Geoff Collins’ Shocking Admission

 

dunce

Go through the posts on this website and you will find several references of Temple’s offense being one where the coaches tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.

shargamilk

So you can excuse us for wondering just where Temple head football coach got this notion from when he uttered this quote at the inaugural Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl press conference.

“I think we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole on offense,” Collins said. “Once we got a good taste of who our personnel was on offense, it kind of took off.”

Collins could have saved a whole lot of time and heartache by reading what was posted here in September.

Maybe he did.

This is what we wrote in a post on Sept. 22, after a 43-7 loss to USF:

“Ask any Temple fan who followed the team over the last 40 years (I will raise my hand here) who the best set of receivers are in Temple history and that fan will probably say the current group of Ventell Bryant, Adonis Jennings, Keith Kirkwood and Isaiah Wright. Any offense that has those four guys on it is not rebuilding, it should be reloading.

Emphasis on “should be” because the coaching is the X-factor here. Temple won the past two seasons because it catered an offense to suit the talents of its players, and did not try to force fit a square peg (spread offense) into a round hole (play-action offense). A good head coach tailors a scheme to the talent he has, not the talent he wants.”

Better late than never, but putting the square pegs into the square holes and the round ones should have been something that was figured out by August, not by the end of October. The real sad thing is that Collins seemed to be onto it at the season ticket holder party when one season-ticket holder asked him to “never take Nick Sharga out of the game” and Collins responded by saying that he would not and, if anything, Sharga’s role as a lead-blocker in a play-action-oriented offense would be greater than it was a year ago. For reasons only Collins knows, he lied. Maybe he allowed offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude to have too much input.


At least Collins dictated a heavy dose of play action over the final six games of the year and that saved their season. That was the personnel they had all along.


“Temple won the past two
seasons because it catered
an offense to suit the
talents of its players,
and did not try to force
fit a square peg (spread offense)
into a round hole
(play-action offense)”
_ Temple Football Forever, Sept. 22, 2017

“I think we were trying to kind
of fit a square peg in a round
hole
on offense. Once we got
a really good taste of who
our personnel was,
it kind of took off.”
_ Geoff Collins, Dec. 6, 2017


The Owls took way too long to figure out that they never needed a “running” quarterback as much as they needed a guy with a big enough arm to get the ball to their most talented players on offense, their wide receivers. They figured out too late that many of the “drops” they suffered in September were the result of these same receivers circling back on poorly thrown balls. When they inserted the guy with the big arm, those receivers caught balls in stride and away they went, usually into the end zone.

Collins followed the outline of the advice, although we would have liked to seen more running from guys like Ryquell Armstead and David Hood behind a guy like Nick Sharga.

Maybe next year with those two behind a guy who goes by the nickname of Nitro, opening passing lanes for a guy who goes by the name Juice.

Let’s hope a second-year coach isn’t as slow on the uptake as the first-year one was. One of the fastest ways to fix a problem is to recognize it and, with that one quote, Collins showed there is hope for a better future plan.

Monday: The Padre Pio Factor

Wednesday: Bowl Preview

Friday: Bowl Analysis

Christmas: Season Analysis

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FIU-Temple: No Distractions This Time

gameday

For the third-straight year, Temple will enter its bowl game as a favorite.

When the Owls take the field in a week and a night at Tropicana Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN), they will be a touchdown favorite over a Florida International team that has two more wins than they do.

Last year, the Owls were 14.5 favorites over Wake Forest (and lost by eight) and two years ago they were 1.5 favorites over Toledo and lost, 32-17.

One name got in the way of the Owls hoisting a bowl trophy at the end of each season and he did not even play in either game.

Matt Rhule.

The first loss, which Rhule took blame for, came as a result of going easy on his team, the expense of giving them a “reward” for a 10-win season. After that game, Rhule said he would not pull back the reins if he had another bowl chance. That could be a long time coming given his 1-11 year at Baylor and the sanctions he faces there going forward.

The second loss, which he did not take blame for, resulted from Rhule’s decision to recruit for Baylor and take most of the guts of the Temple staff with him. While that staff was on the field for the 34-26 loss to Wake, their hearts and minds were in Waco. The defensive coaches alone missed eight practices and that had to contribute to Wake’s 31-7 halftime lead.

