Vesting The Temple QB

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There’s a spot right there in the pocket to put the starter’s name.

Now we know why Geoff Collins wears that ubiquitous vest all the time.

He needs to keep something important close to it. Somewhere in one of those pockets is the name of the starting quarterback for Temple against Notre Dame on September 2. One of these days, maybe this week, Collins will pull a name out of a pocket and tell the press.

Or not.

He doesn’t have to name one until maybe an hour before kickoff, but the guess here it will be sometime before that. One thing is certain: No one will ever be comparing Collins’ vest to Al Shrier’s briefcase. The legendary Owl has never disclosed that information and maybe won’t ever.

Collins has to tell NBC-TV who his starter at quarterback will be.

Depending upon whom you talk to, the Temple head coach  is down to two quarterbacks who are “above the line.”

(That’s the new Temple football nomenclature for depth chart, since the new regime doesn’t believe in them. Above the line refers to guys who will play in the actual games.)

A few of the alumni—who had full access—say it’s Frank Nutile and Todd Centeio.

One of the reporters I respect enormously, Shawn Pastor of OwlsDaily.com, say it’s Logan Marchi and Frank Nutile. Pastor and the rest of the media had only second-half access.

The guy whose opinion counts the most, Geoff Collins, isn’t mentioning names.

Yet.

He will by the end of the week, which is one week later than the ideal time offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude set a month or so ago. At that time, Patenaude said that “you would like to name your starter two weeks before the opener” and Saturday was two weeks.

More kicking the can down the road.

This can has been kicked so far down the road on Broad Street over the last seven months that it probably has reached the Naval Yard by now.  At first, we thought we might have a starter come out of spring camp. That did not happen for a number of reasons, chief among them that no one created the necessary separation to be The Guy.

No worries.

Patenaude has always said from the jump that this was never a case of not having someone who was good enough, but having four guys who are good enough to be a championship Top 25 (at least regular season, until Temple can figure out this bowl thing) starting quarterback. Even though he’s coming to Temple seeing only Coastal Carolina quarterbacks, I tend to believe that reasoning.

Collins, for his part, pretty much said the same thing in his post-Franklin Field scrimmage talk with reporters on Saturday. He also let something slip: “We have packages ready for Toddy.” To me, that means two things. Centeio will not be redshirted and “Toddy” will be second team. You usually don’t have “packages ready” for the first-team quarterback.

Unless that means Toddy is taking a job at UPS during his redshirt season and I don’t think he will get one judging from what Collins says.

That leaves the first-team “above the line” guy and we should find that out in a week. After seven months of watching that can kicked down the road, it should be nice to pick it up and take a look inside for a change.

Or it that crunched up tin can might have been in Collins’ vest pocket all along.

Wednesday: Our Game-By-Game Analysis

Friday: The Eye of The Needle

Monday: Game Week (Can You Believe It?)

 

Collins Rings In New Year

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They could have held this party in a phone booth 20 years ago.

As careers go, I’m so glad I got into the writing end of the media than the photographic one.

Exhibit A was the annual Season Ticket Holder Party at the Pavilion.

Pointing my cell phone as steady as I could at head coach Geoff Collins, I recorded this statement:

“People asked me tonight since I was from the SEC, that this was probably not as good as the SEC. Let me tell you this was better than anything in the SEC.”

I tried to download the video to post here only to get this message:

“Can’t attach file over 25 MB.”

It’s all Greek to me.

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My keepsake (I know, terrible photo)

Oh well. Taking the video seemed like a good idea at the time because Collins can hold the interest of a crowd maybe even better than his predecessor, Matt Rhule.

Collins, as always, seemed pretty sincere. Maybe they don’t have season-ticket-holder parties in the SEC but Temple’s season ticket-holder party went from a small-time deal in the Bobby Wallace days to filling every inch of an indoor football field with fans last night.

I finally got to meet the man last night and I was very impressed with him.

I told him how much I thought Nick Sharga needed to be involved in the offense this year, particularly with his blocking, and Collins agreed and one-upped me by saying that Nick not only blocks but gets in a healthy share of carries every practice. To me, you can talk about the quarterback all you want but if Sharga isn’t back there to be the last line of defense against a blitzing linebacker, the quarterback is probably going to end up on his back side. Before Sharga got here, that was pretty much the fate of P.J. Walker his first two years on the job. Rhule’s spread offense was a disaster because every time Walker went empty backfield, opposing coaches routinely blitzed one more player than the Owls could block and Walker had to run for his life.

