A Logical Place For Spring Game

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When you are journalism major at Temple, as I was, they make you take 75 percent of your other courses as electives. The reasoning behind that in the 1970s—I do not know if the practice exists today—was  that if you knew a little about everything,  you could report on anything.

Maybe they should adopt the practice for sports administrators.

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Today’s required Course Monitoring for Temple’s administration should be Logic 101.

The discussion should be centered on just why the university is intent on squeezing 5,000 pounds of fans into a 100-pound bag when a 2,000-pound bag became available in the offseason.

The latest poster on the Cherry and White Day came out and there it was, right there for everyone to see: Cherry and White Game, Saturday, April 22, 1 p.m., Edberg-Olson Hall.

Hmm.

Bringing portable seats for 500 people when, on a nice day, you can get 5,000 people into a little over 100-yard square area made sense when you had no place else to go.

Not this year.

The soccer facility some four blocks south opened in the fall and the place has 2,000 permanent seats and they can still move those portable E-O seats to that location.

South Florida, which also plays in a NFL stadium, moved its spring game from its football complex to its soccer complex last season and it was an unqualified success. All the Bulls had to do was line the soccer field with football yard lines, put a couple of goal posts in and away then went.

Plenty of seating for the fans and a great experience had by all because the sports administration there applied logic to the situation and came up with a better conclusion.

Right now, the TU administration is trying to fit a square Cherry and White game peg into a round hole when there is a square hole just down 12th Street.

As our favorite alien, Mr. Spock, would say, that’s illogical.

Monday: Fizzy Meets Coach Collins

Reddick Taking It To Another Level

Coach Collins is using Reddick as an example for the rest of the squad.

To put into perspective what Haason Reddick did over the weekend, all you have to do is look what running back Bernard Pierce did in the same environment.

Reddick’s most impressive combine number was a 4.52 40-yard dash.

Coming out of the 2011 football season a year early, Pierce went into the combine and posted a 4.55 40-yard dash. This was considered good for a running back.

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This was the same Bernard Pierce who was the PIAA state indoor champion in the 100-meter dash (10.8) while a senior at Glen Mills and was Pennsylvania’s version of Usain Bolt as a high school senior. Except that Bolt didn’t have Pierce’s moves in the open field.

Reddick took the combine to another level.

Reddick’s number was literally off the charts and that’s why he will be drafted anywhere from nine to 30 in the upcoming NFL draft in Philadelphia. His 40 time was one-tenth of a second faster than the Owls’ Nate Hairston, who many considered the fastest Owl last season. (You could probably get an argument from reserve wide receiver Cortrelle Simpson, who will hopefully show some explosiveness this fall when he gets on the field for the first time.)

My guess is that the number Reddick is drafted will be closer to 20 than nine or 30 and that will represent the best Temple has ever had if it happens.

Muhammad Wilkerson was a 30th-round draft pick out of the 2010 college football season and he is now considered one of the top five defensive linemen in all of football.

While offensive lineman Dion Dawkins got rave reviews coming out of the senior bowl and had a very good combine, there is more talk of him going in the second round than the first round now.

However, Mel Kiper still ranks Dawkins as his No. 1 SENIOR defensive tackle, so there’s an outside shot that Dawkins could go in the first round as well.

If that happens in a draft held in Philadelphia, that is a value from the Eagle-and-NFL-centric fourth largest market that would yield dividends down the line in areas like attendance and recruiting.

Friday: The Spring Game

Handicapping The QB Race

The mechanics were always impeccable for Anthony Russo.

When recruiting the top-rated class in the league mattered to Temple football, Al Golden would get the deep-pocketed donors—and a few guys like me—gathered into a film room on Signing Day to go over the highlights of the various recruits.

At the time, Golden was not shy about mentioning several times during his talk that Temple had the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the league by two of the three major internet scouting services.

It was all part of his marketing plan to inject some juice into the fan base and needed regional confidence into the Temple football program.

