Mulligans and Aliens

americansked

Temple should have capitalized on having this to recruit a decent class this season.

A friend who is an amateur astronomer posted a photo of some far-off galaxy on Facebook and apologized for the quality of the photo due to atmospheric conditions.


A Virginia Tech model,
where you make a bowl
every year and reach
up and win a title
here and there, should
be a realistic
expectation for Temple
at the G5 level

My response was that someone from that galaxy probably posted a photo of the Milky Way with the same apology on, say, Cleon Facebook.

In other words, we’re not alone.

It’s a lesson Temple football fans would be wise to understand today, a couple of weeks after Signing Day. The prevalent feeling on the major Owl message board (Shawn Pastor’s OwlsDaily) is that we’re giving new head coach Geoff Collins a Mulligan on this class, but the next class better be good.

The lesson should have been don’t look back because the other beings in this football universe might be gaining on you.

That’s where the other guy comes in because new coach Charlie Strong did not need a Mulligan to haul in a significantly better class for USF and former Temple head coaches Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule did not need a Mulligan in their first transition classes. Despite working about a month, the classes that Golden, Addazio and Rhule brought in their first time were ranked significantly higher than Collins’ first class.

In between preparing for a medical procedure I should have done 10 years ago but had been putting off, I found a little bit of time to look at those classes.

The Charlie Strong class was easy to find. The other classes were much harder to quantify against this one. (You really only know four years from now but you can compare them against how they were ranked at the time.)  According to Scout.com, Strong’s USF transition class this season was ranked No. 95th with seven three stars. In roughly the same time frame to recruit, Collins had Temple was 127th with only three three-stars. In the same conference, both teams with a new head coach, a significant gap in results.

Strong did not have a championship trophy to carry around on a helicopter, either. It’s fair to compare the two classes. Because we have evidence to work with given roughly the same circumstances, Collins should have done better. You can talk all you want about how it is the “Temple Way” to recruit two stars and coach them up to four stars but if you get three stars, your mathematical chances of coaching them up to four- and five-stars improve. Temple should be OK next year, but the impact of this class won’t be felt until three or four years down the road and that is how a foundation is laid for sustainable success, not just one “up” season followed by a “down” season. At Temple, the goal should not be “up and down” seasons like so many other schools seem to have. A Virginia Tech model, where you make a bowl every year and reach up and win a title here and there, should be a realistic expectation for Temple at the G5 level.

An AAC trophy should have meant a better haul than the 2017 class Collins was able to bring to 10th and Diamond and long-term is where the impact will be felt. Without helicopters or AAC trophies, Temple coaches have done better with roughly a month to recruit.

transition

 

While it might have been tough to expect Collins to do a whole lot with this class, the evidence is there in black and white that he should have done better. In college football, getting to the top is tough but staying there is tougher so capitalizing on a championship season when you can with recruiting should have been prioritized.

There are a lot of football teams in this universe and, if you slip up one year, they could be passing you in two or three. There are no Mulligans when you are not alone.

Saturday: Fun With Graphics

The Schedule: You Never Know

amcosked

Getting Stony Brook on someone else’s schedule is a plus.

Watching some of the recent episodes of Saturday Night Live, I miss some of the old characters like the ones played by the late John Belushi and Gilda Radner. (It’s still pretty good and Melissa McCarthy hit a home run with her skit on Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, but most of the skits are dribblers to second base, pop ups or strike outs.)

That’s not what it was like in the old days when Radner and Belushi were hitting home runs and guys like Chevy Chase, Dan Akroyd and Billy Murray were routinely hitting doubles off the wall.

I thought about Gilda while thumbing down the recent release of the Temple 2017 schedule.

americansked

I would like another one of these bad boys, but it’s going to be tough.

One of her catch phrases was: “You never know.”

Look at the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2006 season. Before that year even started, fans on every talk radio show penciled in the team as losing three December games, at the Redskins, at the Giants and at the Cowboys in consecutive weeks and the doom and gloom got worse when Donovan McNabb was lost for the season with a broken leg before those three games. His backup, Jeff Garcia, came in and beat the Skins (21-19), Giants (36-22) and Cowboys (24-7) to win the NFC East.

You never know.

This time a year ago, many Temple fans (not me) were saying that the losses of players like Tyler Matakevich, Matt Ioannidis, Robby Anderson and Tavon Young meant Temple would take a step back from a 10-4 season of 2015.

templesked

I looked at a still-loaded roster and argued otherwise, that this was the “step forward” year and not the step back one. Since this year’s 10-4 included a championship, I was right.

