If Only Football Could Have This Day

bracket

 

buster

Today is the best day of the sports calendar and it’s not because of St. Patrick’s Day, although it happens to fall on that day this year.

To me, while I’ve always been more of a fan of NCAA football than NCAA basketball, I have to admire what that sport has done to captivate the national sports public for a whole month. Today is the one day of the year when your favorite basketball team has a chance, no matter how small, of winning it all. In basketball, with runs by teams like Butler, George Mason and LaSalle in recent years, that kind of hope exists.

It would be nice if football had the same thing.

Football can never duplicate that because it does not want to but, just once, I’d like to see them try. It’s gotten far too complicated with far-flung conferences that make zero geographical sense, but this is how it can be done.

1) Have a 64-team field

Base the seeding on the regular-season outcome so, say, Alabama opens at home with Idaho. Before you say it would be a bloodbath, check out some of the teams Alabama played in its non-conference schedule over the last five years.

2) Play a Limited Regular Season Schedule

Determine how many weekends a regular-season would take, with byes, then base the post-season off of it. If it’s an eight-game season, the 2015 Temple Owls would have had a high seed based on a 7-1 record that included a four-point loss to the then No. 9 team.  Maintain current rivalries, like Ohio State-Michigan, Army-Navy, Alabama-Auburn, Texas-Oklahoma, but ditch the Stony Brook-Temple and Rutgers-Howard type games, which really clog up the college football season and nobody really wants to see.

3) Create November-Dec. Madness

Pair the field down to 32 after the first week of the playoffs, 16 the third, eight the fourth and four the fifth. Hold the Final Four in January. No byes.

4) Wake Up

It was a good dream while it lasted but face facts. We college football fans will never have what college basketball fans have this one day of the year—the audacity of hope, and that’s a powerful drug.

At least we will always have tailgating.

 

There’s No Doubting Thomas

falcons

Glenn Thomas has been a positive influence on P.J. Walker.

When the Temple offensive coordinator position opened up, we put together a wish list of five potential candidates for the job, listed the pros and cons, but came to the conclusion that Matt Rhule will hire “the least sexy” person for the job, Glenn Thomas.

Now, sexy in football and sexy in real life are two different things. To me, Mike Locksley would have been football sexy because he would have locked up the recruiting in DMV (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) and had Power 5 OC experience.

pjwalker

The goal should be getting P.J.’s QB rating over 150.8.

Sometimes, though, least sexy is good when you want to get things done. (I learned that watching Sheena Parveen doing the Tornado Watch last week when I listened to the entire forecast but realized afterward that I didn’t really hear anything because I was so distracted.)  Things were not perfect–down 11 in the fourth quarter there has to be an alternative to wasting 20 seconds looking to the sideline for a play–but there was an undeniable upward trend in 2015.

sharknado

The forecast for the TU offense is bright and sunny.

Thomas has the potential of getting things done, especially with the arrival of recruit Anthony Russo. Thomas was Matty Ryan’s quarterback coach with the Atlanta Falcons and Russo’s game is so much reminiscent of Ryan’s that guru Trent Dilfer ended up calling Russo “Ryan Russo” for a day at his Elite 11 camp.

First things first, though, and that is the continued progress in P.J. Walker’s game. For Walker not to be known as a guy who peaked as a freshman, he must slightly improve his numbers in his final year of 2016. Thomas, at least, has him pointed in the right direction. As a freshman, Walker had 20 touchdown throws against only eight interceptions. In Marcus Satterfield’s ill-advised spread formation in 2014 (when Walker got zero protection in the pocket), Walker fell to 13 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions.  A new scheme that featured a fullback and two tight ends—ostensibly  two additional blockers for Walker—enabled P.J. to see the field better last year and go 19-8.

Ideally, against this schedule, you’d like those numbers to be around 25 and eight (or less) for 2016. If that happens, another double-digit winning season is in sight and that’s about as sexy as things get for Temple football fans.

Unless, of course, Sheena Parveen comes on the Jumbotron instead of Hurricane Schwartz.

Monday: The Case For An Exciting Name As New Slot Receiver

Tyliek Raynor Another Home Run for Owls

http://www.hudl.com/v/DMRcG

Click on the above link and hit play. Unfortunately, there is not a single Youtube video on the internet of Tyliek. Hudl is a bad platform, but it’s the only one available.

By any measure, Temple football adding Tyliek Raynor is a home run for recruiting.

Since homer is a synonym for home run, the fact that Raynor is a homer himself had to help because, in his commitment statement, he said “I’m going to stay home and play for my city.”

If all great Philadelphia players felt the same way, that would have been Will Fuller catching the ball to beat Notre Dame on Halloween Night and not to beat his city. Maybe adding Anthony Russo begat Raynor and maybe Raynor will beget a player like Karamo Dioubate.

