Temple football: Reading the clues

In a perfect world, a couple of things would have happened that seemed to not happen for Temple football over both the last few months or the last 15 practices.

First the months part.

In a perfect world, no player from one program could move to another program where a former coach earns a paycheck. Things are not perfect in that regard because Rutgers’ defensive coordinator Fran Brown probably had a hand in luring three Temple starters to Piscataway.

You can catch more Temple football on Youtube Thursday night.

He was here when they were here and now they are there.

Tampering?

Possibly, but we will never know.

An NCAA rule the prohibits such specific transfers would remove all doubt but this world is far from perfect.

There are clues in that story and we will allow you to come to your own conclusions.

Closer to home, though, there are other clues to be concerned about.

That’s either a touchdown or pass interference

It was my hope that D’Wan “Duece” Mathis would separate himself from backup Re-al Mitchell in the quarterback battle, but it seems like from every quote from Rod Carey and offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich that the two are neck-and-neck.

That’s not good.

I have nothing against Mitchell but we’ve seen enough from Mitchell last year to determine that’s he’s not an AAC-level starter. In over 40 years of watching Temple quarterbacks, I’ve never seen one with stats as poor as Mitchell’s in his first year improve significantly in his next year. His sample is large enough.

To quote the great Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are.

To me, Mitchell is Vaughn Charlton, Chester Stewart and Mike McGann wrapped up into one quarterback.

Mathis should be closer to Adam DiMichele, Brian Broomell or P.J. Walker.

If he’s roughly about as good as Mitchell, that’s problematic.

Now there’s another way to look at this and I pray this is the case: Not wanting to discourage Mitchell or further deplete the quarterback room, they are telling this to Mitchell to keep him hungry and Mathis has really separated himself from everyone else. In other words, they better be lying their asses off.

Or somebody’s in trouble and, unfortunately, it’s not Fran Brown.

Friday: Virtual Reality

We’re No. 1 (and No. 119)

Duece Mathis stares down a receiver in practice. (Photo courtesy of Zamani Feelings)

A couple of recently released numbers illustrates the current state of Temple football these days.

Temple is No. 1 both in the AAC and all of G5 football in terms of transfers out via the portal (15) and No. 119 in terms of ESPN’s 2021 Power College Football Index. The network has the Owls finishing dead last in the AAC.

If you’ve been following this space since the end of a depressing 1-6 season, you shouldn’t be surprised.

Our contention all along is that too many good players have gone out the front door and not enough have come in the back door for the Owls to realistically be favored in more than two games of the upcoming 12-game season.

Not all our friends have agreed with us.

We’re hearing a lot of “now that Rod Carey has his quarterback and can run his system” the Owls will be successful.

We shall see.

When everyone on the outside says you stink and you don’t smell it, it’s probably you, not them.

When ESPN says you are back in the dreaded Bottom 10 (there are only 127 FBS teams, so do the math) and nobody in your league lost as much talent as you did, you tend to listen.

Not since Al Golden did CPR on the Temple program did I ever think we would return to those days.

We are here.

This brings us to another number.

Eighteen.

No one in my recent memory–with the possible exception of Montel Harris in 2012–has been expected to make as much of an impact as No. 18, quarterback Duece Mathis. The difference between then and now is that some publications had Harris as the preseason No. 1 player in the ACC (not AAC) before he transferred from Boston College to Temple.

The player Temple is counting on now had more interceptions than touchdown passes in his only duty as an FBS quarterback.

“Well, he’s a big-time SEC guy and Anthony Russo was not,” the contrarions say.

Remember the last big-time Big 12 quarterback Temple brought in, Re-al Mitchell? He was supposed to give Russo a run for his money and he did not look like a starting-level AAC quarterback, let alone a replacement for a top five Temple all-timer. Just because you are the No. 2 quarterback at Iowa State one year doesn’t mean you are going to light it up at Temple the next. My initial feelings after seeing Mitchell quarterback Temple was that we were fucked (excuse the language) without Russo.

That turned out to be true, at least in 2020.

Who’s to say the No. 3 quarterback at Georgia (after things shook out) is better than the No. 2 quarterback at Iowa State?

Now maybe Mathis proves to be a lot better than Mitchell.

He better, but that’s an unfair amount of pressure to put on one young guy and involves probably unrealistic expectations and that’s why the numbers don’t look good for Temple right now.

Whatever the dwindling number of Rod Carey apologists say.

Monday: The New Guy

Temple football: What could go right?

Temple went from having the most dynamic special teams in the country to terrible in Rod Carey’s two seasons

On the surface, Temple football looks like a dumpster fire right now.

The Fire Chief allowed his best firefighters to walk for other departments and the hiring process to find capable replacements is going slower than expected.

That’s the surface.

Is there anything underneath?

At least Rod Carey will have the best hoodie in the AAC

Well, put it this way. The entire Temple coaching staff was responsible for multiple championships in a FBS league and five wins–presumably with lesser talent–over Big 10 teams against only two losses.

Maybe they know something we don’t know.