Now this is the first “distraction-free” bowl for the Owls if new coach Geoff Collins has learned from Rhule’s first bowl experience. Vegas, which is seldom wrong, has the Owls as a solid seven-point favorite this time and, all things being equal, it should be the Owls hoisting that trophy to end the season.

Are all things equal, though?

Kirk Herbstreit picked FIU and mentioned Butch Davis as a reason on ESPN’s Game Day on Saturday. He might have something there.

In Davis, the Panthers (8-4) have a master tactician who was good enough with a clipboard in his hands to win a national championship at Miami. Will he be able to fill in enough X’s and O’s to tic-tack-toe a first-year coach who many feel is still feeling his way?

The answer comes in eight days.

Friday: A Shocking Admission

Monday: The Padre Pio Factor

Wednesday: Bowl Preview

Friday: Bowl Analysis

Christmas: Season Analysis

 

FIU-Temple: A Test of The Hiring Method

butch

There is no written hiring test when evaluating future Temple football head coaches, post-Geoff Collins Era, only an outline of “types” in this current convoluted system, a copy of which should be emailed to every Group of 5 athletic director.

Even the person who sees things through Cherry and White glasses know Collins could not be long for Temple, hopefully for the right reasons, but at least a measure of stability could be achieved with a different hiring model going forward.

For the time being, as long as only the Power 5 can have the coaches they want, the G5 schools that include Temple will be left to pick among these three types:

THE HOT COORDINATOR–Collins himself falls into this category. This is the high-risk, high-reward method. Since the “hot coordinator” usually has never been a head coach, no one knows how he will react once he has a clipboard in his hands. Temple has tried this route with its last three head coaches and that has turned the coaching door at the E-O into a revolving one. Maybe it needs to re-evaluate that thinking in the future.

houston

THE PROVEN FBS HEAD COACH–FIU’s Butch Davis falls into that category.  Coming off 5-7 and 4-8 seasons, Davis’ first year as FIU coach is an impressive one. He turned 5-7 and 4-8 talent into eight-win talent. Compare that to Collins turning a solid core from a 10-win team into a six-win team, and you have evidence that this could be the way to go for Temple in the future. Davis did not have to learn how to be a head coach on the job; he already was a championship coach at Miami and knows how to push the right buttons. He has already seen what life is like chasing the big bucks in the NFL and college football and is more likely to stay and build something than the first type.

cignetti

THE FCS CHICKEN SALAD MAKER–This is a guy who does more with FCS talent than the current Temple coach does with Temple talent. There are a few of those guys out there who can turn “chicken shit into chicken salad.” For brevity purposes, we will mention two here: JMU’s Mike Houston and Elon’s Curt Cignetti. Last year, Houston led JMU to a 14-1 record and the national championship. At the Citadel, he led that team to a Southern Conference championship and, before that, led Lenoir-Rhyne to three first-place finishes. This guy has winner stamped on his farhead. This year, Houston has JMU ranked No. 1 in the nation and his team beat ECU and Villanova worse than Temple did. At Elon, Cignetti–a former Temple assistant–also had a more comfortable win over Villanova than Temple did. In his first year as head coach there, he turned what had been a 2-9 team in 2016 into an 8-4 team this year.

So one of the questions to be answered in a little over a week is if Temple hired the right type. Winning or losing that one game should give Pat Kraft a very large insight into if he made the right choice or not.

Wednesday: A Closer Look at FIU

Geoff Collins Unplugged

tuff

A couple of weeks ago, at hopefully what will later be determined to be the low point of a long and fruitful (well, maybe just fruitful) career as Temple football head coach, Geoff Collins sat down with The Inquirer’s Marc Narducci and gave mostly guarded answers about his first season.

We’ll call those the “plugged” answers—as in those stock answers you’d expect most head coaches to say.

Today, with the benefit of hindsight, we’ll add some answers Collins MIGHT say if he was being unguarded or, in another word, unplugged. Our words mind you, but the words we guess Collins might be thinking now.

What has been the most pleasant surprise and biggest disappointment to this point?