You never know if I will be as right about this one but here it goes. I hope not to be as right about this season but I already knew about the teams Temple would play in 2017 and have always said this would be the “step back” year and not the step forward one.

It’s only a step, though. Owl fans can relax because we’re not falling into the mine shaft. Most Owl fans do not know how good Anthony Russo is. Having seen pretty much his entire high school career, I do and this how I will describe his upcoming Temple time: He won’t be as impressive as P.J. Walker was in his first season, but he will make you forget Walker in seasons two through four. (He’s not as elusive as Walker, but let’s not kid ourselves. P.J. was no Fran Tarkenton, Bobby Douglas or even Russell Wilson in the important skill of eluding pass rushers.)

So I stand by that prediction that it will be a slight step back, not a huge one.

I thought before Matt Rhule left that it would be a positive year for him to go 7-5 with a bowl win in 2017 and I think that is the measuring stick for new head coach Geoff Collins. If he goes 7-5, he’s just as good a coach as Rhule but I think there is a good chance he could go 8-4 or better. Listen, no one expects him to go 10-4 again and, if he does, Ed Foley is probably coaching Temple’s third-straight bowl loss.

The expectation here is eight wins and a bowl win and that’s in the “step-back” year because 2018 figures to be even better.

There is plenty of talent left on this team, even if you do not expect them to beat Notre Dame, Tulsa, Navy or South Florida. I’m not buying Houston. Wasn’t Temple the champion in the same league Houston could not win last  year? Didn’t Houston struggle on the road against teams like SMU, UConn and Navy in the last two years? Did not Temple win at all three of those places? I rest my case. Ryquell Armstead running behind the lead blocking of Nick Sharga with the explosive receivers Temple has is a good way to start. The defense should be outstanding once again. Any line that has Jacob Martin and Sharif Finch as the ends, and Karamo Dioubate, Michael Dogbe, Greg Webb and Freddy Booth-Lloyd in the middle with a secondary of Champ Chandler, Mike Jones, Delvon Randall and Artrel Foster will bring Mayhem.

The way Temple seasons have worked recently, though, is that they always have beaten someone you penciled them in for a loss before the season (i.e., Vanderbilt, 2014; Penn State 2015 and South Florida 2016) and always lost to someone you never expected them to lose to in the same season. Can we break that cycle this year?

I think so. Just hold serve.

If Collins holds serve, he will be our guy and probably hang around to coach the bowl win.

However, as Emily Latella would say: “You never know” but, gun to my head, I would pick eight over six or even seven and I will stand by that number.

(No posts Sunday or Tuesday due to minor surgery but God-willing will return Thursday)

Press Conference Translations

alexholley

Fool us once, shame on you.

Fool us twice, shame on me.

Fool us three times, and we never get fooled again.

That’s where the relationship now stands between many (not all) Temple fans and new head coach Geoff Collins and very little of it is the poor guy’s fault. In fact, it might be the way the fan base accepts the revolving aspect of every subsequent coach who walks through the Edberg-Olson door.

In various ways, Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule pledged fidelity to the Cherry and White only to exit stage left at the very first opportunity to jump to a Power 5 program. The last coach said it would take a perfect job for him to leave Temple and he left for a job that is far from perfect. Golden left for a school, Miami, that he knew was about to be hit with sanctions. Addazio left for a Boston College team that went winless in the two major sports (football and men’s basketball) in the ACC last year. That’s pretty hard to do.

Meanwhile, Temple wasn’t a bad job in comparison. The Owls won a pair of AAC East title and an overall title under Rhule, and beat a Big 10 school, an ACC school and a SEC school in prior five years.

What Coach Collins Really Said …. Translations
“It’s been a busy month-and-a-half since I last saw you guys.” “Between press conferences, my ex-buddy Matt Rhule stole two of my recruits.”
“It doesn’t matter what the outside people say about the number of stars we have. We play. We’re tough. We’re going to work. I think that’s a pretty special edge to have.” “I’m going to have to do what Matt did. Coach the two stars up to four stars. It’ll be a little different from Florida, where I could coach a four-star up to a five-star so we’ll see what happens.”
“We went into Florida, we went into Georgia and in the future, those are going to be targets for us but in this day and age, especially in the culture that’s in Philadelphia, we make sure we surround this area and supplement people from Florida and Georgia and other places.” “Matt got Harrison Hand and Rob Saulin to decommit from Temple to go to Baylor and I tried to get a couple of the kids I was recruiting for the Gators to do the same, but it didn’t work out.”
“The way the recruiting weekends have been set up, the staff has done an amazing job … they dove in and whatever needed to be done, they did it.” “I wish the basketball team would have had a packed house for one of those weekends so we had a little more juice in the building.”
“It’s nice to walk around this great town and get noticed. To get noticed in Philadelphia, it’s mind-blowing.” “I like South Philly macaroni.”