Hopefully, Collins won’t make the same mistake by exposing an inexperienced quarterback to limited pocket protections.

We talked about coach Hardin and Collins said he was thrilled the coach made it to the Saturday practice before he passed, but I dared not ask him who the starting quarterback would be. Collins made clear before the first of two scrimmages that he would not decide who the quarterback would be until the second scrimmage and we’re just not there yet. I’m sure others asked the question, though.

I told him jokingly they could have held the season-ticket party in a phone booth in the 1980s and he laughed and said he was aware the program has come a long way. (Heck, he was the Albright College defensive coordinator in nearby Reading in the 1980s so he probably knew the Temple fan landscape in those days well.)

Speaking of ringing in the New Year, the season ticket holders were given a terrific keepsake in a quality championship ring.

I told Scott Walcoff, the associate AD, that whoever came up with that idea is a genius. Scott gave all the credit to his boss, Pat Kraft. Walcoff said that fans who still want the ring should keep an eye out because the university will make it available on a limited basis and it still might be available for those who purchase season tickets between now and the Villanova game. This is a quality item, far better than the kind of thing you might find in a cracker jack box. To borrow a phrase from Abraham Lincoln, “it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” The fans who have been through more thin than thick but remained true to the program are champions in my mind.

Believe me, it’s worth it, but don’t take the accompanying photo as proof.

Photography was never my strong suit.

Friday: Perception Versus Reality

QB Dilemma: Nutile Looks Like The Guy

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Zach Gelb at the EO interviewing Chris Coyer’s kid back in the day.

Make no mistake, Geoff Collins has a quarterback dilemma.

Not necessarily a quarterback PROBLEM, but certainly a dilemma.

A “problem” is picking between Chester Stewart and Vaughn Charlton. Both came to Temple with dubious credentials, with Charlton throwing for only nine TDs as a high school senior at Avon Grove. The Strath Haven assistant coach who called in track results to the Philadelphia Inquirer had this to say about him: “Mike, what is Temple thinking? That guy blows.”

A little harsh, but Charlton was never a high-end FBS quarterback. Or, in my humble opinion, a quarterback you could win a FBS championship with under center.

These four guys new coach Geoff Collins has to work with all had much better high school careers than Charlton or Stewart and these are four guys Temple can win a championship with now.

This group of guys is a significant upgrade from those days.

The press is allowed only to see the last 10-15 minutes of every practice, so the appearance of the Zach Gelb Radio Show on campus recently gave some clues about what will happen. Two hours of unfettered access on one day tells you a lot more than 10-15 minutes on every day.

Gelb, a Temple grad, got really the first unfettered press access but, despite his pleas of “it’s my birthday” Collins wasn’t going to give him the icing on the cake with a premature anointing of a starter.

Suffice it to say that a parade of guests—heard through the prism of what sounded like someone stepping on the transmission lines—indicated that the guy throwing to the ones (Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant) the most this summer camp was Frankie “Juice” Nutile.

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In other words, there is a scrimmage on Saturday at Franklin Field and Nutile (pronounced NEW TILE) would have to throw about three interceptions to cause the quarterback depth chart to shift.

Combine that with the fact that Collins himself let slip the quote “the team seems to move the ball best with him in there” and the unmistakable notion is that in the next week or so Nutile will be named the guy.

Is that reading too much into it?

Perhaps.

True freshman Toddy Centeio also has received high praise from his teammates, but he unmistakably is running with the third team and throwing against third-team DBs. He appears headed for a redshirt.

That leaves Anthony Russo and Logan Marchi and those two mostly with the “twos” (in other words, Jager Gardner is the back he hands off to most, while Nutile hands off to Ryquell Armstead).

Collins told Gelb a lot will depend on this weekend’s scrimmage at Franklin Field (closed to the public) and how they do against live bullets. He also told Gelb that this isn’t a “gut” decision and that he and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (pronounced Patton Nude) have set up a baseball-like metrics system that tells them which quarterback moves the team better. That’s comforting to know the decision won’t come down to pulling the name out of the hat.

Other gems from the interviews:

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Stadium: All talk, no action.

 

Pat Kraft (Temple AD):

Gelb, who asks the best questions of any of the Temple media (hell, Pravda could learn a lot from his questions), started out by asking Dr. Kraft what he knew about the stadium situation and Kraft said: “You know more about it than me.” Not an exaggeration, since Kraft has been taken out of the loop because, as he explained, a “subcommittee of the Board of Trustees is handling all of that now and that’s where it is.” So, in short, the stadium is all talk and no action.

