in a small room after the last game, I asked why.

“Mediocrity is not my cup of tea,” he said.

That was at what I thought was a pretty young and vital age of 55.


To me, a 7-6 record
is the very definition
of mediocre, bowl win
notwithstanding. Temple
is going to have to do
better this year for it
to be a successful season.
To me, Temple TUFF is
back-to-back 10-win seasons,
not finishing around the
middle of a 126-team FBS pack

Nobody won more and lost less as a Temple football coach, so I consider Hardin, not Geoff Collins, the expert here. I wish coach was alive today so I could ask him about the bullet points above, but he’s not and I don’t think he would look too kindly on the changes.

It wouldn’t have as much to do with being an old foogie as it would be a difference of philosophy on how to get to the end result.

To me, a 7-6 record is the very definition of mediocre, bowl win notwithstanding. Temple is going to have to do better this year for it to be a successful season. To me, Temple TUFF is back-to-back 10-win seasons, not finishing around the middle of a 126-team FBS pack.

Position flexibility is a great thing if you have a pass rusher like Romond Deloatch who also plays wide receiver. I did not see any of the pass-rushing attributes in Keith Kirkwood that I saw in Deloatch, so taking reps from Deloatch on the other side of the ball for the minimum snaps he gave the team as a DE last year was, in my mind, counterproductive.

Now we have the team’s best linebacker, Shaun Bradley, taking reps at a position where the Owls are deep—running back—and you have to question the process.

The Owls did not use Nick Sharga as a fullback last year nearly as much as they did in that championship season two years ago and, in retrospect, they probably should have used him at a position of need, linebacker, if the offensive staff felt he wasn’t going to get reps. Sharga was an impact player on defense at Army, and a forgotten man the rest of the season.

Whatever Collins decides to do is OK with me, as long as the bottom line is achieved—a championship.

If it doesn’t happen this season, his daddy (Pat Kraft) should take the T-Bird away and replace it with a whip. As coach Hardin says, the only fun in football is winning and that should be the eternal measuring stick.

Until proven otherwise, anything else is shtick.

Sunday: Done Deal Part II

Tuesday: The Rest of The Story

Thursday: New Uniforms?

Saturday: Spring Phenoms

Tea Leaves and The Coaching Shuffle

taver

Taver Johnson

You’ve got to hand it to Geoff Collins.

With some recent coaching assignment reshuffling, his vague “Above The Line” concept  at least has extended throughout the Temple football organization.

A cynic would suggest that Andrew Thacker’s “promotion” to defensive coordinator would indicate that Collins was not entirely pleased with the job former defensive coordinator Taver Johnson did. Yet, despite the promotion of Thacker, Johnson was named “co-defensive coordinator” in the shuffle. So we have a new defensive coordinator, yet the old guy is the co-defensive coordinator, and an assistant head coach to boot.

Like the depth chart that really isn’t a depth chart, the lines are further blurred here because this doesn’t indicate who will be calling the defensive signals.  Got to think this is a way to get Johnson a raise, as well as some of the other guys. Presumably not getting a raise last year’s offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude because the title Johnson “assistant head coach” had on defense went to a familiar name on offense.

folmeister

 

Foley, who knows Temple tough inside and out, must have pulled the remaining hair of out his head when Patenaude called for a pass on first-and-goal from the 1

 

That’s also the title Ed Foley got on offense and all of us at Temple Football Forever (all one of us) are thrilled with that promotion. That means that Foley is the new boss of current offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude and we might not see a pass on first-and-goal at the one with 3:16 left in the Army game. At least that’s the hope. Foley, who knows Temple tough inside and out, must have pulled the remaining hair of out his head when Patenaude called for a pass on first-and-goal from the 1. Foley would have lined Ryquell Armstead (who had 151 yards in that game) behind fullback Nick Sharga and pounded Rock home for six on first down. Patenaude went Coastal Carolina soft and got zero points and cost Temple a win.

All in all, coaching assignments, like depth charts, should give fans an indication of who rises to the top of the organization but this is how Collins wants to operate so let’s hope he’s successful with it.

Other changes:

Reggie Garrett was promoted to defensive analyst after spending two seasons as a graduate assistant, working with the defense. Tom Pajic moves from director of player personnel to senior offensive adviser. Larry Knight, who was in charge of quality control for defense and recruiting, is now the director of player personnel.

Last week, Adam DiMichele was named recruiting coordinator/offensive assistant, allowing him to become the 10th full-time assistant coach. DiMichele shares similar offensive principles with Foley, which is a good thing.

Here are the coaches who have different roles and/or were promoted:

Ed Foley: assistant head coach offense/special teams coordinator/tight ends

Taver Johnson: assistant head coach defense/co-defensive coordinator/safeties

Dave Patenaude: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks

Andrew Thacker: Defensive coordinator/linebackers

Jim Panagos: Defensive line/run game coordinator

Chris Wiesehan: Offensive line/run game coordinator

Tom Pajic: Senior offensive adviser

Larry Knight: Director of player personnel

Josh Linam: Quality control – defense

Friday: Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Monday: Strange Hastags

Wednesday; Great Expectations

Friday: The One That Got Away

2/5: Temple’s Super Bowl

2/7: Signing Celebration Primer

2/8: Signing Celebration Recap