SGRATZ05-A

Gratz’s Javon Whitfield can’t stop Imhotep’s Tyliek Raynor on his 58 yard TD run on the first play during the 1st quarter Friday night in North Philadelphia, September 4, 2015. ( Photo courtesy philly.com)

We can only hope. The protractor for recruiting starts in North Philly and a 500-mile circle around it includes 46 percent of the nation’s population. Temple is one of the few schools in the country squarely in the middle  of roughly half of the nation’s population.

With the addition of speedy running back Raynor, that was a good start. Raynor was No. 3 on our final five countdown list, behind only West Catholic defensive end Tymir Oliver and Prep Charter defensive lineman Dioubate. Raynor, who was offered by Temple on the spot after he ran a 4.3 at the Matt Rhule Football Camp in June of 2014, is very, very good.

How good?

Consider this: He could not play in seven games this year because of an injury that limited his effectiveness in other games, but his backup, Mike Waters, scored 44 touchdowns and was named Philadelphia Inquirer Player of the Year. That’s not just for Philadelphia, but for the entire Inquirer coverage area, which includes the entire Philadelphia suburbs, most of New Jersey and all of Delaware. He was also named Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

That’s pretty good. I saw a lot of Waters, including a performance for the ages in the Pennsylvania state championship game against Erie Cathedral Prep. This is what I tweeted out to my followers after that game.

good

 

Much to my surprise, Waters saw the tweet and retweeted it to his followers. The bottom line is that if a great coach like Albie Crosby says Raynor is better than THAT kid, then Temple has something very special indeed. They will have the luxury of red-shirting Raynor.

The Owls will have to get Raynor healthy and keep him that way, but once he returns to 4.3, 4.4 speed, he gives them the kind of home run hitter they need. They have a home run hitter in Jahad Thomas and some fast backups in Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead, but neither Thomas, Gardner nor Armstead has a 4.3 40 in the books.

The clock never lies.

Add Snowmageddon To Temple’s Luck

snowmageddon

Being a Temple sports fan, I’m used to a number of odd things happening at strange times that seem to stunt the Owls’ growth in the two marquee sports.

Add this latest Snowmageddon Episode to Temple’s dumb luck.

Arguably, it is probably the biggest recruiting weekend of the season with Temple trying to close the deal on some high-profile football recruits and the forecast of a crippling blizzard cannot help things. Sure, once in a blue moon you will find a kid from Florida who loves the snow and thinks it is the greatest thing in the world and decides to commit on the spot.

Ninety-nine percent of the other people living on the planet do not think that way.

templethings

It was a good idea in the first place because the Temple basketball team was going to host unbeaten AAC rival SMU on Saturday night in a game that figured to pack the Liacouras Center and show the recruits a packed house of spirited Temple fans. Now, that game is moved to Sunday and probably will not have nearly the same atmosphere.

Ironically, this snow is not going to be a good first  impression because it had not snowed all winter—not even a flake—and the winter had been relatively mild with quite a few 50- and 60-degree days. You can tell the recruits that all you want, but they see what they see.

Logistically, it is just not going to be a good thing. Even though the recruits will be on campus, other things are routinely planned on recruiting weekends that will just not go off—like trips to Lincoln Financial Field and Center City.

There is always the hope that things go well and the Owls pull in the haul they expected, but the snow will not be their friend this weekend.

In another development, Penn State–a place where it snows all the time–is hosting Temple recruit Dae’Lun Darien this weekend.

The forecast there is a coating to an inch.

Anthony Russo Commits To Temple

Ever since Doug Flutie enrolled at Boston College in January of 1981, Temple has been looking for its own Doug Flutie.

It may have found him shortly after lunch today.

Temple Football Forever has learned from very good sources that Archbishop Wood’s Anthony Russo had lunch with LSU today, chewed on the Tigers’ pitch and decided by dessert that he was going to become a Temple Owl.

newscoop

We have received two phone texts tonight from separate sources indicating this is true, including from someone whose “mom works with a friend of mine.” Since Anthony Russo was not taking interviews until further notice, figuring that he talks to his mother is not a huge leap of faith and would spill the beans to her.

This is huge for Temple University for a couple of reasons.

One, The Flutie Effect. Two, with P.J. Walker gone after next season, Temple needs a play-making quarterback.

rhulerusso

Just a couple of guys talking pro-set offense.

The Flutie Effect is signing a big-time kid from your own backyard could lead to a domino effect of other big-time kids from the same backyard. That leads to sustained success of the hometown team, which leads to a boom in student applications. In a 1984 game against the University of Miami, Flutie threw a last-second “Hail Mary” pass 48 yards that was miraculously caught for a game-winning touchdown—a climactic capper on one of the most exciting college football games ever. The play put BC on the map for college aspirants. In two years, applications had shot up 30 percent.

Russo’s program-defining pass is yet to come, but he is certainly capable of it. Temple has had a lot of good-to-great quarterbacks since Doug Flutie, including current starter P.J. Walker, the school’s all-time touchdown leader. Temple has never recruited the best high school quarterback coming out of the Philadelphia area. Even Haverford High’s Steve Joachim, who won the Maxwell Award as College Football Player of the Year in 1974, was never signed by Temple. He was a transfer from Penn State, where he started two games.

