QB Casting Call

The Temperors held the first of two closed scrimmages on Saturday as even the Temple fans are getting ready. This should be on the Jumbotron pregame for Villanova (our suggestion).

If hint-dropping is taken into account, Frank Nutile would be under center when the Owls travel to Notre Dame on 9/2/17.

Hint 1: Nutile has been taking MOST of the snaps with the first team during camp so far. When Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant are all on the field at the same time, it has been Nutile throwing the ball to them.

Hint 2: On Media Day, Collins said “the team seems to move the ball better with him in there” and “guys tend to gravitate to him when he’s in the room.” That was all on a question about how he got the nickname of Frankie Juice.

Of course, Collins could be throwing us all for a loop and saying these things to throw the speculation one way and then call a play that goes the other. He does not strike me as that kind of guy, though. He did have his first of two closed scrimmages on Saturday night and the word was that “all four” quarterbacks looked equally good.

What Collins does have is not unlike a director looking for a lead man. He has four distinct types.

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FRANK NUTILE_ Much more of a “Jim Plunkett” type than the other four quarterbacks. Not very mobile or flashy, but gets the throws where they need to be. Plunkett won a Heisman Trophy and two Super Bowls, so the strong silent type could be what Collins is looking for right now.

ANTHONY RUSSO_ Definitely more flashy than Nutile and called “the light who brightens up a room” by no less a quarterback authority than Trent Dilfer. Russo has been compared to the Atlanta Falcons’ Matty Ryan, because he is a similar “type” quarterback with functional mobility (the ability to get out of trouble in the pocket to make a throw downfield). Ryan, like Russo, is from one of the three Philadelphia City Leagues (Inter-AC, Catholic, Public) and Russo had the better high school stats against better competition. Getting Russo to stay home at Temple was, as Joe Biden might say, a big f’ing deal and Russo’s success with the Owls might have a Pied Piper effect. Temple tried to recruit two players from the Catholic and Inter-Ac Leagues before, one was Ryan and the other was Rich Gannon. Both became NFL MVPs. Russo had a more outstanding Philadelphia scholastic career than those two and his getting on the field sooner than later might to out to be a big benefit for the Owls.

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LOGAN MARCHI _ When a group of Temple fans first saw Marchi’s high school film, they pretty much agreed that they were watching Johnny Manziel. The then Texas A&M quarterback used to duck out of trouble, like Marchi did in those clips, and make something happen with his feet—like a big gain in the run game or an explosive play in the passing game, even if the pass was thrown off the back feet. Marchi threw a couple of those back-feet passes in the spring game and was intercepted. Maybe it was more of an aberration than the norm, but he’s had to catch up since.

TODD CENTEIO _ Reminds me particularly of the guy they are trying so hard to replace, Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Phillip “P.J.” Walker. Like Marchi, he has more than functional mobility in the sense that he can get out of the pocket and make a big gain in both the running and the passing game. Walker looked to run a lot in his first two seasons, but enjoyed more success when he became a pocket passer in his final two seasons. Now the Owls are desperately seeking a guy like him and may be forced to burn a redshirt to get another version of Walker.

The first scrimmage, or reading, is in the books. It may take a second casting call before all the characters in this movie are aligned.

Wednesday: Ringing In The New Year

Friday: Perception Versus Reality

 

 

Collins Brings The Juice to Media Day

Marc Narducci talks Sean Chandler in this Media Day report.

Sometimes the most revealing answers come from the most innocuous questions.

Someone asked Geoff Collins a Media Day query about how Frank Nutile got his nickname and Collins all but named him the starting quarterback for the Sept 2. Opener at Notre Dame.

After Collins went to great lengths to NOT name a starter, even mentioning that all four quarterbacks will get simultaneous snaps in practice Tuesday, his answer gave at least a clue in what direction he was headed:

juice

“The offense kind of moves and plays better with him out there,” Collins said of “Frankie Juice” Nutile. “If you are just standing in a room, Frankie Nutile is just standing in a room with this group of guys and that group of guys and he’s just a guy that people gravitate to and one day I was out there and said it (Frankie Juice) and I can’t stop saying it, obviously.”

