Outside Perceptions

ndodds

Notre Dame fans seemed shocked by the line.

Every once in a while, it’s a useful exercise to step outside the box and view what other people are seeing.

Perspective is important. A year ago at this time we were incredulous that a lot of people had written Temple off, saying “Temple will take a step back.” We outlined five reasons why 2016 was the step forward year, not the step back one, and cautioned those know-it-all outsiders to not be surprised.

Winning 10 games, plus the AAC title, was that step forward. At the same time, we also wrote in this spot that 2017 would be the “step back” year, but we wrote step, not steps. To me, this team is an 8-9-win team, not a 6-win team, but only time will tell.

One outsider has completely gone off the rails, though, picking the Owls as the 111th-ranked team in the Orlando Sentinel preseason polls.

orlando

Not a very well-researched article. (Or even well-edited. In the first graph, she says the Owls are No. 111. In the second graph, it says “our ranking is 112.” Which is it?)

One-hundred-and-11th (or 12th) is not even six wins, but more like two or three. There was not a lot of thought process involved in that ranking.

Then there is this:

notredamepoll

Consider the above a baby step forward. “How many wins in a row will Notre Dame have IF it beats Temple?”

When this series was first announced seven years ago, the word IF would have been laughable but, after the inferior 2015 Owls (compared to the 2016 version) hung with the then No. 9-ranked Irish, it is best for ND fans to take this game more seriously than the 2016 Owls took their opener.  Last year’s Temple team beat Navy, 34-10. Navy beat last year’s Notre Dame team.

Plenty of variables for the 2017 Owls make this season harder to predict than the last two, but the defense should be as good or slightly better and the offense should be slightly worse. One is what kind of head coach Geoff Collins will be. You’ve got to assume he won’t be the stumbling bumbler Matt Rhule was his first two seasons. Also if  Anthony Russo can just duplicate the first season of P.J. Walker (20 touchdowns, eight interceptions), the Owls should be fine in that area, too. Having covered high school football in Philadelphia for much of the last 30 years, Russo is by far the best talent to come out of this city since Matt Ryan committed to Boston College.

At the end of the regular season the last two years, the Owls were ranked in the Top 25. One-hundred-and-eleven is just dumb, though. In the college football world of recruiting and redshirting, it is impossible to drop from the top 25 to the bottom 15 in just one season.

This team will compete for a third-straight spot in the AAC title game. Whether they can get there with eight wins, as opposed to nine, is a question too hard to answer right now.

Wednesday: Mr. Nice Guy

Friday: Spread This

Monday: 5 Reasons Why The Owls Will Contend 

Honesty Is The Best Policy

banner

With Temple football, the only thing “forever” is the fans, not the coaches or players.

When my mother was alive and I was in my more formative years, she used to repeat two phrases over and over to me which were not original, but at least profound.

“Honesty is the best policy.”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Temple first-year head coach Geoff Collins’ mom must have said the same thing when he was growing up because, in the six months or so he’s been on the job, he’s been both honest and nice. I haven’t heard him say a negative word about anyone and he’s seemed to avoid the proclamations of loyalty to Temple that got past coaches criticism for hypocrisy, let alone lack of honesty.

I guess Temple fans should be thankful for that much, but the questions about what impact this will have on recruiting have yet to be answered.

Maybe that’s what Collins was thinking back in December when he answered the best question of the introductory press conference this way:

“I’ll tell them I concentrate on the here and now.”

rhuledenial

In true Jeopardy fashion, we will now give you the  question was posed by Temple-made 920 The Jersey sports talk show host Zach Gelb.

“Can you honestly tell kids you are recruiting you will be here when they graduate?”

It has been part of the sidebar of this website to print what I determine to be the best quotes about the program on the sidebar and I have included two quotes from in the past from former Temple coaches.

One, was this one from Matt Rhule:

rhulelast

That was last year after Rhule signed his second five-year contract.

Another was from Al Golden on the day he was hired. “I’m going to build a house of brick, not straw.”

While Rhule didn’t keep his promise of a year ago, Golden pretty much kept his made over a decade ago. Golden built the program the right way, recruiting a highly-rated (compared to league foes) class every year and making sure the program sustained itself by redshirting a large group of players in order to build depth down the line.

He left after five years, owing Temple nothing, making no promises he would be here for the long haul.

