Defensive Guessing Game

You know what they say about assumptions or assuming, but in the long stretch between the end of the Cherry and White game and kickoff at Notre Dame, assuming can be a fun exercise.

We’ll assume this for now:

Notre Dame will see some Mayhem on September 3d when its offense approaches the line of scrimmage.

That’s because we can be relatively confident in the personnel that will line up on the defensive side of the ball.

Here is our fun list of starters for now, subject to change, mostly due to injury and coaching decisions and assuming a 5-2-4 defensive alignment:

DE-Sharif Finch, Jacob Martin

DT-Karamo Dioubate, Michael Dogbe 

NT-Freddy Booth-Lloyd

LB-Shaun Bradley, Jared Folks

CB—Mike Jones, Artel Foster

FS-Sean Chandler

SS-Delvon Randall

There are, of course, a lot of good defenders not listed there who are, what head coach Geoff Collins calls “above the line” and starters in his mind, even if they don’t line up on the first play of the first series. This is a two-deep defense when you consider guys like Greg Webb are available on the line and Benny Walls, Linwood Crump and Derrick Thomas in the secondary.

Your 2017 starters at DE?

There may be others we haven’t heard about because guys like Keith Kirkwood have spent some time as a pass rusher. If he’s anywhere near as good in that capacity as Romond Deloatch was the Owls will have something.

Right now, though, that group is pretty impressive.

At one end, the Owls will have a playmaker in Finch who started a game against Rutgers way back in 2013. He made in my mind the key play in the win over Penn State in 2015 as well. At the other end, you have a single-digit tough guy in Martin, who also had a sack against Penn State (who didn’t?).

At one of the DTs, you will have a guy in Dogbe who really came into his own at the end of last season as a starter and Dioubate, a guy who received a phone call from none other than Nick Saban the day he decided to keep his Temple commitment. He was too good to redshirt last season.

At one corner, Nate Hairston, a fifth-round NFL draft pick, will be replaced by a guy in Jones, who was projected by Mike Mayock as being “the steal of the 2017 late rounds” if he had declared this year. Jones declared for Temple, not the NFL, and probably will be a third round pick or better in the 2018 draft if he just duplicates the kind of success with the Owls that he had with North Carolina Central. If he succeeds it, watch out.

With Mayhem, and these guys creating it, anything is possible.

Friday: The True Legends

Monday: Wandering Eye

 

Above The Line

Our Lad’s Guide Takes An Early Stab At the depth chart.

If nicknames are any indication, Frank Nutile is atop the quarterback depth chart.

His new coach, Geoff Collins, gave him a sweet one by affectionately calling him “Frankie Juice” and no one knows if that affection has extended from the practice field to the film study room at the E-O.

bolsen

Probably your starting tight end.

Anthony Russo, Logan Marchi or Todd Centeio—the others competing for the job—have been given no such catchy nicknames. Yet the film room is the most important place right now because ostensibly that’s the room where both Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude are going over spring film deciding who has the lead in this four-horse race.

We will not know if Nutile or Russo or Centeio or Marchi are atop the depth chart now because, apparently, Collins does not believe in them. When asked, Collins always answers that he believes in the concept of “Above The Line.” Meaning, he said, a certain number of players are “Above The Line” that marks, in Collins’ mind whether the player is able to go out on the field and help the team in a high capacity.

Say, as a starter or full-time player.

We will probably not know until Notre Dame week what the depth chart is because that’s when Collins will be forced to release one. Game notes always include depth charts and NBC Television is probably going to want one in order to talk about Temple will some semblance of knowledge on its national broadcast on Sept. 3.

Right now, the only Owls’ depth chart on the internet is one provided by Our Lad’s Guide, an outfit based in San Diego run by former Philadelphia Eagles’ radio producer Bill Werndl. Of course, it’s a guessing game based on factors like last year’s playing time but Werndl provides some educated guesses.

He has Logan “No Nickname” Marchi beating out Nutile for the top job and Ventell Bryant, Brodrick Yancy and Keith Kirkwood as the wide receivers. My guess is that Russo eventually wins the job, maybe not by the Notre Dame game, but probably for the bulk of the season. I don’t think Yancy beats out Isaiah Wright at slot receiver and it is somewhat surprising to see Adonis Jennings listed as second team. He has nobody listed as the first- or second-team tight ends. So we will go with Chris Myarick and Kenny Yeboah as first- and second-teamers there now.

The  offensive line starters appear to be logical.

There are more than a few clerical errors. Among them, Nick Sharga, listed as the starting fullback, is noted as a “redshirt junior” when, in reality, he is a redshirt senior. Marchi is a redshirt sophomore, not a redshirt freshman.

All of the players mentioned here are presumably “Above The Line” and that’s all we need to know for now.

