A Muted Celebration

Coach Collins helps Donald Hunt out with tape recorder placement.

Celebrations are supposed to big and loud things, like weddings, where you might hear the beat of the Electric Slide or the Funky Chicken.

Although work precluded my attendance, I cannot believe the “recruiting celebration” the Temple Owls held to commemorate the 2017 Signing Day Class was funky or electric. Muted would be the best word to describe it and, if there was a musical backdrop, and there was not, the song “Memories” by Barbra Streisand might have been more appropriate.


The good news about 2/1/17
is that the nuclear fallout
will not cause sickness for a
good three or four years
down the line. The bad news,
though, is to expect a lot
of vomiting and hair falling
out watching what could very
well be mediocre football
by then. Maybe Collins will
be around to see it;
maybe he won’t

While new head coach Geoff Collins was enthusiastic about the haul, the numbers suggested that this class did not meet up to recent Temple standards. Collins’ recruiting class was ranked 111th by 247.com, behind powerhouses Ohio and Tulane. In fact, it was the lowest ranking we could find among the Temple transition classes—in other words, the first classes of Al Golden, Steve Addazio, Matt Rhule–by a good bit.

While Collins’ real acumen as a recruiter will be determined next year, not  this one, this was not a good start because Golden, Addazio and Rhule came in under worse circumstances and came out with better classes. Golden, Addazio and Rhule did not have a championship trophy to waggle in front of recruits, only a promise that they would chase one. In addition to that, it is also fair to compare Collins to the other first-year AAC hires:

templerecruitingclass

So Collins deserves some criticism for this meager haul.

Rhule’s first partial recruiting class as head coach, leading into the 2013 season, was 247sports’ 80th-ranked class in the country. It came after a 4-7 season and coach Steve Addazio’s December departure for the same job at Boston College.

Last year, Temple made a splash on signing day by getting a commitment from Prep Charter defensive end Karamo Dioubate, who was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. Rivals rated Temple’s 2016 recruiting class No. 60 in the Football Bowl Subdivision while Scout.com and 247sports.com rated it No. 76 and No. 58, respectively.

So there a body of evidence that suggests Collins tripped and fell flat on his face on this race to Signing Day.

braswell

This year is the first time since 2013 Temple doesn’t have at least one prospect rated as a four-star recruit.

Some Temple people might say ratings do not mean much, but the top 25 classes usually mirror the top 25 teams in the final AP rankings so they must mean a lot. Rivals rated Temple’s 2017 outside of the Top 100, while Scout rated Temple No. 123 out of 129 FBS teams and 247 sports rated the Owls class No. 111. Three-star prospects Gary Brightwell (Arizona), Raheem Blackshear (Rutgers), Ja’Sir Taylor (Wake Forest), Marvin Beander (Norfolk State) and Rob Saulin (Baylor) all decommitted from Temple over the last month.

Losing recruits to Arizona and Wake Forest is no disgrace; losing one to Norfolk State and being pilfered of two commits by a self-proclaimed Temple fan for life is. I would have hated to see what Matt Rhule had done if he didn’t like Temple.

Collins should not have been expected to bring with him Florida recruits, like Rhule stole Temple recruits for Baylor, but he should have had at least the kind of coaching and player contacts that enabled him to flip a P5 or two Temple’s way. The good news about 2/1/17 is that the nuclear fallout will not cause sickness for a good three or four years down the line. The bad news, though, is to expect a lot of vomiting and hair falling out watching what could very well be mediocre football by then. Maybe Collins will be around to see it; maybe he won’t. You just do not throw away recruiting years if you want to keep the foundation of a program solid.

You can forgive some objective Temple fans for not being in a very celebratory mood yesterday. The ones who see this through Cherry and White colored glasses were on the dance floor. God bless their optimism and I sincerely hope He rewards it.

Saturday: The Curse of Russell Conwell

Recruiting Celebration: Expect Fun

celebration

If Temple’s only “flip” off a championship season is a FCS one, the “recruiting celebration”  at the Student Pavilion will be somewhat muted.