Then the projector started to whiz and each kid’s highlights were shown. Between the oohhs and the ahhs coming from the darkened room, one voice in the back row exclaimed:

“My God, they all look like O.J. Simpson!!”

(He meant the football player, not the murderer.)

Everyone laughed, even Al.

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Logan Marchi: Poor man’s Johnny Manziel?

If you did not know it by then, you learned it later. Sometimes film lies, at least the kind where they splice the good plays in and leave the bad ones on the cutting room floor. If not lies, then fibs.

What doesn’t lie is numbers and that’s why I think Anthony Russo will emerge from this spring practice quarterback battle as No. 1 on the depth chart on Cherry and White Day. All we have to go on between Russo, Frank Nutile (pronounced New Tile, not Nut Ill), Logan Marchi and freshman Todd Centeio, who appears to be headed for a redshirt, are the numbers. Freshman transfer Tommy Wyatt is also in the mix.  During his senior year at Overbrook (N.J.), he threw for 2,163 yards and 17 touchdowns.

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                        Tommy Wyatt

Not Temple numbers, but their numbers against similar competition. Really, the level of high school football played by Russo and Nutile is at Archbishop Wood and Don Bosco is about as good as it gets. In their senior years at those places, Russo threw 35 touchdown passes and 2,452 yards against Nutile’s 13 and 1,458 in his best high school season. Russo was first-team All-State in Pennsylvania, and would join Adam DiMichele (Sto-Rox) and Steve Joachim (Haverford High) as the only first-team AP All-State Pennsylvania quarterbacks to start at Temple. One brought a program back from the dead; the other won the Maxwell Award as the best college football player in America.

That’s pretty good company.

The most important numbers are these: In his last two years as a starter, Russo was 26-1 with one state championship and one state final appearance. Nutile, by contrast, was 7-4 in his only complete high school season. Marchi, who has been called a poor man’s Johnny Manziel, has not played a full season since 2013, his senior year in high school.

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Some guy with a beard pats Frank Nutile on the head.

That doesn’t mean Russo will be handed the job, nor should he want it handed to him. It also doesn’t mean the other guys are chumps. No less an authority than new offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude has gone on record as saying that Temple fans should have confidence in all of the quarterbacks since he thinks they can all be effective at this level.

Nutile, a second-team All-State (non-Public), had his best season as a junior when he passed for 1,458 yards with 13 touchdown passes.

Marchi has Russo-like numbers playing at a smaller-enrollment high school (St. Paul’s, Bristol, Connecticut), throwing for 3,220 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior. He is also an accomplished punter (hint:  trick play potential?), having had 1,077 yards on 32 punts as a sophomore.

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The one thing Marchi has going for him is his elusiveness and Temple might need him if the Owls’ offensive line played the way it did against Wake Forest, which, to be kind, was not good. A lot of that was some incredibly poor coaching as Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead were asked to run behind NFL potential first-round pick Dion Dawkins only once.  Dawkins was twiddling his thumbs most of the night as the Owls ran to the wrong side. Stevie Wonder probably could have done a better job of coaching the Owls that night than the group of impostors who showed up.

Since that whole night seemed to be a misnomer, the guess here is that this is Anthony Russo’s job to lose and, knowing the kid’s make-up, he will not lose it.

Wednesday: Workout Warriors

Friday: The Spring Game

Rhule of Settled Law

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Mark Bright accepting the MVP award

If you do a search for “settled law” on google most of the results revolve around the Roe v. Wade decision which gave women the right to abortion in certain cases. In a broader sense it is used to refer to decisions of the Supreme Court that have remained unchanged for a long time. Roe vs. Wade is not “in the constitution” as Whoopi Goldberg once moronically said, it’s just an interpretation of the constitution that can be changed.

In the court of public opinion, though, the results of the last two bowl games have resolved what might have been hotly contested cases among Temple football fans, maybe forever.

Which team is the greatest Temple team of all time, the 1979 Owls, who went 10-2 or the 2015 or 2016 Owls, who also won 10 games?