REAL ANSWER: “The pleasant surprise has been the players. How they work every day, how they have a great attitude every day, how they are physical and tough every day in practice. They are very coachable and want to be great. That has been the biggest pleasant surprise. After coaching in the SEC the last six years, you don’t always get that, but these kids want to be great, they want to be coached and they are fun to be around. The biggest disappointment is just some of the young mistakes we have made. Three of the games in particular (against Houston, UConn and Army) were one-score games and a lot of those were things that were one or two plays away and that happened because of young mistakes. That has been one of the things that has been tough to deal with. The nice thing is that once they get the experience and they get it corrected, you don’t see it repeated. So you haven’t seen a rash of the same mistakes. A lot of times it is a new experience and a new thing that goes wrong with young players and that happens. But just the resiliency and coachability has been fun to be around.”

shargamilk

COLLINS UNPLUGGED:  The pleasant surprise remains the same, but the biggest disappointment has been the fact that we tried to reinvent the wheel when they did just fine under their system the last two years. I told Mack Brown in the ESPN game prep for Cincinnati that we were going to go back to TEMPLE TUFF football—run the ball at the goal line behind the best fullback in the country—and you can see what happened. We got away from that in losses to UConn and Army. That’s Temple football and it’s got to be Temple football going forward: Run Rock and Hood behind Sharga (and Nitro next year), then have Frankie Juice make explosive downfield plays in the passing game by faking to those guys when the linebackers and the safeties cheat up to stop the run. It’s not the kind of ball Dave likes, but he’s going to have to get used to it. If I have to put my foot down, I will.

Depth has been an issue due to so many injuries, especially recently. Has that been eye-opening for you?

RA: “It has been tough and the thing I talked about to the team this morning (on Monday), one of the positions of strength both in leadership and depth and the ability to rotate guys through in our above- the-line system has been in our defensive line. We have played eight, nine and 10 and sometimes 11 defensive linemen. And there really hasn’t been a drop-off. The leadership from Jacob Martin, Jullian Taylor, Sharif Finch, has been outstanding and I would even include Greg Webb in that leadership piece. We are using that as a model for all the other positions moving forward. To build that kind of depth and that kind of leadership throughout the organization at every single position.”

performance

CU: Not playing Greg Webb—who started in the Navy championship game last year—against Notre Dame and Villanova was a big mistake. We probably would not have been gouged on those 17 running plays that gained like 8,000 yards had we had vets like Webb and FBL in there instead of the new guys. We’ve also got to get Karamo Dioubate started in the right direction and I’ve made a mental note to play him some more going forward. KD’s natural position is DE and shifting him over there will make him a Mayhem star next year.

The quarterback situation is probably something you didn’t envision and I would think you would have wanted to have had it settled well before the opening game instead of deciding the week of the opener at Notre Dame. How tough was that?

RA: “When you lose a kid who started so many games and thrown so many passes and had first-team reps for four years (the way Phillip Walker did), the transition trying to find that next guy, a first time as a head coach, has been challenging. The thing that makes it challenging is they have been good. It would be one story if they weren’t good, then it would be a different scenario. We have had some quarterbacks that have played really well and good enough that the separation has been tough throughout. Logan (Marchi) has played really well in some really good stretches. And I was proud of Frank (Nutile) who came in and played as well as he did last week in his first college start (with Marchi injured). It’s been a good issue to have that they are both good and competitive.”

CU: I’m kicking myself now but not going to Frankie Juice after Logan had that pass batted down against Villanova. That should have been an Epiphany moment for me but I kind of let Dave (Patenaude) talk me out of it because he had such a good relationship with Logan due to recruiting him for Coastal (Carolina). No doubt in my mind had Frankie played after Nova, his feet would have been wet enough to maybe beat Houston and definitely beat UConn and Army. From now on, we’re throwing out this metrics stuff at practice and playing the guy who plays best in real games and that’s Frankie Juice currently.

juice

You talked earlier that in your previous coaching experiences for the most part, you only had to watch the defensive side of the ball. Now you have had to be in charge of the entire team. As a first-year coach has this been overwhelming task for you, and how has it been adjusting to being a head coach for the first time?