Scott Walcoff (Temple associate AD): 

The intro at the stadium on the Jumbotron will be new and improved, but he could not spill the beans despite Gelb waving the birthday card. Also, people going to the Billy Joel concert the day Temple plays will get into the Temple game for $10 by simply showing their Piano Man ticket.

Delvon Randall (safety):

Said that no Temple player sits and “chills” during practice, like they did with Matt Rhule, but that the drills going on can look like a cluster. “You want to add another word after that, don’t you?” Gelb said. OK, we’ll say it: Cluster Fuck. That might not be a good thing for game-day preparation, but we shall see. All I want out of Temple practices this year is so much concentration on detail that we will never again see a 120-yard penalty day like we did at Penn State last  year. Matt Rhule screwed the pooch with his preparation the week of that game and it cost Temple a win over a P5 champ.

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Collins:

Said the best thing about being a Temple coach is “being around these kids. They are the best group of kids I’ve been around as a coach anywhere. They are competitive. They love to practice. They love to compete and they love to be coached” and that he doesn’t want to put the pressure of getting another 10-win season on them but “I want to take all of that on myself.”

Monday: Quarterback Casting

 

 

 

 

King Solomon’s Kicking Solution

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Austin Jones kicks arguably the most clutch FG of the last 10  years of TUFB.

Other than the quarterback dilemma, probably the toughest decision facing Geoff Collins in these weeks before the Notre Dame game is the kicking position.

Both Aaron Boumerhi and Austin Jones are, by all accounts, even this season.

One is a senior and one is a sophomore.

For the solution, Collins only needs to open the Bible and look for the story of King Solomon.  Two women claimed to be the mother of the same child and the King ordered the child be split in two so that the women could share him. One of the women objected, saying she’d rather see the child live with the other mother than be killed. Solomon saw that and declared her the real mother and awarded the child to her.

Collins should, in reality, split this baby this way: The senior, Jones, should get to kick this season and he should redshirt Boumerhi so he has him two years after that.

That’s the logical way to do it. All things being equal, the guy who put the blood sweat and tears into the program longer should be given the benefit of the doubt and Jones seems to be that guy. It was not Jones’ fault that he was the victim of a cheap shot at Memphis and probably should not lose his job because of it. Boumerhi is good, but I don’t see this as a Wally Pipp/Lou Gehrig-type situation where Pipp lost his job because of injury. Jones is not as bad as Pipp nor is Bourmerhi the Lou Gehrig of kickers.

Of course, if the reports are wrong out of camp and one is, err, kicking the crap out of the other than that guy should get the job and the other guy should be redshirted but, according to special teams’ coach Ed Foley, that’s not the case. Foley said that both are outstanding and both are doing well.

On the surface this is a tough decision.

King Solomon, though, would beg to differ.

Friday: The QB Dilemma

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:

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“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

Media Day Primer For Coach Collins

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Some questions need to be answered

There have been a lot of firsts for Geoff Collins in his short tenure as Temple football head coach and today marks another one.

His first Summer Camp Media Day.

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While he has had other significant days with the media before, like the day he was signed as head coach and a post-mortem on a rainy Cherry and White Day, this one in the most special because he has an intimate knowledge of the personnel available to him.

This one also has a little more urgency in the sense that it will be month or so until kickoff. While Collins has pretty much winged these things in the past, here’s a primer offered to the coach for free on how he should answer some of the questions posed:

Are You Any Closer to Naming The Starting Quarterback?

What GC will probably say: “We’re going to let the process play itself out over the next couple of weeks and then make a decision.”

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What GC SHOULD say: “I could pick Russo, I could pick Centeio, I could pick Frankie Juice or Logan. I’m waiting for one guy to create enough separation so he makes the decision for me. If not, we’re going to throw four names into a hat, throw the hat up into the air and the first slip of paper that hits the ground will be the guy who starts.”

What Are the Chances of Switching to a 5-2 Defense?

What GC will probably say: “We went to a 4-3 in the spring and we’re comfortable with that going forward.”

What GC SHOULD say: “When I took the job here, I said the No. 1 thing I’ve learned as a coach is to use a system tailored to the talent you have, not try to fit the talent into a system. What I learned in the spring is that we have eight great defensive linemen and a lot of inexperienced guys at linebacker. To get another great player on the field and create the kind of Mayhem I want in the bad guys’ offensive backfield, I think we will go to a 5-2.”

What Will  Mayhem Look Like?

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What GC will probably say: “You wait and see. You’ll be pleased.”

