This Was The Week That Was

 

Haason Reddick gives a shout out to Temple Football Forever at the 2:29 mark of this video. What kid would not want to be a part of this?

 

Back in the 1960s, a political satire program appeared on network television for a couple of years called “That Was The Week That Was.” It was hosted by a guy named David Frost and gave an actor named Alan Alda his first national exposure.

For first-year Temple coach Geoff Collins, that week was this week and it might have been his best week ever as a  football coach anywhere, head or assistant. For a guy who ran the recruiting at Georgia Tech and Alabama, that’s saying a lot. Any Temple fan skeptical of Collins’ long-term commitment to the Owls (raising hand here), can now be disabused of the notion of a quick exit. This week of recruiting proves that he at least plans to be here for a long time better than any words that might come out of his mouth. As a start, this is the kind of class you build if you want to beat Power 5 schools three years down the road. At the very worst, he is building a house of brick, not straw.

commits

The Owls got 13 commits and before anyone rains on their parade and says wait until February to see if those commits are still around, remember that most people are men of their word. It’s the exception, not the rule, when a player de-commits from his original commitment.

There are a couple of reasons for that and one of them has to do with first impressions being important. A player often gets a “gut” feeling for a school and that feeling in the gut seldom goes away. The first love usually is the strongest one. The second reason is that the school that showed the initial love gets the benefit of the doubt.

Temple is a hot school right now and not only from a football perspective. All studies have indicated that incoming college students want an urban experience, not a rural one, and football players are no different. For the past four years, Temple has broken records for applications. These students could have gone anywhere. They chose Temple as the place they want to be. Philadelphia is a big plus as well, after recently getting the only “World Class City” designation of a city in the United States and being named the second-best travel destination for vacations. When you go to a school, you go for the full four-year experience, not just the football side.

experience

Plenty of fan spirit around Temple football these days.

Nobody is vacationing in, say, Piscataway or State College.

Speaking of Piscataway, it was rather amusing to watch the reaction to the announcement of St. Augustine Prep running back Kyle Dobbins. A thread was started on the Rutgers’ football site noting that Dobbins would make his announcement at 8 p.m. on Monday. One of the first posts was asking him to please pick Rutgers. Another post followed with a “praying hands” icon. When Dobbins finally picked Temple, the tone changed. In a matter of three hours, the kid went from “please, please, pick us” to “he sucks and Ash probably didn’t want him anyway.” Only one RU poster called out his fellow ones for the hypocrisy. Par for the course over there.

madchuck

All the things that make Philadelphia a vibrant destination city for tourists make it an incredibly exciting destination for potential students.

Collins, a skilled recruiter with an impressive pedigree, is mining those assets and, so far, he is coming up with Gold. You can bet that he will be digging for larger chunks in the months ahead.

Monday: A Closer Look At The Commits

Cracker Jack Surprises

crackerjack

As a kid, one of the most popular snack food items was Cracker Jack.

It was OK tasting, but the real appeal was the prizes in the box.

You never knew what was going to be in the box, but it was usually something interesting like a bird whistle, a dancing skeleton or magic kit. Nothing elaborate, but something to pass the time.

Going into Costco the other day and seeing those boxes of Cracker Jack got me to thinking that this 2017 season will be like that snack. You know it’s going to be good, but you also know there will be a surprise or two along the way.

Hopefully, like the box, it will be an interesting one.

The assumption on the outside is that Temple will take a step back and probably cede the title to USF this season. I subscribe to the step back theory, not the ceding title one.

This year, Temple will not have to win 10 games to win the title; I think it could still win it winning as few as eight games and I think that’s a reasonable goal.

Another assumption from a personnel standpoint is that the loss of P.J. Walker will mean Temple takes a big hit at that position and that his successor will be a game manager, rather than a star.

That’s where the Cracker Jack surprise comes into play.

We don’t know if Geoff Collins is a great gameday coach or just another great assistant who rose to his highest level of competence. If he beats Notre Dame and pummels the crap out of Villanova, we will know our answer in the first two weeks. Same if he loses to both. Not so much with a split, though. Going 2-0 with a Mayhem defense that causes turnovers and puts quarterbacks on their asses with regularity would be the ticket.

I think the most interesting prize in the box could be the QB position, where any one of three quarterbacks–Anthony Russo, Frank Nutile or Logan Marchi–emerge.