So excuse some Temple fans for looking for clues about how the new guy will handle the Elephant in the Room. There have been two tests of Collins so far and he has not passed them. In the press conference, he stumbled over a question from Zach Gelb about promising current recruits he would be here when they graduate by saying he tells them only to be concerned about the present.

Keeping all of the Rhule recruits and bringing in a good core group of three-star recruits who would be key contributors three years down the line would have been another sign that Collins was planning to stay for a while, but this class screams short-term solutions and not long-term ones. Plugging immediate holes, like cornerback, but not addressing long-term needs for accomplished linemen on both sides of the ball could be interpreted as the moves of a guy who plans to be here one or two years at most and bolt like Usain.

This is a dangerous development for at least a couple of reasons. One, at least Rhule followed the “Golden Rule” of Al that he was here to build a “foundation of brick, not of straw.” Even though we all knew Golden was looking to get out, he didn’t cut corners. He built the program by recruiting what he called a “full team” every year, 25 guys (11 offense, 11 defense, a couple of specialists) and then redshirting the guys who needed the year in the weight room. Addazio departed from that plan by burning redshirts and also recruiting for immediate needs (i.e, Montel Harris to replace Bernard Pierce).

The second, and probably more important, residue of this is that this forces Temple to keep hiring new head coaches every couple of years. If Collins is the “home run” Rhule says he is, the next guy after him might not be. No one can expect Pat Kraft to make a great hire every time. Charlie Theokas hired Jerry Berndt and Ron Dickerson and Dave O’Brien hired Bobby Wallace. The recent run of Golden-Daz-Rhule has been decent, but the percentages don’t look good if you look at the big picture.

Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit home runs every time he came to the plate. The next guy is just as likely to pop out as he is to slam one over the fence. One day Temple is going to have to find a way to remove that revolving door from the E-0 and make it a vault.

Or at least one of the good ones is going to decide his Acres of Diamonds is right here.

Friday: The Schedule

Keeping Up With the Joneses

In order to keep up with the Joneses in college football, new Temple football head coach Geoff Collins went out and got one.

One of the themes of Collins’ Signing Day press conference was an emphasis on the players that were already at Temple and filling in any holes that he might have come across in film study in the month after his introductory press conference.

With the signing of Mike Jones, the Owls filled a huge hole and his meshing with the team will be something to look at from now until Cherry and White Day, hopefully held at the new soccer complex. (No announcement yet, but the 2,000 additional seats there would make it a no-brainer.)

jonesstats

Mike Jones’ career stats

Maybe Collins killed  two holes with one new bird, because the Owls needed a starting cornerback opposite last year’s starter, Artrel Foster, and a game-breaking punt returner (for years ) and Jones seems to be the perfect guy to do both jobs.


While the class Collins
reeled in might have
been the weakest of
the post Bobby Wallace
Era, an argument can be
made that, in Jones,
the Owls might have signed
the single best talent
of any of their recent classes

While the class Collins reeled in might have been the weakest of the post Bobby Wallace Era, an argument can be made that, in Jones, the Owls might have signed the single best talent of any of their recent classes. (The only other player of his stature would have been Montel Harris, but that came at a time where the Owls were not expected to contend for anything. These Owls are.)

Also, what have the Owls lacked since Delano Green? A a guy who could flip the field on any given punt. The Owls went through one year where they gave up the punt as an offensive play when they used a possession receiver, John Christopher, to essentially fair catch the ball. He averaged a whopping 2.0 yards per return. Since then, they have been using starting DBs as punt returners for the last two seasons, so don’t expect Collins—whose philosophy is very similar to former head coach Matt Rhule–to ask Jones to back away from that challenge.

Jones also seems to be the most talented punt returner to come to Temple since Positive Man Green did the job in the Al Golden Era. On November 10, Jones returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown in a win over one-time Temple foe Delaware State. His return was the second-longest in NCCU history. That was not the only time Jones starred in a win over a former Temple foe, as, in 2013, he had two interceptions in a 40-13 win over Charlotte.

If you can flip the field with a dynamite punt returner, and Jones certainly is that, you give your team another great offensive play. On defense, he is a lock-down corner who ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay said: “Mike Jones stands out to me as the best” of a list of late round draft choices. That was for this draft, in Philadelphia, in the spring of 2017. As it turns out, Jones will be in Philadelphia in the spring of 2017, but the reason will be to play football in order to move a few spots up the draft board.