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Temple TUFF, 1979 style

It’s not his fault, really, but Matt Rhule himself is as responsible for the tarnished legacy of those teams as he was for their success. Rhule, by his own admission, took it “too easy” on the Owls prior to the loss to Toledo and his quick exit to find Acres of Diamonds in Waco led to a poorly prepared team in a 34-26 loss to Wake Forest.  There is no doubt that if Rhule had put the pedal to the metal one year and told Baylor he would talk to them after Christmas, the last two Owl teams would have finished in the top 25.

The legacy of the two most recent teams will always be as great ones, but it won’t be as the greatest. To me, it isn’t even close and it is “Settled Law” because the 1979 team did it against a more difficult schedule and beat a Power 5 team (before the Power 5 even existed) in California at the Garden State Bowl.

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Now, had the 2016 team won its bowl game and gone 11-3 and beaten a Power 5 team, they might have had a strong case but it would have been close. The Wake Forest team they would have beaten would not have been as good as the 1979 Cal Bears and they would have had to pummel them to enhance the case.

That 1979 team was also 16 points short of being unbeaten, losing only to No. 7 Pitt (10-9) and No. 20 Penn State (22-7).  Had the Owls pulled out those two winnable games, they would have been—hold on to your hats—national champions. Or at least they would have been placed into a better bowl, against the eventual national champion of that year.

Spoiler alert: Alabama.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

In those days, there was no discrimination between the haves and the have-nots in college football. If you won all of your games, you were national champions, period, end of story. It was college football in its purest form, not the corrupt form it now flaunts.

Does a future Owl team have a chance of finishing No. 17 or better? Sure, but what are the chances such a team loses its coach by bowl time? Probably very good. It’s not quite in the constitution, it’s settled law.

As it was, the Owls finished No. 17 in both major polls and, unless the rules change forbidding a coach from leaving—or even negotiating with another team—until after the bowl season is completed, it is hard to imagine any team ever matching what those Temple kids did in 1979.

Even if most of those kids are pushing 60 now.

Monday: Handicapping the 2017 QBs

Wednesday: The Spring Game

Owl City Walkers

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Sometimes the memory can be a funny thing, brain teasers allowing recall in great detail of things that happen 40 years ago, but the same brain failing to tell you why you walked into a room five seconds ago.

It is with that in mind that we caution you to not take this list as the top walk-ons in Temple football history, just the top ones that we can recall at this moment.

Obviously, some are going to slip through the cracks but readers are welcome to include their own memories of Temple walk-ons below.

The subject of walk-ons comes up today simply because yesterday was the walk-on tryout date for Geoff Collins’ first team at Temple.

Here’s my list, with a heavy emphasis on the more recent ones. In a school of 39,000 students—presumably 20,000 young men—maybe at least one will turn out to be as good as these five.

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5–Matt Brown

Because of his size (5-5, 155 pounds), no Division I school showed an interest in Brown.  He walked on at Temple, where they tried to play him at a slot receiver, but Al Golden—perhaps intrigued by Brown’s open-field moves in the return game—moved him to tailback and the rest was history. He was the bug part of the “Bernie and the Bug” pair and had to fill as a starter on the numerous occasions where Bernard Pierce was injured.  Brown’s best game was his sophomore year against Army, where he gained 228 yards scored four touchdowns.

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4—Aaron Boumerhi

The kicker with the appropriate nickname of “Boom-Boom” walked on at Temple after making only four field goals his senior year at Phillipsburg-Osceola. He perhaps saved the season after starting kicker Austin Jones went down as a result of a cheap shot by a Memphis player on a kickoff.  At the time, Jones had made an NCAA-best 17-straight field goals.  Arguably, Boumerhi was just as good afterward.

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3—Will Hayes

Hayes returned a blocked extra point for two the other way and that was the key play in a 25-23 Temple win at Massachusetts.  The 5-9 defensive back drew interest only from Division III schools, but always dreamed of playing Division I. He took the advice of a former Howell (N.J.) teammate and played a year at Milford (N.Y.) Prep to bulk up for a possible chance.  He was a regular starting free safety on a 10-win Temple team.