For Temple to turn a 1-6 season into a 6-or-better-win season, maybe this is what they are thinking:

One, everyone remains healthy. The first units on offense and defense are fairly impressive yet there are big holes to fill on the offensive line and defensive line but normal attrition for injuries has to be factored into the equation. Look at what happened in the championship year of 2016, for example. When Austin Jones, who had kicked 17-straight successful field goals, went down, Aaron Boumerhi took over that job and did not miss a beat. Averee Robinson got injured at nose tackle and Freddy Booth-Lloyd went in and locked down the Navy fullback in a 34-10 AAC title win. Does Temple have that kind of depth? I don’t see it, but maybe they do.

Two, a renewed emphasis on the running game. With the RPO system, it seems the Owls could never get out of their own way on offense. Temple football has always been establishing the run first, then throwing off fakes to it. If by adding Iverson Clement and Ra’Von Bonner convinces them to establish the run first, then the Owls should be a much more explosive team. Put it this way: If EITHER Clement or Bonner get 1,000 yards and 20 or more touchdowns rushing, Temple wins at least six games. Does this staff have that kind of commitment to the run? Doubt it, but maybe that’s the thinking at the E-O right now.

Three, Duece Mathis in a system that he’s comfortable in, thrives. If Mathis plays like a SEC starter, and starts finding Jadan Blue and Randle Jones for explosive plays in the passing game, the Owls will be hard to stop. Anthony Russo’s best full regular season at Temple was 21 touchdown passes against just 11 interceptions. If, say, Mathis does 22 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions (in other words, just a little better than Russo), the Owls will be successful.

Four, an aggressive approach to special teams. For two years, Rod Carey has been more than content to view the fair catch as a positive special teams’ play. That’s got to end. If the Owls don’t return kicks, they should block them. It’s got to be one or the other. Giving up positive plays on one third of the team never helps but that’s not been this staff’s DNA dating back through their time at NIU.

That’s it. That’s the path to a winning season. Maybe that’s the thought process at the E-O. If it is, it would be a welcome change.

Monday: The Enemy of My Enemy

The Portal Pandora’s Box

Temple fans have seen the Georgia highlights, but this is what got Ohio State and Georgia’s attention.

The NCAA’s transfer portal always seemed to be a scheme cooked up by the Power 5 schools to further kneecap the Group of Five schools.

For Temple, at least, that’s what it turned out to be.

Owl fans are excited by the addition of Duece Mathis at quarterback but the reality is that they traded a guy with 44 regular-season touchdown passes and 31 interceptions in FBS real games for a guy who has more interceptions than touchdown passes in FBS real games. Interesting that Mathis originally committed to Michigan State, then flipped to Ohio State, then flipped to Georgia.

So in a roundabout way, Temple got Michigan State’s quarterback and Michigan State got Temple’s. One has lots of impressive FBS numbers. The other has impressive potential.

Temple’s major selling point for how long?

Potential, sure, but potential doesn’t win championships or bowl games.

Maybe being in a system that suits his style of play eventually makes Mathis one of the best three quarterbacks in Temple history in terms of numbers and winning percentage (like Anthony Russo was), but only time (three years) will tell.

There’s a flip side of the transfer portal and that’s the Pandora’s Box side of it. As Yahoo sports’ Pete Thamel points out in this excellent story, that side provides a cautionary tale for current players. Thamel quotes current South Florida head coach Jeff Scott saying that there could be as many as 1,000 players in this portal by this week alone who will not find scholarships at any school because those scholarships are almost gone.

The modern definition of Pandora’s Box is a process that generates many complicated problems as the result of unwise interference in something.

To me, that describes the transfer portal to an, err, Temple ‘][‘.

The NCAA had a good system going where players had to sit out a year before transferring to another school and it worked well for several decades. Then someone got the idea, hey, if coaches don’t have to sit out a year then players shouldn’t either.

How about coaches sitting out a year? (Yeah, I know schools could be sued for restraint of trade but, in a perfect world, coaches and players would have to sit out a year and fans of the schools could have some sense of continuity.) That would have allowed Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins to go out coaching bowl games for Temple.

This ended under Rod Carey in 2019

That would have been fairer to Temple and all the other G5 schools who lose their head coaches to the P5. Now the P5 has essentially stolen more from the G5 in creating a farm system to they can steal the best G5 players as well. It’s not fair. It’s not a perfect world and this is far from a perfect system.

While it’s still here, and I don’t think it will be for long, Temple should take advantage of it. The Owls have as many as seven scholarships for this class open and they should be able to get two of the best defensive tackles available and at least a couple of great linebackers. With 1,000 players left scrambling for the few scholarships left, Temple would seem to be in a good place to benefit, say, like Sonny Dykes did a couple of years ago when he brought in 15 Power 5 transfers as starters and went 10-2. Either way, this hurts the players who jump thinking getting a landing spot will be easy.

It won’t.

Maybe 1,000 or more players left holding the bag will cause college football to rethink this poorly conceived idea.

Friday: What players are under the Christmas tree?