Broken down to its very essence, football is just a game.

Games are supposed to be fun, and, at Temple in recent years, they have been. Winning begets fun and a fun approach begets more winning. Because former head coach Matt Rhule did not toss grenades over his shoulder on the way out and made sure the foundation was solid, Temple is set up to win for at least four more years.


There is no fun going
to a Big 10 school
and getting your head
beat in 78-0 and 58-0
every weekend. If you’ve
got to do the work
required of a big-time
college football player,
there should be a reward
for that work and,
at Temple, the reward
 is in the winning

So if a recruit is smart—and he has to be to get into Temple—he will gravitate to the place where he can win and have fun. We will know the full class only when all the signatures on the dotted line are faxed to the football offices around the nation tomorrow morning. We do not know those names right now, but we do know one thing.

The 20-25 guys who sign on the dotted line for head coach Geoff Collins will be among the 20 or so luckiest young men in America.

Temple, the reigning champion of the American Athletic Conference, is one of those places. The AAC has wins over Penn State, Florida State, Oklahoma, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Mississippi and North Carolina State in the last two years, so it’s already established a solid reputation.

There is no fun going to a Big 10 school and getting your head beat in 78-0 and 58-0 every weekend. If you’ve got to do the work required of a big-time college football player, there should be a reward for that work and, at Temple, the reward is in the winning.

Temple is experiencing a football revival not seen since the 1970s when winning and being coached by Wayne Hardin went hand-in-hand.

“I played for Temple University. At the time, we were a pretty good football team. But we weren’t a “football powerhouse”—we didn’t play in the Big 10 or nothing like that—but football for me in college was a lot of fun, just like most guys. I enjoyed my college career, I had a lot of great teammates and we did do well. “

Those were the words of Joe Klecko, written in 1990 in the book “The Sack Exchange: The Definitive History of the 1980s New York Jets.”

At 5 p.m., in the indoor practice facility on Broad Street, Collins will welcome Temple fans and unveil the signing class. With everything associated with Temple football these days, it should be fun and informative.

We will hold off on the judging part until all of the signatures are on the dotted line.

Thursday: Judgment Day

5 Reasons To Get Excited About Geoff Collins

The only thing that would make Geoff Collins more appealing to Temple fans is that John Chaney’s love for, success at and loyalty to Temple rubs off on that handshake and exceeds any dollar signs tossed in front of him.

collins

We were not able to photoshop a Temperor hat on this graphic.

In this cyber world, you detect clues about what is happening by simply reading a man’s twitter feed and that is certainly true with new Temple football head coach Geoff Collins.

Taking out the retweets, the last five original Collins’ posts thank Under Armour (an apparel company) for a welcome package; another is about how he is proud of a former player (Brian Poole), for making the Super Bowl, a tribute to Temple academic excellence at and a posting a graphic about Temple TUFF.

Compare that to former head coach Matt Rhule’s last five tweets and all are welcoming new recruits.


While Saint Matt Rhule
might have been demoted
to a more middle class
part of Heaven by poaching
a pair of Temple recruits,
the fact that Collins did
not poach Florida recruits
is a good thing, not a bad
one. Even the vilified Steve
Addazio promised he would not
go after the Temple guys
he recruited on the way out
the E-O door and at least Daz
kept his promise. Taking two
Temple commits is unethical
and a pretty classless way
to thank a school that gave
you so much.

No one can really say that translates to Rhule recruiting success versus Collins’ recruiting success in essentially the same time frame, but the clues are the clues. Rhule has filled the 25 scholarships he has this year and most of them are three-star talents and above. Collins is sitting on 15 right now after having lost a couple of Temple commits, one a three-star.

Of the five things we can get excited about for our new coach, recruiting—at least this year and at least a few days ahead of National Signing Day—does not appear to be one of them. As Cubs’ fans used to say, wait until next year.