Collins did not single out any of the other three quarterbacks for praise, in all fairness he was only asked about Nutile. OC Dave Patenaude will have a say in this all-important decision, Collins will be the guy who pulls the trigger and, on Media Day at least, he was thinking Nutile.

There are a couple of reasons why Nutile might be considered a “safe” pick over, say, the other three. One, Patenaude made the comment about Todd Centeio questioning whether he would perform before “72,000 people” on opening day. (Does Patenaude expect 8,000 no-shows in the 80,000-seat stadium?) Two, if Nutile has less-than-stellar performance, it’s easier to go to Anthony Russo or Logan Marchi for the Villanova game. Then there is a third option. Nutile can go 24-33 with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 35-21 win, but he showed no signs of that kind of performance in the Cherry and White game.

Other revealing Media Day answers:

Leon Johnson Taking Snaps on Defense

This is a little surprising in the sense that the Owls have plenty of high-end talent on the defensive line and they probably need Johnson to prop up an area of weakness in the offensive line.

Nick Sharga At Defensive End

Collins said that the holdover coaches said Sharga would “give Dion (Dawkins) fits” as a one-on-one scout team rusher at defensive end. I hope those same coaches told him about Sharga being the best linebacker on the field, Tyler Matakevich included, in a “real” game, a 34-12 win over a Memphis team that beat Ole Miss in 2015.

Shaun Bradley at Fullback

If the above clue about Nutile potentially starting was not enough, Collins offered that he made the switch of Shaun Bradley’s jersey number from 18 to 23 because Bradley, one of the team’s best linebackers, is also working at fullback and “he and Frankie Nutile have the same number and can’t be on the field at the same time.” If Bradley and Nutile were fourth-team fullback and quarterback, this would not be a big issue. If they are pushing for first-team time, it is.

Friday: Where Are They Now, Recruit Edition

Summer Practice: Picking Up That Can

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As a matter of comparison, what has happened at the quarterback position since the departure of P.J. Walker has been simply a case of kicking the can down the road.

More precisely, four cans.

This summer’s practice isn’t all about picking up the can with the best ingredients but it will be the most intriguing development.

Collins, correctly, postponed the decision on starter until the summer practice that begins in a couple of weeks.

It probably won’t be announced on the first or second week, but probably settled on by the third or fourth week. No one would be surprised if it was revealed a few days before the Sept. 2 game at Notre Dame. Game notes being what they are, and a national television audience being what it is, the crew of the game probably would want to do their homework on the Temple starter on something other than the morning of the game. So don’t expect a game day surprise.

As it sits now, I cannot tell you who will start.

Collins probably couldn’t either.

That’s because no one really has separated themselves from the other in the four weeks of spring practice. Will it happen in the summer? Possibly, but it’s also possible that the talent level will be so close other factors have to be considered.

In Toddy Centeio, the true freshman from Florida, the Owls have a high upside guy. Maybe the highest. Still, when was the last time a true freshman led a team to a P5 or a G5 title? That’s probably the best reason for a redshirt year that includes time leading the scout team, building up muscles in the weight room and loading the head with modern offensive concepts in the film room.

That leaves Anthony Russo, Logan Marchi and Frank Nutile.

In Russo, the Owls not only have their highest-ranked quarterback recruit since Ron Dickerson was able to convince Kevin Harvey to take his Parade All-American certificate to Temple, but one of the top three recruits of any school from one of the three big Philadelphia City Leagues. Russo has a better pedigree that even a couple of NFL MVPs, Rich Gannon (St. Joseph’s Prep, Delaware) and Matty Ryan (Penn Charter, Boston College). Both Gannon and Ryan had 20 touchdown passes in their final year of high school play; Russo had 35. Same level of competition.

The Owls could go to Nutile, a game manager type who was nowhere near as effective a high school quarterback as Russo.

The appeal of Marchi is that he has the mobility none of the other three have and he’s a year farther along than Russo. Given offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s stated fondness for a dual threat quarterback, Marchi might be the slight clubhouse leader at this point.

Collins and Patenaude will kick these cans down the interstate as long as they can, but somewhere between here and South Bend they will have to settle on one. Right now, they would prefer one of the guys to be so much better than the other three that the player, not the coach, decides.

That’s what summer practice is for but it’s also to make the tough coaching calls if a player doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

Friday: Class Warfare

Monday: House Money