RA: “It has been exciting. I think I have improved every single week. I have been self-critical at every stage. I think at first you have to be critical of yourself before you can be critical of others. At Notre Dame (a 49-16 loss), I was still in that fighter-pilot mindset that I have been in for the last six years as a coordinator in the SEC and learned very quickly, I couldn’t do that. You see me at practice and I am a wild man out there and provide the energy and drive and I have been doing that more and more each week, so those kinds of things have been good. I found myself earlier in the season staying on the defensive headsets most of the game. The defensive staff has done a great job with in-game adjustments, and I now when the defense is on the bench, I have been able to be on the offensive headset the whole time, put my two cents in, tell them when we are going to go for it, when we need to run it, and when we need to take a shot, so that has been exciting for me. So more and more throughout the season since the South Florida game (a 43-7 loss on Sept. 21) we have done an elite eight, which are eight plays I give to the offensive staff. The crazy formations we started doing, I know as a defensive guy those are difficult to prepare for, so I give them a formation and two to three plays.”

photo

CU: As a head coach, you’ve got to be aware of everything and, for the first few games, I wasn’t that tuned into things. Pat Kraft strongly suggested that Dave go to the booth after his sideline demeanor against USF and that’s turned into a positive for us, not just in PR, but in productivity.

These last four games whether you become bowl eligible or not become critical when you are talking about next year. How critical is it?

RA: “We are probably four plays away from having a completely different record. We are playing a lot of young players at a lot of key positions. We have a lot of guys who will be coming back after this season so I think the future is really, really bright, but out of respect for our old guys, we are going to do it the right way for these old guys to finish out strong the final four games.”

CU:  We’re not playing as many young players as I’ve been saying all year. We’re going to be losing a lot more guys from this year’s team for next year than we did last year’s championship team for this year. So I’ve got my work cut out for me next year in terms of getting JUCO offensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs–not mention  replacing impact ends like Martin and Finch. A lot of our fans feel like we’re playing a completely new team but we’re not. Matt (Rhule) left me with a lot of great championship-level players and we’re going to lose a lot of those guys after, hopefully, the bowl game.

Friday: Our Annual Tribute To The Seniors

Can We Now Finally Say The “S” Word?

Can we now finally say the “S” word when it comes to Temple football?

(No, we don’t mean the first letter in the last name of the hero of the Pravda crowd who was finally and justifiably kicked off the Temple Fan Facebook page today. Expect more to follow in future weeks if they follow that guy’s smug and sarcastic lead.)

For weeks we’ve been avoiding it because this coaching staff could not be trusted and was not following the simple but tried and true principles of winning at Temple that have been outlined in this space for the last five years: Run the ball, control the clock, play defense, great plays on special teams, explosive plays in the play-action passing game.

The “S” word we’re talking about here is Sweep.

juicemeister

Not having this kid starting from the jump a huge coaching error.

Yes, it’s just two games in the regular season and a game in the post-season but a sweep would turn this disaster of a Temple football season into another S word: Success.

Embracing the principles outlined here after year two made Matt Rhule a multi-millionaire and it seems, off a 35-24 win at Cincinnati on Friday night, Geoff Collins has moved a step closer to cashing in on his fortune.

There was more running the ball, more play-action, and more good plays on special teams in this one game than we have seen all season.

Let’s face it: Central Florida is going to win the AAC title whether it beats Temple or not next Saturday at noon. However, it will be another “S” word if the Owls become the lone team to hand the Knights a loss:

Sweet.

doggies

Went 3-0-1 as all these underdogs won comfortably and the BC game was a push. Now 10-1-1 on the season against the spread. Key is waiting until late in the season.

It could happen.

Florida teams do about as well in the cold as Temple teams have done in Florida in September and October historically.

The Cincinnati team that Temple dominated on Friday night lost in overtime to an SMU team that gave UCF a great game in the warm-weather state of Texas last week.

Forget the fact that the coaching staff failed Frank Nutile (and their own kids and fans) by not starting him from the jump, all that can be done now is think about the future.

The future with Frank and the staff embracing these tried and true Temple football winning principles can be describe with another “S” word:

Satisfying.

One week at a time and an 8-5 season is now not the longshot it appeared to be two weeks ago.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Wednesday: Geoff Collins Unplugged

Friday: Our Annual Tribute To The Seniors

Sunday: UCF Game Analysis

 

Owls: Be All You Can Be

greatsupport

Background shows great fan support for a then 3-5 Temple team.

A minority but certainly vocal opinion on social media this season from some Temple fans can simply be broken down into this one sentence:

“We’re not Alabama or LSU and we’re going to have seasons like this and we’re not going to go to a bowl every year.”