Jones is doing a very smart thing by coming to Philadelphia, not for the draft but to show his talents as early as nationally televised game at Notre Dame in September. If Jones picks off a pair and takes one to the house, he will get noticed on a stage much larger than he has ever acted before.

Making impact plays against Notre Dame before a NBC television audience could be a perfect way to start a memorable final season.

Wednesday: Translating Signing Day

The Curse of Russell Conwell

curse

Forget about the famous baseball curses cast on the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, which were only recently overcome.

There is one curse that is still alive in sports and that is the Curse of Russell Conwell.

Somewhere up there, Conwell has cast a curse on the last three coaches to leave his beloved Temple University and its football program.

russell

Al Golden left for Miami and was greeted with sanctions that made it impossible to win there. Steve Addazio has taken his three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust offense to Boston College and went winless in the ACC two years ago. The jury is still out on Addazio, but it is leaning toward a unanimous conviction. Matt Rhule left Temple no more than two months ago and could hit with sanctions that would make the ones Golden received looked like a slap on the wrist.

Whatever happens going forward, you could win a lot of money in Vegas betting against any of the three having a long winning career as a college football head coach.

These are the facts that we know to this date and it is not a pretty picture. New Temple head coach Geoff Collins would be wise to stare at this portrait and get some deep meaning out of it.

All three of those coaches could have had a job at Temple for life—or at least a very long rope with to work with—but all three thought the grass was greener on the other side of the Chodoff Field fence.  In fact, there has been no grass on the other side of that fence, only dust. The only value in the move was monetary and money will not last forever.

Conwell, in some type of afterlife, must be working some serious Voodoo pins with Golden, Daz and Rhule bobble heads.

About the time Conwell founded Temple University, he was the best-known lecturer in the United States, playing to sellout crowds who wanted to hear his story of the man who traveled the world in search of riches only to find “Acres of Diamonds” in his own backyard.

Most of the Temple coaches who found substance in Conwell’s story went on to finish with better careers at Temple than they would have leaving on their own for far-off places. Harry Litwack went to a pair of Final Fours. Skip Wilson won over 1,000 baseball games without the benefit of warm-weather recruits. Under Wilson, the Owls went to a pair of College World Series. John Chaney made five Elite Eights. Wayne Hardin went 80-52-2 and made the College Football Hall of Fame. All made Temple their final stop on the coaching highway.

Those, by any standards, are success stories. Leave Temple or attempt to use this great institution as a stepping stone and the story will not have a happy ending. Compare and contrast those success stories to the ones facing the last three Temple football coaches who left on their own.

Maybe when Collins comes to that inevitable fork in the road, he will take a good look at the map and head down the road less (recently) traveled.  Russell Conwell may be watching from above.

Monday: Looking Ahead to Spring Ball

Wednesday: Press Conference Translations

A Muted Celebration

Coach Collins helps Donald Hunt out with tape recorder placement.

Celebrations are supposed to big and loud things, like weddings, where you might hear the beat of the Electric Slide or the Funky Chicken.

Although work precluded my attendance, I cannot believe the “recruiting celebration” the Temple Owls held to commemorate the 2017 Signing Day Class was funky or electric. Muted would be the best word to describe it and, if there was a musical backdrop, and there was not, the song “Memories” by Barbra Streisand might have been more appropriate.


The good news about 2/1/17
is that the nuclear fallout
will not cause sickness for a
good three or four years
down the line. The bad news,
though, is to expect a lot
of vomiting and hair falling
out watching what could very
well be mediocre football
by then. Maybe Collins will
be around to see it;
maybe he won’t

While new head coach Geoff Collins was enthusiastic about the haul, the numbers suggested that this class did not meet up to recent Temple standards. Collins’ recruiting class was ranked 111th by 247.com, behind powerhouses Ohio and Tulane. In fact, it was the lowest ranking we could find among the Temple transition classes—in other words, the first classes of Al Golden, Steve Addazio, Matt Rhule–by a good bit.

While Collins’ real acumen as a recruiter will be determined next year, not  this one, this was not a good start because Golden, Addazio and Rhule came in under worse circumstances and came out with better classes. Golden, Addazio and Rhule did not have a championship trophy to waggle in front of recruits, only a promise that they would chase one. In addition to that, it is also fair to compare Collins to the other first-year AAC hires:

templerecruitingclass

So Collins deserves some criticism for this meager haul.