We’ve always wrote we’d be honest with you and this would not turn out to be Matt Rhule Pravda and we kept that promise and we will keep it that way with Collins. Had Collins brought with him a couple of Florida commits, like Rhule did with two Temple commits, we might be singing a different tune. You can talk all you want about this being Collins’ first recruiting class and most of them were Rhule’s guys but, to be fair, Rhule walked into the same new situation at Baylor and was more successful.

Addazio, Rhule and Al Golden’s first classes will probably all be rated higher than Collins’ first class.

We’re calling it as we see it and he did not hit that first recruiting drive straight down the middle.

There are, though, five things to get excited about :

rhulepromise

5—The Man Appears Principled

While Saint Matt Rhule might have been demoted to a more middle class part of Heaven by poaching a pair of Temple recruits, the fact that Collins did not poach Florida recruits is a good thing, not a bad one. Even the vilified Steve Addazio promised he would not go after the Temple guys he recruited on the way out the E-O door and at least Daz kept his promise. Taking two Temple commits is unethical a pretty classless way to thank a school that gave you so much. If Collins would have retaliated by taking two Baylor commits, that would have been impressive. Still, there is something to be said about the man not raiding his fellow employer.

4—He Was Rhule’s Boss

As Rhule’s boss, both at Albright and Western Carolina, you can assume that he had the answers and Rhule had the questions back then. Now Temple is getting the guy with the answers.

3—He Knows The Program

When he was hired, Collins said he followed the Temple program closely over the last four years and actually participated in key philosophical changes in the program. Since the only key philosophical change in the program was going from a spread with multiple wide receivers to a pro-type play action using a fullback, Collins can theoretically be credited for curing the Owls’ anemic offense. He will come in and hit the ground running, literally.

2—Hit Home Run With Key Assistants

Both Dave Patenaude (pronounced Patton Nude, which is not a pretty picture) and Taver Johnson seem to know what the plan is to take Temple the next level. Patenaude is going to continue to use the fullback and two tight ends, but add slinging the ball deep to the formula. Johnson should continue the success on the defensive side of the ball and was a better  DC at Miami (Ohio) than Phil Snow was at the same level (Eastern Michigan).

1—Game Day Coaching

This was a weakness of Rhule’s first two years. We do not know for sure, but Collins’ understanding of the program and the offensive and defensive philosophies sets him up as a better game day coach that Rhule was, who fumbled and stumbled in his first two seasons.

Tuesday: What To Expect

5 Reasons Recruits Should Pick Temple

There is no place  you can feel the college spirit like Temple University.

When Raheem Blackshear flipped his commitment from Temple to Michigan State, the first thought to occur to me was wondering if he had a chance to sit down and talk with fellow Bucks County high school superstars Colin Thompson and Jake O’Donnell.

Both Thompson, who is from the same high school as Blackshear (Archbishop Wood) and O’Donnell, who is from nearby Central Bucks East, were blinded by the big-time program allure and committed to the University of Florida and the University of Miami, respectively.

highpoint

If Blackshear had a chance to speak with those two, they no doubt would have told them that, while their experiences at Florida and Miami were nice, looking for those Acres of Diamonds in far-away places proved to be elusive.

They found them in their own backyards at Temple, where they both went out as champions of the American Athletic Conference where ALL (and not just some) of their family members could see them play in person.

Both have prestigious Temple degrees and already are networking with Temple alumni which set them up for a great future in the town where they will conduct their business.

Those are just a couple of sensible reasons to look for Acres of Diamond in your own backyard. Here are five others:

ride

5—Great Education

Temple is the sixth-largest educator of professionals in the United States and its Fox Business School is ranked among the best in the nation. More than 90 percent of the players in all of college football never make it to the pros (that includes CFL and Arena Football), so having a respected sheepskin to fall back on is a big plus and Temple has that respect.

4—Championships

The football Owls have won the last two AAC East titles and capped that with an overall championship this year. They have had two consecutive 10-win seasons and appear poised for a nice run of more double-digit win seasons.

