Hope Springs Eternal

Cherry and White is a month and two days away.

While today is the first day of spring, and hopefully the end of all of this brutally cold last two weeks, it also marks the first day of spring football practice at Temple University.

On each one of these days every year, I print out the official team roster on Owlsports.com and look for names that I either don’t recognize or intrigue me.

Consider me intrigued by one Julian Conover, No. 27 in your game program.

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                               If Mayhem means this, I’m for it.

The first thing that sticks out about him is that Conover is a linebacker and the Owls will need linebackers to replace the three departed starters of a year ago.

The next—and perhaps most important –thing is that the redshirt freshman was a first-team New Jersey All-State linebacker at Don Bosco.  That’s significant in and of itself in that there aren’t too many first-team all-state players who walk on in college football.

Usually, first-team all-state players get scholarships and, while there was significant interest in Conover as a Bosco senior, there were no scholarship offers from FBS teams.  Part of that reason might have been that he is a little on the light side (205 pounds on a 6-3 frame), but Tyler Matakevich was 6-1, 205 coming out of prep school so the obstacle is not insurmountable.

What Conover and Matakevich had in common was good film of what they did on the field and that’s all that matters.

Given the Owls need linebackers (Jared Folks and fullback Nick Sharga really are the only players on the team with significant playing time at the position), monitoring Conover’s progress as the spring goes on should be one of the bullet points of this one-month season.

Wednesday: Old Is New

Cherry and White: A Day For Good Guys

My favorite answer here comes at the 10:35 time stamp.

Full disclosure: I hate the Cherry and White game, but love Cherry and White Day.

I always have felt the same way about the game, because the Cherry and White game pits the Good Guys vs. the Good Guys. If, say, Marshall Ellick beats Nate Hairston on a fly pattern for six, half of me is high-fiving, but the other half is not returning the high five. The reasoning is simple. Half of me thinks we’re going to have a great vertical passing game and the other half is concerned about replacing Tavon Young at a corner.

If our defensive line gets 10 sacks, I’m worried about our offensive line. If Jager Gardner, Ryquell Armstead and Jahad Thomas gain 300 yards against the defense, I’m just as worried about the defensive line as I am excited about the offensive line.

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Work, in  a manner of speaking, already being done on new stadium site.

And on and on …

You get the idea.

There are really no winners and losers when the good guys play the good guys. To really get a feel for how the Owls will be this summer, we will all have to wait until the Army game. Or Stony Brook. Even then, it might be too early because

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Field samples taken earlier this week.

Penn State should be the telling game.

For the first 10 or so Cherry and White games, I left Geasey Field or Temple Stadium or Ambler thinking the Owls would go unbeaten. It’s the last 30  years or so I’ve discovered the real truth. You cannot tell anything from the game itself.

The day, though, is another story. It’s a chance for Temple fans to get together again and that is  where the real victory is. There is no better place to pick up Temple “stuff” than Cherry and White Day, so bring cash.

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Just what is this guy’s problem?

This year, with a new stadium on the horizon, there should be a palpable excitement among those fans knowing this is one of the last two or three games on the East side of campus. With that in mind, it would be nice to see a drawing depicting two things: 1) What the stadium will look like; 2) Will it be North-South or East-West? Fifty percent of the people swear up and down on a stack of bibles that the stadium will be East-West, while another 50 percent will swear that it is North-South. Me? I would like for it to be North-South (better view of Center City), but the land configuration dictates East-West.

Other than that, as Jose from Norristown might say, I would like to see a donation jar to purchase former Owl kicker Wes Sornisky his own grave stone (he is buried anonymously in a Potter’s Field in Delaware after dying alone in a fire),  a folding chair in Doc Chodoff’s name to given to a loyal fan and the revival of the Mark Bresani Spirit Award given to the most spirited player of the spring.

Maybe not this year, but certainly in the future.

Sunday: General Cherry and White Thoughts

Cherry and White Week Begins

Great job by Temple on the video. Still irked that the horsecollar against Tyler Matakevich in the Penn State game was never called.

If you cannot get pumped up for C&W by watching the above video, it might be wise to check for a pulse. From a personal standpoint, as a big fan of both the Owls and SEPTA regional rail, it will be great to make the one-mile walk to my regional rail station and get off at 10th and Diamond on Saturday morning.

You can never tell much from these games.