Marchi has been referred to as a “Poor Man’s Johnny Manziel” without the off-the-field baggage. If he beats out the other two and wins the job, and has anywhere close to the rookie season Manziel had at Texas A&M, the Owls will be a national story. Same, too, for Russo, who is the most highly recruited Temple quarterback since Ron Dickerson grabbed Parade First-Team All-American Kevin Harvey out of Paulsboro. Harvey became a pretty good defensive back but never the QB many predicted he would become. If the Owls succeed with Russo at the helm, that could open a pipeline to local talent for years.

Plenty of surprises ahead in this box because we do not know what is inside. I can’t wait to unwrap it on 9/2/17.

Monday: Birthday Wishes

Wednesday: Krafting a Better Schedule

Sustainability

Pedersen

If Geoff Collins commits to Temple like Chris Pedersen did to BSU, that would stabilize things.

One of the side benefits of this Labor of Love called Temple Football Forever is reading some of the comments.

Generally speaking, the comments are a little more insightful here than they are on Philly.com or OwlsDaily or Owlscoop.
Maybe I’m just biased, but that’s the way I feel. I think part of the reason for this is that we discuss issues here related to the viability and sustainability of the program and do not generally delve into puff pieces on the players. The reason for that is simply that this site is dedicated to the long-term fans of the program. Players come and go, parents come and go and coaches come and go, but the fans are here forever. This site is for the fans of the program for the past 20 years or longer and hopefully for the fans of the team for the next 20 years. That’s why the future is such an important topic here.
Hence, Temple Football Forever.
A couple of recent ones knocked my socks off and pretty much explained where we are as a program and why we are there.
kjone

To me, there’s a fourth option here and that is to go the Boise State route and find an outstanding coach willing to put eight years in the program like Chris Pedersen was with BSU.  For awhile, Boise State had its pick between the old Big East and the Big 12. It picked the old Big East, but when the Big East became the AAC it opted out. For Temple to truly become the “Boise State of the East” it’s important that Temple become that wanted commodity. Is it realistic? Boise State is not the university Temple is in any non-football respect, so if the Broncos could do it there is no reason Temple cannot. For me, the way to do it is better vetting of future Temple coaches. I cannot believe that the subject of the coaching revolving door did not come up in the Geoff Collins’ vetting process, but apparently it did not. For that, shame on Pat Kraft and Dick Englert. It would be terrific if Collins himself says he wants to break the recent run of coaches who have left the kids holding the bag and stay here for a long time but I don’t see that happening, either. The closest thing he has come to saying that is that he “tells the kids we love them” every day. If you love them, tell them you will never leave them and keep the promise.

These kids have been burned by Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule. It would nice for them to not be shuffled from foster parent to foster parent every few years.

KJ is right, though, the current path is not sustainable because inevitably Temple is going to swing and miss on hiring a head coach and that is going to lead to three-win seasons. Even the best ADs don’t hit homers with head coaching hires all the time. Once you’ve teased the fans with success, they don’t want to slide back.

The other great comment was from JoninOhio here:

jontwo

Jon’s points are terrific, too. Temple always seems to be on the precipice of building a great fan base, but a loss to Army before 35,000 Temple fans last year was a blow from a fan standpoint the team never recovered. That happens every season Temple suffers a disappointing upset loss. Two steps forward, one step back.

This year that can all change. A win over Notre Dame would open some eyes and be a huge step forward toward sustainability.  Remove that revolving door in the coach’s office at the E-O on top of that and away we go.

Friday: A Cracker Jack Surprise

Sweet Home Recruiting

alabama

There’s three seasons of Temple football, the fall, the spring and recruiting.

Temple did well in one, not so well in another and the jury is out on the third.

Of course, the most important season is the fall but without the other two there can be no tangible success. The jury is always out on the spring, because that’s always the good guys versus the good guys. For the elation of every great touchdown class in the spring, there’s the nagging thought that maybe the secondary is not as good as advertised. That happens every year.

Now we’re in recruiting season.

So maybe that’s why it was heartening to hear that Geoff Collins sent some of his staff down to Alabama for a recruiting seminar.

A lot of people among us felt that the Owls should have had a better recruiting season off an AAC championship, even with a new coaching staff. There was enough evidence to support that theory as Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule all had significantly higher-rated recruiting classes in their transition years than Collins did in his.

There was definitely the term “mailing it in” used on the recruiting effort of this staff and it’s hard to defend against it. It certainly seemed like that from my perspective, considering a new coaching staff without a lot of local ties would “settle” for not building a long-term foundation and instead look to live off Rhule’s recruits and move on to the next job.

It’s hard to scrub that image from the minds of a lot of Temple fans, including me. A top-rated AAC class in 2018 would erase that perception but we are not off to a good start.

aacrecruits

That’s why they have to get their act in gear for the season that takes place most of the summer.