Meanwhile, we’re accepting nickname suggestions for Russo, Centeio and Marchi.

Wednesday: Our Defensive Depth Chart

Friday: The True Temple Legends

 

Recruiting Season Could Provide Clues

quincy

Tom Pajic leaves the relative quiet of Quincy for 10th and Diamond.

If anything, the newest hire of Geoff Collins provides some needed insurance.

Tom Pajic (which looks like it might be pronounced paycheck but really is pronounced PAH-CHICK) gives the Owls one more guy who has head coaching experience and, the way these AAC coaches fall by the wayside every season, that’s a nice policy.


Of course, the hope here
is that Collins wins the
AAC and gets to coach in
the bowl game, which he
also wins, and decides
Temple is the long-term
place for him

Never mind that the head coaching came at Division II-level Quincy (Ill.) for the last five years, this is another guy who has some experience of what to do with the clipboard in his hands. Given what Ed Foley did and did not do at the Military Bowl, maybe Pajic gets the chance to be head coach in the next bowl game. Not that Pajic is Vince Lombardi, but he and Wayne Hardin do have something in common: They have both beaten Drake as head coaches. The Drake team that Hardin beat in 1979, 43-22, was no slouch, though, having beaten Colorado State that same season. Pajic went 20-34 at Quincy, which is about the same amount of success Foley had as a head coach at Fordham (7-15). Interestingly enough, the guy who preceded Pajic at Quincy also went 20-34 before ending his tenure there.

Who would I have rather hired for this spot? Hmm. Al Golden might have been a good choice, but he is way above Temple’s pay grade. A better choice would have been current Baylor DB coach Francis Brown, but Temple  probably couldn’t afford him, either. Collins is the Godfather to Brown’s son, so maybe he’s a guy to keep an eye on in the future for a spot here.

Of course, the hope here is that Collins wins the AAC and gets to coach in the bowl game, which he also wins, and decides Temple is the long-term place for him. Hope and history, though, rarely jive in a league where Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo is the longest-tenured head coach.

There is at least a little irony is the new position, Director of Player Personnel, for Pajic because how he and Collins do as a recruiting team will telegraph Collins’ long-term intentions toward Temple. If the Owls finish again in the 100s—they were ranked No. 127 in recruiting by Scout.com in this February’s class—it is a sign that Collins has one eye on the exit door at the E-O.

If, however, Collins and Pajic can pull in a respectable class—say, for sake of argument in the 50s, not 120s—then the Collins will be following the plan promised by Al Golden to build a house of brick, not straw. Say what you will about Golden, but he gave the uni a great five years and left the program in great shape in terms of players. Matt Rhule did pretty much the same. Golden, Rhule and even Steve Addazio had classes ranked in the 50s so that’s not an unattainable goal at Temple. One-hundred-and-27 is unacceptable off an AAC title, even given a month to recruit.

The Owls had three players drafted in the first five rounds of the NFL draft and that should mean something to top-notch recruits. Between now and the start of summer practice, Pajic and Collins are on the clock and Temple fans should be paying attention.

Monday: Above The Line

An Unfinished Line

At the seven-minute mark, coach Collins says “top 25 program.” Otherwise, great interview.

There is one thing Geoff Collins keeps saying that he probably should reconsider.

Every chance he gets, the new Temple football head coach says his team is a Top 25 program two years in a row.  In reality, it got close to the Top 25 and tripped before getting to the finish line. In all of the graphics put out by the Temple football twitter, the claim is that the program is a Top 25 program.

wake

Getting close doesn’t put you in the top 25, at least not yet. That’s a little like Philadelphia Park putting a sign up on the track proclaiming Smarty Jones was a Triple Crown winner despite being edged out in the final leg, the 2004 Belmont Stakes.

If the NFL draft proved anything, it was that Temple’s talent is probably seen by the professionals as superior to both the talent of Toledo and Wake Forest and the Owls did not make the most out of that talent on two very important nights and paid a pretty steep price for it.

draft

I think we all know what the reason was: Coaching. Matt Rhule treated the Boca bowl as a vacation and Toledo took care of business. Rhule skipped town before we knew how he would treat the Military Bowl. The legacy there is simply that the entire defensive coaching staff missed eight practices leading up to the game to recruit for Baylor and the results on the field were painfully apparent.

Now the baton has been passed to Collins, who must take it across the finish line.

Repeat as champions AND win the bowl game. Do that, and then rightfully claim to be a Top 25 program.

Not before.

Winning the AAC title is always the goal, but the legacy of Temple finishing in the Top 25 remains unfulfilled. If the Owls win the title again this year, and that’s a tall order indeed, finishing the season holding a trophy that could get them among the final elite should also be as important.

To me, finishing in sports is important and, while the Owls had an impressive finish to their regular season with a AAC title—hey, that’s a good thing to promote—they are not a Top 25 program yet.