Rhule left the program in good shape, too, yet a lot of fans wished he had been more honest.

If you want honest, you’ve got him in Collins. While it might be nice for recruiting purposes for Collins to say he wants to be “The Guy” who wants to stay and build something more substantial than Golden or Rhule did, honesty certainly is the best policy.

His Mom should be proud.

Monday: Outside Perceptions about the 2017 Owls

The True Legends

threelegends

Three TU legends: Sheldon Morris, Willard Cooper and Anthony Gordon (Bruce’s players).

In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Geoff Collins gives a well-deserved shout-out to a true Temple football legend, administrative assistant Nadia Harvin.

Nadia’s office has pre-dated the E-O and she goes way back to Bruce Arians, even though she must’ve made a deal with the devil (like Dorian Gray) because she doesn’t look a day over 26. She survived coaching changes through Jerry Berndt, Ron Dickerson, Bobby Wallace, Al Golden and Matt Rhule.

That’s saying something since new coaches like to bring in their own people.

 

Her hubby, Allen, was

conjar

Steve Conjar (left), Wayne Hardin’s greatest linebacker

a great running back for the University of Cincinnati but we will forgive him for that because he’s been Temple all (or most) of the way since.

(I pointed out to Allen on Cherry and White Day that Temple holds a significant lead in the all-time series against Cincinnati and he said, “Not when I was there.”  I will have to look that up but I will take him at his word.)

Still, Collins would do well to sit down with Nadia and discuss the term legends from what I’ve been hearing from Temple guys who played back in the day.

Collins throws the term “legends” around like Frisbees, including recent guys like P.J. Walker, Haason Reddick, Tyler Matakevich but, to me, the “true” Temple legends are the guys (and girls, like Nadia) who have withstood the test of time like Steve Conjar and Paul Palmer.

When Matt Rhule took the head coaching job at Temple, I shot off an email congratulating him for getting the job.

legends

More of coach Hardin’s guys, including Phil Prohaska and Mark Bresani (Cherry and White rear).

Matt immediately emailed back and asked for my phone number. What followed was a cordial 35-minute phone call, where he picked my brain for names of guys who played at Temple, specifically back when he played at Penn State. He wanted to welcome them back into the fold.

When I casually mentioned that former head coach Bruce Arians was still close to his players and that I had Bruce’s personal cell phone number, Matt asked me for it. Since one of the players was the guy who gave it to me, I told Matt that I had to ask his permission.

I did, player said yes, and Matt thanked the player and his teammates by saying that the program wanted to welcome them. Matt got the lowdown from Bruce, then Matt developed a tight relationship with coach Wayne Hardin where he got to know the players of that era.  Rhule went the extra mile, really few miles, to embrace those guys and make sure his players honored those who came before them.

There has been a slight difference, though, in the Collins’ approach and it definitely needs to be tweaked. While Collins did stop by at the Cherry and White tailgates of the older guys, I don’t get the vibe that he knows the older alums like he does the younger ones.

Neither do many of those guys.

While he knows all of the recent guys, he really has not reached out in the same way to some of the other guys.

“He acts,” one of them said to me, “like nothing happened at Temple football before Al Golden. This program did great things before Golden, like Heisman Trophy runnerups and finishing in the Top 20. With all due respect, none of the recent guys came close to that.”

That needs to change.

On a recent day devoted to high school coaches, Collins was introduced to a very special guy and was given his name.

“Coach, where do you coach?” Collins asked.

“Over at Haddon Heights in New Jersey,” the man said.

“It’s great seeing you. Thanks for coming.”

The man walked away, shaking his head.

That man, unbeknownst to Collins, was in my humble opinion the greatest player in Temple football history and a guy who should have won the 1986 Heisman Trophy.

His name was, and is, Paul Palmer. To me, that was a little like Nick Saban arriving at Alabama, meeting Joe Namath, and asking him which high school he coaches.

That introduction needs to be redone and guys like Conjar and Palmer deserve their place at the top of the Temple legend list and placed in front of a row of the more recent guys. These guys played at Temple through a lot of thick days remained loyal through a lot of thin ones afterward. For that, they deserve special thanks from the program, specifically its current CEO.

A phone call to Matt Rhule would set him on the proper path, as would a talk with Nadia.

Monday: Wandering Eye

Above The Line

Our Lad’s Guide Takes An Early Stab At the depth chart.