Maybe going down to Alabama to listen to what Nick Saban has to say will help, but probably some good old-fashioned hustle and shoe-leather might do more good.

“I’d like to welcome our group from Temple,” we can only imagine hearing Saban say. “The best advice I have to improve your recruiting is to get in the SEC, play all of your games on Saturday and pack the house.”

Golden did it by coming to Temple with built-in relationships with high schools within the recruiting focus area and Rhule did it by enhancing those relationships. Maybe after listening to Saban, picking up the phone and calling Al or Matt might be worth the dime.

Friday: Fizzy’s Corner Returns

Monday: Sustainability

Timing Is Everything

logos

Any Temple football fan since the days of the MAC knows that planning ahead can be a tricky thing.

You set aside the day for the home games and hope you can get to at least some of the nearby games.

You very rarely know more than a few weeks, sometimes a few days, what the exact kickoff times will be.

Such is life in the television-dominated world of college football these days.

Something different happened this season, though.

Temple fans now know the kickoff times and the days for many of the games and that can be a good thing.

Of course, the most important game time is the one on Sept. 2 at Notre Dame, perhaps the highest-profile remaining game on the TU sked until 2024. That game will start at 3:30 on NBC and probably be on in every bar and tavern in the country.

Three-thirty is perhaps the best time for a home Temple game and the Owls lucked out by hosting Villanova on 3:30 on Sept. 9. That game will not be on over-the-air television in Philadelphia, which is probably a good thing because that means there will be more fannies in the seats than usual. If the Owls don’t get at least 35,000 for this one it will be a major disappointment considering they drew 34,000 for the home opener against Army last year.

On Sept. 15, the Owls host UMass on ESPNU at 7 p.m. The less said about that game the better.

On September 21, the Owls travel to hot Tampa for a 7:30 (or 8) ESPN game. Probably best for them that game is not being played in the daytime.

Another time etched in zone is the revenge match against Army, high noon, on Oct. 21. That game will be on CBS Sports Network. Owls also host Navy in another revenge match (for them) on Nov. 2 on ESPN. That is either a 7:30 or 8 p.m. start.

The final known starting time is the Nov. 10 game at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., on ESPN2.

Still unknown are the times of games against Houston, East Carolina, UConn, UCF and Tulsa but winning the AAC championship certainly seems to have put the Owls in a position where a lot of their game times are already known.

You could not say the same thing this time last year.

The Lineup

Sept 2 @Notre Dame 3:30 NBC
Sept 9 Villanova 3:30 ESPN3
Sept 15 Umass 7:00 ESPNU
Sept 21 @USF 7:30/8 ESPN
Oct 21 @Army 12:00 CBSSN
Nov 2 Navy 7:30/8 ESPN
Nov 10 @Cincinnati 7:00 ESPN2
Houston @East Carolina Uconn UCF @ Tulsa TBD

Wednesday: Sweet Home Recruiting

Power 5 Misconceptions

The 2013 Temple signing class

A few years ago, a famous ex-Temple basketball player—who shall remain nameless—went on a sustained rant when he learned that the Owls were leaving the MAC for football and joining the then Big East.

“This is the worst idea ever,” he said. “We’re never going to win in the Big East. We’re going to be going back to 3-9 seasons. It’s just dumb. I like this winning thing. Let’s stay in the MAC where we can win. We haven’t even won a MAC title. Let’s do that first.”

I tried to explain to him then, as I do to others now, that when the Power 6 train (the old Big East was part of that cartel) pulls up to the station and asks you to board, you don’t say want to go back to 10th and Berks at midnight and look for the watch you might have dropped on the ground. You get on board. There might not be another train coming.

Just when you thought the Owls winning the AAC—the successor to the Big East football conference—drove a stake through that faulty logic, it reared its ugly head on the Temple fan facebook page the other day when someone said “we’re not ready” for the Power 5 and that a move to the Power 5 would mean a return to three-win seasons.

De Ja Bleeping Vu.

 

Oy vay.

Let’s deal with the first misconception, the so-called “fact” that  Temple is “not ready” or would “return to three-win seasons” in the Power 5.

Temple already has beaten Power 5 teams in Penn State (27-10) two seasons and Vanderbilt (37-7) three seasons ago. In 2011, the Owls beat a Maryland team (38-7), which was a week removed from a 32-24 win over Miami (Fla.), another Power Five team. They went toe-to-toe with the then No. 9 team in the country, Notre Dame, on national television in 2015 and lost pretty much on the final play of the game.

This is not your father or grandfather’s Temple football program.