What GC SHOULD say: “A lot of sacks, a lot of fumbles and interceptions and maybe a pick in the flat by Sharif Finch. We want to do something with those interceptions and fumbles, like return them for touchdowns.”

 

Why Has Recruiting Gone So Well?

What GC will probably say: “I can’t talk about recruiting until Signing Day.”

What GC SHOULD say: “I learned a lot of tricks as recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech and Alabama. I’m applying them here, but can’t tell you what they are because some of our competitors might be listening.”

What Do You Tell Recruits Who Ask You If You’ll Be Around in Five Years?

What GC will probably say: “I tell them to not think about that, but to concentrate on the here and now.”

What GC SHOULD say: “I’m absolutely going to be around in five years, hopefully a lot more if they will have me. I read a great quote the other day on Temple Football Forever from coach Wayne Hardin that he made when he was head coach at Temple where he said he was happy to be here today and expected to be happy to be here tomorrow and that he had nothing to prove and no hills to climb and that winning was the most important thing to him. I feel the same way. These kids have had enough turmoil. They need a coach who is going to be around for a long time and I plan to be that guy. This fan base has enough with the revolving door of coaches here and I plan on ending that.”

Wednesday: Analyzing the Real Answers

 

 

 

 

5 Questions That Must Be Answered

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Can Taver and Dave do the job as coordinators? We should find out soon.

From the way things look at the Edberg-Olson Complex, summer football practice began a long time ago.

Still, new head coach Geoff Collins has set the “official” start of practice for Monday, which coincides with Media Day. There are still some unresolved questions left over from spring practice and among them are these:

  1. Can The Coordinators Do The Job?

This is a question that the fans will not know for sure until September, but one that Geoff Collins should know by now. Taver Johnson has never been given these kind of reins at the FBS level, where he has been a position coach exclusively. However, Temple fans can take some solace in the fact that they have the best DC in the SEC as their head coach. Collins will be able to find the right buttons to push should Johnson’s hands stray. Dave Patenaude is a proven FCS product, but sometimes that does not translate to this level. He will get more benefit of the doubt than Johnson, though, simply because he has produced points in bundles.

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  1. Will the OL be Temple TUFF?

A lot of things went wrong in a 34-26 loss to Wake Forest in the Military Bowl, but the most alarming thing might have been the way the Temple offensive line was pushed around. They did not get any help from a defensive coaching staff that missed eight practices to recruit for Baylor and put them in a 31-6 hole. That meant a lot of pass blocking and very little run-blocking and WF head coach Dave Clawson saw that flaw and exploited it. Still, they have to become a lot tougher by the Notre Dame game.

  1. What role will Jager Gardner play?

Everyone knows that Ryquell Armstead will be one of, if not THE, best backs in the AAC but the Owls have a Diamond in the rough in Gardner, who has a world of talent. Will he slide into the role that Jahad Thomas played or will that role fall to Tyliek Raynor? This is a position worth watching, especially if Nick Sharga is back there for his minimum 15 plays to block for those guys again.

  1. Who Will Emerge at Linebacker?

The Owls have an overabundance of good-to-great defensive linemen (really, two-deep at every position) and are set at the four secondary positions with some high-end talent. At linebacker, however, they have lost all three starters. One of the solutions for Collins and Johnson would be to switch from a 4-3 to a 5-2 to get another great player on the field and mitigate losses at linebacker. Another would be for three players to emerge as suitable replacements for Avery Williams, Steph Marshall and Jared Alwan. Since Jared Folks split time with Alwan at the end of the season, he’s the logical top choice. The other two spots are wide open. I vote for Sharga being the Owls’ 2017 version of Holy Cross’ Gordie Lockbaum, playing 15 plays on offense and 15 plays on defense. The best fullback in the country probably is also the best linebacker on the team and by a good bit.

  1. Who Will Be Under Center?

We all know the center will be Matt Hennessy, but under center is the top question of camp. The first two guys on the field to celebrate the AAC championship were Anthony Russo and Frank Nutile, but Todd Centeio and Logan Marchi have an equal shot. Centeio would really benefit from a redshirt year, as Collins would be wise to study what happened to the last true freshman Temple threw on the field at Notre Dame, kicker Jim Cooper, Jr. Coop was spooked by what happened when he missed two chip shot field goals and an extra point—after kicking great all summer—and Collins would not want to be responsible for ruining Centeio’s career by throwing him to the wolves that early.

Monday: Media Day Primer for Coach Collins

Wednesday: Analyzing Media Day Answers

Friday: Where Are They Now, Recruit Edition