Russo changes that dynamic. He is an Elite 11 quarterback who has functional mobility, who would fit perfectly into the same Pro Set system new Owls’ offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas helped run with the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan.

Ironically, Ryan who, like Russo, is from a Philadelphia high school league (Inter-Ac),  but went to Boston College. Even though Russo is from Warminster, he is Philly proud enough to say “I’m Anthony Russo from Philadelphia” in many of his interviews.

Now Anthony Russo will get a chance to put Temple and his home town on map. Even if they officially call the new on-campus stadium “The Apollo of Temple” maybe one day fans will unofficially refer to it as “the house Anthony Russo built.

Related:

Temple Should Look to Wood for Package Deal

Least Sexy Choice Gets Head (OC) Job

stare

“You really want me to waste 20 seconds on every  snap waiting for a play call?”

Say what you will about Matt Rhule, but he has been predictable in his three-year tenure as Temple’s head coach.

Ten days ago, we wrote that Glenn Thomas’ resume was the weakest of our five possible candidates for the open offensive coordinator job but “Matt Rhule has shown a propensity to hire from within” so that’s probably why Thomas was the leading candidate. In our caption we said he was the “least sexy” candidate so that’s “probably why he was going to get a bigger office.” Sure, he had been Matt Ryan’s quarterback coach but, prior to that, a stint at Midwestern State wasn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off.

thomas

Sometimes, being right is a pretty hallow feeling and that’s the feeling I had this morning after hearing that Thomas was moved up to the OC job.  For all of the progress this offense had in the first 10 games of the season, it produced just 13 and 17 points in the two most important games at the end and probably could have used a different pair of eyeballs.

Unlike last year, this offense doesn’t need a complete overhaul, just some tweaking. Putting Jahad Thomas in the slot would be an explosive upgrade, as would giving Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead a real shot at the No. 1 tailback position. Those moves are a lot less likely to happen now.

After AAC championship loss, Zach Gelb was the only reporter in Houston with the gonads to ask the tough questions about the “dog stare” offense. The disgraceful time management when Temple fans were yelling “Hurry the F*ck Up!” from Philadelphia loud enough to be heard in Texas fell on deaf ears in the post-game presser. The answers from Rhule,  P.J. Walker, Marcus Satterfield and both Thomases (Glenn and Jahad) were that nothing went wrong. The answers seemed to be “something went wrong?” or “I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary” or the standard Sargent Schultz response: “I know nothing. I see nothing. I hear nothing.”

They had known no other way. A coordinator who had not been part of that fiasco might have been better able to map a new direction.

The Case for Mike Locksley

recruiter

Ten years of exemplary service at Maryland makes Mike a good fit here.

The  least popular individual on a football team when an offense is misfiring is usually the coordinator, so that’s why there were few tears shed on Sunday afternoon by Temple football fans when the news broke that Marcus Satterfield was leaving to take the head coaching job at Tennessee Tech.

After a 7-0 start, the Owls stumbled to a 3-4 finish and the fingers pointed directly to Satterfield, whose offense produced 17 and 13 points in the last two losses. Temple looked incapable of running a hurry-up offense in the AACchampionship loss to Houston, and Satterfield’s call of throwing into the end zone on third-and-3 with Temple down 24-13 and driving at the Cougar 38-yard-line with 7:18 left was widely second-guessed. That’s because the Cougars were giving Owls wide receiver Robby Anderson a 10-yard cushion at the line of scrimmage and a simple pitch and catch could have moved the sticks.

Satterfield bore the brunt of the blame but likely would have survived, because head coach Matt Rhule is widely considered “too nice a guy” to fire assistants. The process that Rhule likes to talk about broke down on one side of the ball late in the season and needs to be fixed.

Fortunately for Rhule, convergence of both time and circumstance has made a more qualified replacement available. Just last week new Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin said offensive coordinator and interim head coach Mike Locksley will not be retained. Unlike head coaching contracts, contracts for college assistants usually are not guaranteed meaning Locksley needs a job. Rhule so happens to have one available, and he should grab Locksley before someone else does. Locksley is a big believer in the play-action passing game Temple likes to run and has put up numbers using a similar system in the past. Locksley was OC for a Maryland team that averaged 28.5 points per game in its inaugural Big 10 season (2014), the most points the school was able to produce since 2010 (32.5). Locksley is also a top recruiter, at three schools — Maryland, Illinois and Florida. While at Florida, he engineered two top 10 recruiting classes in each of his two seasons as recruiting coordinator.

Locksley has plenty of recruiting contacts in an area where Temple usually recruits heavily called the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia). The Owls could give Locksley the keys to both the offense and the DMV recruiting area and trust the process once again.

Tomorrow: A Recruiting Overview