3—The League

Current Temple players in the NFL include Muhammad Wilkerson  and Robby Anderson of the Jets, Brandon McManus of the Broncos, Tahir Whitehead of the Lions, Rod Streeter of the 49ers, Tavon Young of the Ravens, Matt Ioannidis of the Redskins and Tyler Matakevich of the Steelers. Soon to be joining them are Dion Dawkins, Nate Hairston and Haason Reddick, among others. If you make an impact in a large television market like Philadelphia, you will get a chance to make millions in the league. That league is the ultimate goal, though, made possible because the AAC is a great league with wins over Oklahoma, Louisville, Penn State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Florida State, among others, in the short span of the last two years. Temple is the champion of that great league.

templefans

2—Television

All of the Owls’ games are on national television so, while they are outside the Power 5, their status as the No. 1 team in the nation’s fourth-largest media market assures plenty of TV eyeballs for every game.

1—Family

Temple and Philadelphia is right in the center of a geographical area that includes 46 percent of the nation’s population, meaning a home game is within a manageable day’s drive for any recruit from Boston to the north to the North Carolina border. Family to Temple means more than geography, though. It means a strong bonding between the family of the players who are here and the family of fans who have been here. The players and coaches may come and go but the friendships remain forever.

I know I will always remain friends with the family of our last bowl-winning quarterback, Chris Coyer, and I cherish the friendships I have with the family of Adrian and Averee Robinson and so many other ex-Temple players.

That’s part of the reason why we call this Temple Football Forever.

If you have any other good reasons for recruits to pick Temple, please add them in the comments below.

Sunday: Five Reasons To Get Fired Up About Coach Collins

Tuesday: Bracing For Impact

Thursday: An Honest Evaluation of This Class

One Step Back Two Steps Forward for G5

lockherup

Hopefully, Temple gets a P5 commit or two aboard the flip train in a week.

If Melania Trump really wanted to make an impact with her anti-bullying policies, she would start not at the elementary school level but all the way into the colleges at the top of the bullying food chain.

Tell the Power 5 to stop bullying the G5.

From effectively banning G5 forever from the national Final Four to stealing G5 recruits with impunity on National Signing Day, the Power 5 has set the standard for bullying.

The latest result of the bullying was Michigan State swooping in and taking away Temple commit Raheem Blackshear today.

We doubt Mrs. Trump had anything to do with it, but the G5 scored the smallest possible and maybe its only victory against the P5 when the NCAA’s Division I Football Committee expressed support for moving the signing date backward to December from February.

How does this help the G5?

Well, considering that the middle of December is the time when the P5 schools are ostensibly pre-occupied with preparing for bowl games and the G5 schools are playing in lesser bowls, the G5 staffs can pound the pavements harder to keep their recruits. Usually, the P5 schools do not start poaching G5 commits until AFTER their bowl games, when they have more time to review the film.

Would Temple have lost Blackshear if the signing day was in mid-December, not at the start of February? Possibly, but the indisputable fact is that Michigan State did not get involved with Blackshear until late December, not mid-December.

This has hurt schools like Temple in particular because former coach Matt Rhule had such a good eye for grading film he developed a reputation for finding diamonds in the rough. The P5 would let coaches like Rhule do their grunt work for them, then sweep down to take one of his recruits they might like after their bowl games were completed.

Cutting the time down to mid-December only helps the G5 coaches hold onto their discoveries.

Now if Mrs. Trump can do something about getting the AAC champ an automatic bid in an eight-team playoff, then she can have something tangible to show for her anti-bullying initiative.

Friday: Five Ways to Say No To Bullies

Russo To Blackshear Could Be Epic

Sometimes decisions are so easy people term them no-brainers and they are the first ones to instinctively come to your gut.

Raheem “Speedy” Blackshear initially committed to Temple, then re-opened his commitment but, even looking at this objectively and not as a fan, sometimes the best decisions are the ones you make with your gut and, hopefully, in the next 10 days or so, the Archbishop Wood wide receiver listens to his gut and realizes the first impression he had was the right one.