If nicknames are any indication, Frank Nutile is atop the quarterback depth chart.

His new coach, Geoff Collins, gave him a sweet one by affectionately calling him “Frankie Juice” and no one knows if that affection has extended from the practice field to the film study room at the E-O.

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Probably your starting tight end.

Anthony Russo, Logan Marchi or Todd Centeio—the others competing for the job—have been given no such catchy nicknames. Yet the film room is the most important place right now because ostensibly that’s the room where both Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude are going over spring film deciding who has the lead in this four-horse race.

We will not know if Nutile or Russo or Centeio or Marchi are atop the depth chart now because, apparently, Collins does not believe in them. When asked, Collins always answers that he believes in the concept of “Above The Line.” Meaning, he said, a certain number of players are “Above The Line” that marks, in Collins’ mind whether the player is able to go out on the field and help the team in a high capacity.

Say, as a starter or full-time player.

We will probably not know until Notre Dame week what the depth chart is because that’s when Collins will be forced to release one. Game notes always include depth charts and NBC Television is probably going to want one in order to talk about Temple will some semblance of knowledge on its national broadcast on Sept. 3.

Right now, the only Owls’ depth chart on the internet is one provided by Our Lad’s Guide, an outfit based in San Diego run by former Philadelphia Eagles’ radio producer Bill Werndl. Of course, it’s a guessing game based on factors like last year’s playing time but Werndl provides some educated guesses.

He has Logan “No Nickname” Marchi beating out Nutile for the top job and Ventell Bryant, Brodrick Yancy and Keith Kirkwood as the wide receivers. My guess is that Russo eventually wins the job, maybe not by the Notre Dame game, but probably for the bulk of the season. I don’t think Yancy beats out Isaiah Wright at slot receiver and it is somewhat surprising to see Adonis Jennings listed as second team. He has nobody listed as the first- or second-team tight ends. So we will go with Chris Myarick and Kenny Yeboah as first- and second-teamers there now.

The  offensive line starters appear to be logical.

There are more than a few clerical errors. Among them, Nick Sharga, listed as the starting fullback, is noted as a “redshirt junior” when, in reality, he is a redshirt senior. Marchi is a redshirt sophomore, not a redshirt freshman.

All of the players mentioned here are presumably “Above The Line” and that’s all we need to know for now.

Meanwhile, we’re accepting nickname suggestions for Russo, Centeio and Marchi.

Wednesday: Our Defensive Depth Chart

Friday: The True Temple Legends

 

Recruiting Season Could Provide Clues

quincy

Tom Pajic leaves the relative quiet of Quincy for 10th and Diamond.

If anything, the newest hire of Geoff Collins provides some needed insurance.

Tom Pajic (which looks like it might be pronounced paycheck but really is pronounced PAH-CHICK) gives the Owls one more guy who has head coaching experience and, the way these AAC coaches fall by the wayside every season, that’s a nice policy.


Of course, the hope here
is that Collins wins the
AAC and gets to coach in
the bowl game, which he
also wins, and decides
Temple is the long-term
place for him

Never mind that the head coaching came at Division II-level Quincy (Ill.) for the last five years, this is another guy who has some experience of what to do with the clipboard in his hands. Given what Ed Foley did and did not do at the Military Bowl, maybe Pajic gets the chance to be head coach in the next bowl game. Not that Pajic is Vince Lombardi, but he and Wayne Hardin do have something in common: They have both beaten Drake as head coaches. The Drake team that Hardin beat in 1979, 43-22, was no slouch, though, having beaten Colorado State that same season. Pajic went 20-34 at Quincy, which is about the same amount of success Foley had as a head coach at Fordham (7-15). Interestingly enough, the guy who preceded Pajic at Quincy also went 20-34 before ending his tenure there.

Who would I have rather hired for this spot? Hmm. Al Golden might have been a good choice, but he is way above Temple’s pay grade. A better choice would have been current Baylor DB coach Francis Brown, but Temple  probably couldn’t afford him, either. Collins is the Godfather to Brown’s son, so maybe he’s a guy to keep an eye on in the future for a spot here.

Of course, the hope here is that Collins wins the AAC and gets to coach in the bowl game, which he also wins, and decides Temple is the long-term place for him. Hope and history, though, rarely jive in a league where Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo is the longest-tenured head coach.