Rhule’s first partial recruiting class as head coach, leading into the 2013 season, was 247sports’ 80th-ranked class in the country. It came after a 4-7 season and coach Steve Addazio’s December departure for the same job at Boston College.

Last year, Temple made a splash on signing day by getting a commitment from Prep Charter defensive end Karamo Dioubate, who was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. Rivals rated Temple’s 2016 recruiting class No. 60 in the Football Bowl Subdivision while Scout.com and 247sports.com rated it No. 76 and No. 58, respectively.

So there a body of evidence that suggests Collins tripped and fell flat on his face on this race to Signing Day.

braswell

This year is the first time since 2013 Temple doesn’t have at least one prospect rated as a four-star recruit.

Some Temple people might say ratings do not mean much, but the top 25 classes usually mirror the top 25 teams in the final AP rankings so they must mean a lot. Rivals rated Temple’s 2017 outside of the Top 100, while Scout rated Temple No. 123 out of 129 FBS teams and 247 sports rated the Owls class No. 111. Three-star prospects Gary Brightwell (Arizona), Raheem Blackshear (Rutgers), Ja’Sir Taylor (Wake Forest), Marvin Beander (Norfolk State) and Rob Saulin (Baylor) all decommitted from Temple over the last month.

Losing recruits to Arizona and Wake Forest is no disgrace; losing one to Norfolk State and being pilfered of two commits by a self-proclaimed Temple fan for life is. I would have hated to see what Matt Rhule had done if he didn’t like Temple.

Collins should not have been expected to bring with him Florida recruits, like Rhule stole Temple recruits for Baylor, but he should have had at least the kind of coaching and player contacts that enabled him to flip a P5 or two Temple’s way. The good news about 2/1/17 is that the nuclear fallout will not cause sickness for a good three or four years down the line. The bad news, though, is to expect a lot of vomiting and hair falling out watching what could very well be mediocre football by then. Maybe Collins will be around to see it; maybe he won’t. You just do not throw away recruiting years if you want to keep the foundation of a program solid.

You can forgive some objective Temple fans for not being in a very celebratory mood yesterday. The ones who see this through Cherry and White colored glasses were on the dance floor. God bless their optimism and I sincerely hope He rewards it.

Saturday: The Curse of Russell Conwell

Recruiting Celebration: Expect Fun

celebration

If Temple’s only “flip” off a championship season is a FCS one, the “recruiting celebration”  at the Student Pavilion will be somewhat muted.

Broken down to its very essence, football is just a game.

Games are supposed to be fun, and, at Temple in recent years, they have been. Winning begets fun and a fun approach begets more winning. Because former head coach Matt Rhule did not toss grenades over his shoulder on the way out and made sure the foundation was solid, Temple is set up to win for at least four more years.


There is no fun going
to a Big 10 school
and getting your head
beat in 78-0 and 58-0
every weekend. If you’ve
got to do the work
required of a big-time
college football player,
there should be a reward
for that work and,
at Temple, the reward
 is in the winning

So if a recruit is smart—and he has to be to get into Temple—he will gravitate to the place where he can win and have fun. We will know the full class only when all the signatures on the dotted line are faxed to the football offices around the nation tomorrow morning. We do not know those names right now, but we do know one thing.

The 20-25 guys who sign on the dotted line for head coach Geoff Collins will be among the 20 or so luckiest young men in America.

Temple, the reigning champion of the American Athletic Conference, is one of those places. The AAC has wins over Penn State, Florida State, Oklahoma, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Mississippi and North Carolina State in the last two years, so it’s already established a solid reputation.

There is no fun going to a Big 10 school and getting your head beat in 78-0 and 58-0 every weekend. If you’ve got to do the work required of a big-time college football player, there should be a reward for that work and, at Temple, the reward is in the winning.

Temple is experiencing a football revival not seen since the 1970s when winning and being coached by Wayne Hardin went hand-in-hand.

“I played for Temple University. At the time, we were a pretty good football team. But we weren’t a “football powerhouse”—we didn’t play in the Big 10 or nothing like that—but football for me in college was a lot of fun, just like most guys. I enjoyed my college career, I had a lot of great teammates and we did do well. “

Those were the words of Joe Klecko, written in 1990 in the book “The Sack Exchange: The Definitive History of the 1980s New York Jets.”

At 5 p.m., in the indoor practice facility on Broad Street, Collins will welcome Temple fans and unveil the signing class. With everything associated with Temple football these days, it should be fun and informative.

We will hold off on the judging part until all of the signatures are on the dotted line.

Thursday: Judgment Day