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2—Bruce Francis

Francis joined the program as a true freshman in the fall of 2005 as a walk-on. He later earned a scholarship. Named the recipient of the team’s inaugural Gavin White, Jr., Walk-On Award in the spring of 2006, Francis earned All-MAC honors last fall by Phil Steele Publications after averaging a team-best 73.1 receiving yards per game and finished his senior year with 13 touchdown receptions.  He was the center of one of the most controversial plays in Temple history, with replays clearly showing him catching touchdown pass to beat UConn but the Big East replay official refusing to overturn the call. At the time, Temple was in the MAC and UConn was in the Big East. Francis is the Owls’ career leader in touchdown receptions (23) and tied with Gerald “Sweet Feet” Lucear in touchdown catches for a single season (13).

1—Haason Reddick

All indications point to Reddick being a late first-round NFL draft choice and it is pretty hard for any walk-on in Temple history to top that.  Reddick started as a linebacker in Temple’s 41-21 win at Memphis to close out the 2013 season, but later earned first-team All-AAC honors as a down defensive end.

 

Mike Pettine and Temple

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Dick Beck might have been Mike Pettine’s greatest contribution to Temple football.

Simply by virtue of chance, I got to know without a doubt two of the greatest coaches in the history of the game of football on two levels.

One, Wayne Hardin, is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

The other, Mike Pettine Sr., shockingly passed away on Friday while playing golf in my favorite Florida town, Land O’Lakes in Pasco County.

The two men have a lot in common.

One retired from Temple at the tender age of 55; the other retired on top of the Pennsylvania High School coaching world after leading Central Bucks West to its third-straight state title at the age of 56.

Both loved the game of golf.

Both loved the state of Florida.

Both were fiercely competitive.

Both paid meticulous attention to detail.

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The two Mike Pettines.

In a football offseason a long time ago, I played a two-on-two basketball game with both Mike Pettines, the 40-some coach and his 12-year-old kid. Pettine guarded my taller teammate, a 6-foot-2 reporter named Jay Nagle, while the young Pettine guarded me. After I hit my third-straight jumper at the top of the key, Pettine yelled: “GUARD HIM!!!”

Just a friendly game of two-on-two, but that’s how competitive Mike Pettine Sr. was.

Both Pettine and Hardin are reasons why I do not suffer coaching fools lightly, and why, for instance, I was appalled that Temple had 120 yards in penalties against Penn State in a 34-27 loss last season. When I was a reporter at the Doylestown Intelligencer, I did a story on why Pettine’s Bucks had so few penalties each and every year. (Hell, CB West went one year with less than 100 yards in penalites.)

In it, I quoted players—past and then present—who said that Pettine would run a play until it was executed perfectly.

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Arians made Beck his 25th recruit in one of his final classes

“Run it again,” Pettine would say if a lineman had jumped a count or something else went awry. “Run it again!” was a phrase you would hear as twilight turned to dark at every CB West practice. When the play was run four or five consecutive times to perfection, Pettine would move on to the next play.

That’s how you eliminate penalties, in the five practice days before a game, not by yelling at players during a game.

To me, penalties are mostly completely needless factors that cause losses and are directly traceable to the head coaches.

Pettine approached the entire game that way, squeezing every ounce out of the talent he had. He would study opposition film as if cramming for a final, which was a trait he had in common with Hardin. His final state championship win, a blocked punt in the last minute won the game and it was by virtue of design and not luck. “We had two punt blocks designed specifically for that opponent and the one we called we had a greater degree confidence in it working,” he said.

What Pettine did by posting a 346-42-4 career record might never be accomplished again at a neighborhood school, or a “town” school, which CB West really was sharing the same town with CB East.

I talked to Mike every Thursday night for 10 straight years in doing the Friday football previews for the Doylestown Intelligencer. Once, at the end Dick Beck’s senior year, I casually asked him: “Where is Dick Beck going to school?” He said, “probably West Chester or Towson.”