Until you actually achieve something, it’s probably best off not claiming to have done it.

Friday: Capitalizing On The Draft

 

 

Temple NFL Draft: Part II

freeagents

The Temple haul: 3 Draftees, 6 UDFAs

(Credit: Temple Football Twitter)

Going into the NFL draft, it was pretty much a given that Temple’s Dion Dawkins would be selected in Round 2 and Nate Hairston in Round 5 and that’s what happened.

Dawkins went to the Bills and Hairston went to Indianapolis and, right after the draft, the Bills fired their GM.

Geez, I hope the owner wasn’t disappointed in the picks because the Bills were one of only three teams to get an “A” in their selections by CBS Sports.

Dawkins could be a Day One starter and no one will be surprised. Hairston has a chance to do what fourth-rounder Tavon Young did last year, start.

This crop of free agents, though, is what makes this Temple NFL draft so fascinating.

sullivan

Six were signed as UDFAs and all could latch on to an NFL team or none could. There are a lot of factors involved in UDFAs. The Philadelphia Eagles are a perfect example. Someone in their front office, either Chip Kelly or Howie Roseman, made a mistake in drafting Louisville DE Marcus Smith in Round One so, even though he was outplayed in three camps, he got to make the roster because no one wants to admit they made a mistake.

Over at New England, Bill Belichick always admits to personnel mistakes—which admittedly are few—and he is not adverse to cutting a high draft pick in favor of a UDFA. That’s why Belichick wins championships.

Six Owls signed UDFA contracts, with linebacker Avery Williams (Houston) and running back Jahad Thomas (Dallas) going to Texas teams and tight ends Romond Deloatch and Colin Thompson going to the New York Giants. Rounding out the group, P.J. Walker is headed to Indianapolis and Praise Martin-Oguike to Miami.

If I were the Giants, I’d tell Romond to pack on a few pounds and muscle weight and try making the team as a pass rusher because Deloatch has the “it” factor with that specialty.

Walker made a calculated decision to go to Indy (where he will have friend in Hairston) and, because teams hold out starters like Andrew Luck for much of the preseason, he should get a chance to play in those four games. Walker was smart because, in his spot, he’s got to look at team’s backups, not the starters. He’s not likely to unseat Eagles’ backup Nick Foles, so that was one of the team’s he turned down. He also turned down Minnesota (who have Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford), Baltimore, Arizona and Denver.

All Walker and any of the Owls need is a chance. Now it’s up to them to make the most of it. It won’t be the first time many of them have been doubted and they proved the doubters wrong before.

Here’s hoping they all do it again.

Wednesday: What This Draft Should Have Meant

Friday: Capitalizing on the Weekend

The Temple NFL Draft

toughness

About the only person who was not booed at the NFL Draft on Thursday night was from Temple University. The hometown Eagles’ pick was met with mixed boos and cheers, which was surprising. Picks of the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys were booed, as was the Commissioner, which was not.

Only Temple football was cheered, loudly and proudly.

In a city where Temple football has always been second fiddle to the pro team in town, that’s a tremendous moment.

Maybe the best.


“Temple TUFF is the
most elite, toughest,
hardest-working, people
on the planet.”
_ Haason Reddick

Haason Reddick, who was drafted No. 13 overall by the Arizona Cardinals, walked down the steps of the Art Museum to a crescendo of loud cheers and not a single boo.

Derek Barnett, the Tennessee defensive end who went next to the hometown team, was met with a scattering of boos and cheers. There were a lot of Eagles’ fans dressed in green exiting after that pick with thumbs down signs.

We’ll see what happens over the next few years but a writer could not have picked a better scenario for Reddick or a better place for him to flourish. Former Temple head coach Bruce Arians is in charge there and a couple of great former Temple assistants (Nick Rapone and Amos Jones) are among the numerous Owl connections out there.

There will be a lot of Temple stories, old and new, for Reddick to hear from and swap with the old heads.

Arians will take care of Reddick in a way that Doug Pederson could not have so, from the standpoint of a perfect fit, Reddick to Arizona is probably better than any other pick in the draft—even Myles Garrett to Cleveland at No. 1.

If Temple North is the New York Jets, then certainly Temple South is the Arizona Cardinals.

Temple Central will remain embedded in Reddick’s heart and he said it best when interviewed by Upper Dublin High School grad Suzie Kobler on ESPN when she asked him what Temple TUFF was all about. Kobler knows all about Temple having grown up across the street from Temple’s Ambler Campus.

“Temple TUFF is the most elite, toughest, hardest-working, people on the planet,” Reddick said.

Now it’s up to Geoff Collins to turn that quote and that moment into mining a 2017 recruiting class worthy of those words.

Reddick gave him a good head start with the unprecedented love.

Monday: The Other Guys