It might not hit the ground running in the Power 5, but it certainly would not crawl and probably jog right into the middle of the pack if not better.

A year ago, only 120 yards in penalties kept one Group of Five champion, Temple, from beating a Power 5 champion, Penn State, on the road. Most of those penalties were of the kind that could have been avoided had the Owls paid more attention to detail in the week or so preceding the Penn State game. No one knows if Geoff Collins is going to be a more detail-oriented coach that Matt Rhule was, but you have got to hope that one of his Temple teams is not going to get 120 yards in penalties in such an important game again.

The whole conversation could be moot since there is no invitation on the horizon but should something come in the mail, every single Temple fan has to know that the answer is not subject to debate.

Friday: The Big Cheeses

5 Reasons Why Owls Could Repeat

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 03 AAC Championship - Navy v Temple

The AAC title would be a nice keepsake item for the Owls this season.

The Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is a very nice place, one that Temple football fans called home for the last two games of the 2016 season.

One of them, a father of a recent player, mentioned to me that he would not mind if the thing could be placed on a forklift and plopped right onto the site that for years was Geasey Field. Not a bad idea, I said, if it could find into that spot.

As I walked out of that stadium in late December, I remember thinking another thing.

I liked that stadium a whole lot better the first week of the month than the last. It looked like the Taj Mahal on the first Saturday of the month and, after a 34-26 loss to Wake Forest, like Northeast High.

Playing and winning a meaningful game made it a whole lot better-looking.

Temple has been in the AAC championship game the last two years, losing the first, winning the second.

Few expect the Owls to return for a third-straight time, maybe even host it,  but I don’t think it’s impossible.

Here’s 5 reasons why the Owls could repeat:

sharga

Don’t Mess With a Good Thing

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude mentioned that the Owls would keep their identity as a run-first, pass second team, then talked the out the other side of his mouth in the same sentence, saying the Owls could go to multiple receiver formations as well. The Owls have the best blocking fullback in the country, Nick Sharga, for one more year. If they are going to go to multiple wide receivers, do it in 2018, not 2017. At his Baylor press conference, Matt Rhule said the Owls ran the ball simply because “we had a NFL fullback.” They still do.

maniac

Mayhem Takes Over

The T-Shirts the university sells isn’t just an empty slogan: Mayhem Is Coming. That’s because everywhere Temple coach Geoff Collins has been he has structured a defense based on pressuring the quarterback into mistakes, like fumbles and interceptions. In players like Sharif Finch and Jacob Martin (defensive ends) and tackles Michael Dogbe and Karamo Dioubate, they have guys who can get to the quarterback and strip the ball from him before he’s able to get a pass out of his hands. At least that’s the plan.

russo

Quarterback Separation

Anthony Russo is the best quarterback prospect out of the three Philadelphia City high school leagues (Public, Catholic, Inter-Ac) since Matt Ryan played for Penn Charter. Russo’s stats playing better competition than Ryan dwarfed the current NFL MVP (Russo had 35 touchdown passes his senior year as opposed to 20 for Ryan). Yet Russo hasn’t been able to establish separation with fellow quarterback contenders Logan Marchi, Frank Nutile and Toddy Centeio. If he does in the next few months, watch out.  Really, all any of the quarterbacks needs to do is match P.J. Walker’s first year (20 touchdowns, 8 interceptions) because the running game with Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead could carry this offense.

Infusion of Confidence

A win over Notre Dame in the first game would inject an infusion of confidence into the players that could carry over into the rest of the season. Face it: They all seem to like Collins, but nothing would give Collins credibility to his players like beating ND on national TV. They could ride that Tidal Wave through the AAC. How sweet would it be for Temple to beat Notre Dame and then see the Irish go on a six- or -seven-game winning streak after that?

kraft

Game Day/Week Coaching

While Rhule, like Al Golden, were great program CEOs and very good recruiters, they had some brain farts on game day that caused Temple fans and ex-players to shake their heads. Such an example occurred against Army in the opener last year when the Owls played their base 4-3 against a triple option, instead of plugging the A Gaps and forcing Army’s quarterback to beat them in in the passing game. Another example was a poor week of preparation prior to Penn State led to 120 yards in Owl penalties in a 34-27 loss. Cracking the whip during practice the week before might have cut those penalties in half and meant the AAC champ winning at the Big 10 champ. Huge opportunity missed not only for Temple but for the G5. If Collins does a better job at studying opponent’s game film than Rhule did, he could steal one or two more wins than the so-called experts expect.

Those one or two extra wins could make all the difference in the world.

Wednesday: P5 Misconceptions