There are a couple of flaws in that logic.

One, few championship teams in the short history of the Group of Five returned as much talent as the 2017 Temple Owls. The best fullback in the country (who is seldom used this year) and the best running back on an AAC championship team (not used enough this season) and the best group of receivers in the history of Temple (only lately used) are among that group. Even more returned on the defensive side of the ball.

Two, “we’re” not playing the same schools Alabama or LSU are.

Why can’t “we” be the same type of program as Navy, which has been to 13 bowls in the last 14 years? Why can’t “we” be at least as good as Ohio (not Ohio State, mind you) and be bowl-eligible in the last eight years?

The answer is no reason at all.

When someone asks you what “Temple TUFF” means, show them this …

The jury is still out on Geoff Collins but, if he cleans up the mess of the first nine games over the final three, there will be hope for his future here. Ryquell Armstead had 151 yards against an Army team that shut out Air Force and getting him more involved would be a good place to start. Certainly, getting him involved to close out a 34-13 game is a must that this coaching staff demonstrated it does not understand on Thursday.

lostonly

Lost only on Southern Miss. Lock of the week (Wyoming) not only covered but won outright.

Navy, despite the loss to Temple last week, represents being the kind of program that produces the kinds results Owl fans should expect. Bowl every year, playing for a championship every few years. Consistently, Ken Niumatalolo gets the most out of his talent and there is no reason Temple fans cannot demand the same standard. Ohio is the same way under Frank Solich.

If the Owls cannot win at least two of three, this season will be deemed an abysmal failure ruined by a coaching staff not competent enough to leave well enough alone and take the principles that created back-to-back 10-win seasons and, err, run with them.  Instead, they are all over the place on their offensive philosophy. One week, Armstead gets 151 against Army and, the next, they refuse to use him to close out a 34-13 lead.

Defensively, the Owls were all they can be for the first three quarters against Navy, then lapsed into the bad habits that caused them to be 3-5 coming into that game. It’s hard  to believe that three defensive backs who looked so terrific under a different coaching staff a year ago have lost the ability to cover the pass under this coaching staff. To be all it can be, maybe this defensive coaching staff—specifically head coach Collins—needs to take a look at the pass defense concepts taught by Phil Snow and apply that fix over these next three games. Clearly, “Mayhem” has not allowed the Owls to defend the pass in the fourth quarter of the last two games.

If the Owls be all they can be, they can win the two of three required to make a bowl game with honor.

That’s all the fans ever wanted to begin with.

Thursday: Cincinnati Throwback

Blind Squirrel Acorn Night

On a night devoted to honoring the greatest Temple football coach in history, Wayne Hardin, the real find was the acorn the blind squirrel found.

The blind squirrel in this case was offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude and the acorn he found was quarterback Frank Nutile, who completed 22 of 30 passes for four touchdowns in a 34-26 win.

frankster

Frank Nutile on the day he signed with Temple four years ago.

 

After Nutile (pronounced NEW TILE), performed admirably in a loss at Army, Patenaude wasn’t ready to anoint Nutile as a starter even though just about every Temple fan felt Frank was a huge improvement over the guy,  Logan Marchi, who started the first seven games.

Now, no matter what Patenaude says in the coach’s conference room, there’s no way head coach Geoff Collins is going back to Marchi now. Patenaude’s past history with Marchi–he recruited him for Coastal Carolina when Marchi was at St. Paul’s (Conn.) High–might have clouded his thinking and cost Temple at least a couple of wins given Nutile’s performances.

At the very least, a Nutile who would have started the Notre Dame game might have developed the kind of confidence needed to beat UConn and Army later on in the season.

Hindsight is 20/20, but the Owls are already behind the eight ball now having to win two of their final three games against league opponents. Patenaude still does some crazy things, like leaving the best fullback in the country on the sidelines when the Owls could have used him to jump-start the running game with 24-6 and 34-13 leads, but this was his best game as OC and that’s not saying much.

It did not have to be this hard and the acorn they were looking for all season did not have to be found in the ninth game but, better late than never.

Sunday: Fizzy’s Corner

Tuesday: Be All You Can Be

Thursday: Cincy Throwback

Friday: Cincinnati Preview

Saturday: Game Analysis