Not only would Blackshear be playing in his hometown for a hometown team—meaning ALL of his friends and family could attend—and receiving a great education in the process, the pairing of this wide receiver and this quarterback could be Epic, as the kids say.

How do we know?

It’s already been Epic as current Temple quarterback Anthony Russo and Blackshear combined for 22 touchdowns and, more importantly, a Pennsylvania state championship in football two years ago. In that year, Russo and Blackshear demonstrated a kind of feel for each other in the open field that a great quarterback has with a great receiver. Temple fans know it when they see it and they have seen it with a only a few combinations—John Waller to Jim Callahan, Steve Joachim to Randy Grossman, Brian Broomell to Gerald “Sweet Feet” Lucear, Henry Burris to Van Johnson, Adam DiMichele to Bruce Francis and P.J. Walker to Robby Anderson over the last 50 or so years.

In the pros, you can think of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice or, for older Philly fans, Sonny Jurgensen to Tommy McDonald.

The last time an Epic Pair of state champions came to Temple at roughly the same time, P.J. Walker and Jahad Thomas, they took Temple on a pretty good ride. Because Russo went through his redshirt year, you could pretty much say that Russo and Blackshear will be coming onto the Temple football scene at the same time,too, should Blackshear keep his commitment. A Blackshear arrival will give Russo two guys with the kind of skill set that demands double-coverage as Russo’s current roommate, Isaiah Wright, is a next-level slot receiver. Can’t double cover both, so both should be open in the secondary the next three years at least and that means huge numbers the passing game.

The ride that Russo and Blackshear take Temple on could be even better than the P.J./Jahad one, but we will never know unless they are teamed up again. It could be Epic.

Wednesday: A Break For The G5

Fly On The Wall

Maybe someday Pat Kraft will shed some light on what went on in the Collins’ interview.

As he usually does, 920 The Jersey’s Zach Gelb, a  Temple-Made sports talk radio host with a great future, asks the best questions at Temple press conferences.

During the introduction of Geoff Collins, Gelb asked Collins if he could guarantee Temple football recruits if he would be here four years from now when they graduated.  It was one of the few questions that Collins did not handle with the dexterity of an Ozzie Smith.

gelb

Zach Gelb

Collins let that question go off the back of his glove into left field when he said all he was interested in was the here and now and that’s what he would tell recruits.

To me, that was an E6 on one of the few hardball questions Collins had to field that day.

Although I appreciated the honesty, if I were Collins I would have lied (if indeed it was a lie) my ass off and told him, of course, if this place is good enough for the John Chaneys and the Wayne Hardins of the world, it is good enough for me. I plan to be here for the long haul and make Temple football a national power.

That would have served two purposes, assuaging a couple of very important groups: The current recruiting class and the players in the program already. The first group is being told by the bad guys—the other coaches seeking Temple commits—that Collins is here only short-term and would bail after the first overachieving season and the second group has been already burned by a head coach who said it would take the perfect job for him to leave Temple.

Baylor’s a nice job, but with impending sanctions, it is far from a perfect one and there are many objective people on the outside—not necessarily Temple ones—who feel that Rhule had a better chance of succeeding at Temple than he does with the pair of handcuffs he has to put on to get the job done in Waco.

That leaves the next big question.

If Gelb, or really anyone, gets a chance, he should find someone who was in the room with Collins when he was being interviewed by the Temple Board of Trustees and ask if the same question ever came up as a condition of him getting the job.  By now, Temple should be extremely sensitive to coaches like Steve Addazio—and to a much lesser extent Rhule and Al Golden—using it and moving on.

Oh, to be a fly in the wall hearing the answer to that question. I hope that question was asked in the vetting process, but there is also a chance that it was not.

Perhaps athletic director Dr. Pat Kraft is best equipped to supply the answer and we know the perfect guy to ask him.

Monday: Temple’s Montana to Rice