Years ago, a running back named Ventres Stevenson had a career day at C&W day. Years later, another back, Myron Myles, had 187 yards and three touchdowns at C&W day and ended his career at Millersville. Stevenson became a serviceable Owl but there were a lot of guys who had their best days in what is essentially a practice. Wearing the Orange jersey, Vaughn Charlton always looked good. Against a rush, not so much. Adam DiMichele always had a so-so C&W Day; when the lights came on, though, there was no one better in “real games” against a rush. … against a rush, and that includes Maxwell Award-winner quarterback Steve Joachim. Finding those kind of guys is like finding a golden nugget.

Still, the best you can hope for is a glimpse of what the talent can bring to the table when the lights go on. There won’t be 99,000 there, but this is my team (and presumably yours) and that should be all that matters.

Cherry and White Day All About Beating Penn State

While researching a story about Stan Hochman, I came across this story I wrote in 1986 for a chain of newspapers. Still chasing the dream almost 30 years later.

While researching a story about Stan Hochman, I came across this story I wrote in 1986 for a chain of newspapers. Still chasing the dream almost 30 years later. 

Having watched Cherry and White Day games at Temple Stadium (both when it was standing and after it was demolished), Lincoln Financial Field (once), Geasey Field (several times) and now at the E-O, the meaning this year as never been more clear.

Beat Penn State.

While ostensibly the reason for spring practice is to get ready for the season as a whole, the focus can be on this one game this time because it is the opening one.

That’s not to say the Owls can’t have a great season if they lose to Penn State, but they would be changing life-long perceptions by winning this game. Ever since sports talk radio began a generation ago, talk show hosts in Philadelphia laughingly dismissed the notion that Temple could ever beat Penn State.

Last year, a Penn State talker, Mike Missanelli, openly asked, “Is this the year Temple finally beats Penn State?” His producer, Jon Marks, a Temple grad said, “no, that’s never going to happen.” Missanelli said, “Yeah, I was just messing with you.”

That’s the kind of perception both Penn Staters and Philadelphians have about this game. It’s the kind of perception they always have had.

It will always be that way until Temple decides to put Christian Hackenberg on his ass as many times as it put three Vanderbilt quarterbacks on their ass a year ago.

It can happen, but until it does, the Owls will be still chasing that dream.

Who is Here and Who is Not?

Jihaad Pretlow will not be roaming he secondary for the Owls next season.

Jihaad Pretlow will not be roaming he secondary for the Owls next season.

Every spring practice season, only the most ardent of Temple fans frequently updated rosters on Owlsports.com trying to cross both fingers while holding a rabbit’s foot.

The goal, of course, is hoping that “nobody good” has left the team. I do not know about you, but I want the money for my rabbit’s foot back.

Jacob Quinn will be leading the way for a Delaware back this fall, not an Owl like Zaire Williams (23) in this 2013 game at SMU.

Jacob Quinn will be leading the way for a Delaware back this fall, not an Owl like Zaire Williams (23) in this 2013 game at SMU.

I didn’t need to open the roster to find out that the team’s best offensive lineman, Dion Dawkins, might be facing some legal problems after being involved in an off-campus fight. I’m always one for “innocent until proven guilty” and the day Jim Gardner led Action News that “a Temple football player had been involved in an alleged rape” I dashed off an email to Gardner asking that if the player got exonerated to please lead off Action News with that exoneration. He later was exonerated and Action News underplayed that development as much as it overplayed the player’s arrest.

Hopefully, Dawkins will have the same fate but another offensive line starter (at least in the final game at Tulane), Jacob Quinn, has decided to eschew his final year of eligibility and go home to Delaware to play for the Blue Hens. He will be eligible immediately. Buddy Brown, who came to the school as a highly recruited linebacker, “retired” from football.

Another guy not here, Jihaad Pretlow, one of the team’s best defensive backs transferred out of school.

All good guys and players, unfortunately. Someday  I’d like to open up the roster and see the only news is that the fifth string quarterback or the fourth-team offensive guard leave the team but that never seems to happen at Temple.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that 100 or so players do remain.

Unfortunately, college age kids being what they are, this kind of thing happens everywhere but it’s a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of thing with the Owls. An offensive line that already was a weakness became weakened in two areas and there are only so many good players to go around. The defensive backfield and linebacking corps lost some depth.

How this impacts Temple won’t be known this spring. Heck, it will not be known by Cherry and White Day. The Owls will have to wait until the Penn State game for that answer.