Knowing how good Beck was, I told him that wasn’t happening and I would talk to Bruce Arians. One thing led to another, as Bruce called Pettine and got game tapes. Four years later, Beck was only captain of the 1990 7-4 Owls.  Now Beck is the head coach at North Penn.

Pettine knew I was friendly with coach Hardin and often our game preview talks would venture off into other areas, talking about the players he sent to play for Hardin like Doug Shobert, Tom Duffy, Jeff Stempel and Dr. Pat Carey, among others.

When my other alma mater, Archbishop Ryan, was working on a long winning streak, I suggested to Pettine that he play Ryan. I gave him Ryan coach John Quinn’s phone number and Pettine, who never backed away from a challenge, scheduled a home-and-home with Ryan.

The Bucks won both games, 22-14 and 14-7, and, after the second win, Pettine took me aside afterward.

“Mike, me and (assistant coach) Mike Carey were talking about what we would be able to do if we were coaching a high school of 2,000 boys,” Pettine said of Ryan. “I’d love to have that luxury.”

At the time, CB West had 600 boys. Most of them weren’t as talented as Dick Beck or Doug Shobert. They would fall into the category of a 5-8, 150-pound wingback named Michael Smerconish who made contributions by running the same plays over and over again. Smerconish now has his own political show on CNN.

Pettine made all the ones who played for him men.

When Bruce Arians was fired at Temple, I suggested Pettine throw his hat into the ring.

Mike politely declined.

“Mike, I think Gerry Faust ruined it for all of us high school coaches,” he said, referring to the guy who went from Cincinnati Moeller straight to Notre Dame.

“They got the wrong high school coach,” I said.

And they did because I wish everyone got to know how great Mike Pettine was the same way I did and why so many of us are heartbroken today.

Fake News: On Campus Stadium

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Long before Donald Trump popularized the term “Fake News” it applied to one story surrounding Temple football.

At least for me.

From this perspective, the proposed new stadium on campus is and has always been “Fake News.”

Yet every thread on a message board about it will have about 1,000 responses, more than any other issue involving Temple athletics.

The term “done deal” about the stadium was first spoken by a member of the board of trustees to a big-time donor at the North Carolina State vs. Temple basketball game in 2013.

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Moody Nolan: Spilled Beans

It is now 2017 and there hasn’t been a single shovel in the ground or a bulldozer on site.

I hate to tell this to the stadium backers, but there won’t be.

To understand that is to understand the political climate in the city.

It’s frosty toward Temple. Downright frigid.

Former President Peter J. Liacouras had to fight tooth and nail to get the Apollo of Temple built, and the reward for that fight was taking that great name off the facility and putting his name on it.

Liacouras had to resort to the “Nuclear Option” to get it done: Threaten to move Temple out of the city. There is no more “Nuclear Option” anymore simply because of the result of the investment Temple has made its campus since then.

Temple’s current leadership doesn’t have the stomach for the threat or the Capital to bribe the city for getting this done. A bare-bones $130 million price tag is all you need to know about how little money they want to spend. There is no extra money set aside for a community center, a health clinic or anything else that might sweeten the pot for the community.

Sure, they have done all of the requisite things to pave the way for the stadium, including clearing the Geasey Field area for the build.

It will not matter, though, if they cannot get the proposal through City Council and Temple has very few if any votes to get that done.

That’s why the most recent  development–a CEO for Moody Nolan telling the press that the whole idea is “on hold” for now, followed by a hasty denial from Temple, tells you all you need to know about the project.

Temple, no doubt, told Moody Nolan that the whole idea was on hold, while mantaining the difficult balancing act of telling its big-ticket donors that it is not.

Who to believe?

When real news conflicts with fake, go for the preponderance of evidence. In my mind, it leads to one conclusion: They have realized they cannot do it with the makeup within this current City Council and, unless Mayor Kenney and Councilman Clarke show up with hardhats and shovels soon, on hold means tabled.

They never had all of their ducks in a row and that’s why this never was a real story in the first place.