There is at least a little irony is the new position, Director of Player Personnel, for Pajic because how he and Collins do as a recruiting team will telegraph Collins’ long-term intentions toward Temple. If the Owls finish again in the 100s—they were ranked No. 127 in recruiting by Scout.com in this February’s class—it is a sign that Collins has one eye on the exit door at the E-O.

If, however, Collins and Pajic can pull in a respectable class—say, for sake of argument in the 50s, not 120s—then the Collins will be following the plan promised by Al Golden to build a house of brick, not straw. Say what you will about Golden, but he gave the uni a great five years and left the program in great shape in terms of players. Matt Rhule did pretty much the same. Golden, Rhule and even Steve Addazio had classes ranked in the 50s so that’s not an unattainable goal at Temple. One-hundred-and-27 is unacceptable off an AAC title, even given a month to recruit.

The Owls had three players drafted in the first five rounds of the NFL draft and that should mean something to top-notch recruits. Between now and the start of summer practice, Pajic and Collins are on the clock and Temple fans should be paying attention.

Monday: Above The Line

An Unfinished Line

At the seven-minute mark, coach Collins says “top 25 program.” Otherwise, great interview.

There is one thing Geoff Collins keeps saying that he probably should reconsider.

Every chance he gets, the new Temple football head coach says his team is a Top 25 program two years in a row.  In reality, it got close to the Top 25 and tripped before getting to the finish line. In all of the graphics put out by the Temple football twitter, the claim is that the program is a Top 25 program.

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Getting close doesn’t put you in the top 25, at least not yet. That’s a little like Philadelphia Park putting a sign up on the track proclaiming Smarty Jones was a Triple Crown winner despite being edged out in the final leg, the 2004 Belmont Stakes.

If the NFL draft proved anything, it was that Temple’s talent is probably seen by the professionals as superior to both the talent of Toledo and Wake Forest and the Owls did not make the most out of that talent on two very important nights and paid a pretty steep price for it.

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I think we all know what the reason was: Coaching. Matt Rhule treated the Boca bowl as a vacation and Toledo took care of business. Rhule skipped town before we knew how he would treat the Military Bowl. The legacy there is simply that the entire defensive coaching staff missed eight practices leading up to the game to recruit for Baylor and the results on the field were painfully apparent.

Now the baton has been passed to Collins, who must take it across the finish line.

Repeat as champions AND win the bowl game. Do that, and then rightfully claim to be a Top 25 program.

Not before.

Winning the AAC title is always the goal, but the legacy of Temple finishing in the Top 25 remains unfulfilled. If the Owls win the title again this year, and that’s a tall order indeed, finishing the season holding a trophy that could get them among the final elite should also be as important.

To me, finishing in sports is important and, while the Owls had an impressive finish to their regular season with a AAC title—hey, that’s a good thing to promote—they are not a Top 25 program yet.

Until you actually achieve something, it’s probably best off not claiming to have done it.

Friday: Capitalizing On The Draft

 

 

5 Takeaways From The Spring Game

A great moment for Temple football.

One of these days someone at the Philadelphia headquarters of Comcast is going to wise up about the Temple football spring game.

On Page 39 of Saturday’s Philadelphia Daily News, Notre Dame’s spring game was listed at 12:30 live on NBC Sports Network. Thumb down a little further at 3 p.m. and you can find the Penn State spring game live on BTN. Go down a little more and you can find the Rutgers’ spring game at 5 on the same network.


Matt Rhule stunted the
development of the program
in two ways, I think,
last year. One, was rather
obvious. Temple blew out
seven teams but P.J. Walker
played, for all practical
purposes, all of the downs.
Why, in God’s name, did Marchi
or Nutile not get significant
throws in those wins?

Yes, Rutgers, a football program that even sucks at cheating.

Meanwhile, at noon, when the Temple football spring game was kicking off the Philadelphia CSN channel was showing a Poker tournament.

Poker.

I guess the AAC will have to get their own network for the Temple spring game to ever be broadcast because Comcast figured Poker would have higher ratings in the nation’s fourth-largest market.

As the old Peter, Paul and Mary Song says, “When will they ever learn?”

Ironically, the best place to watch the Temple spring game on Saturday was on TV, roughly at 11th and Diamond. I tried going inside and standing on the back row of one of the stands. Between ducking under the umbrellas raised below me in an annoying persistent rain to see the plays, I gave up at halftime and watched on a big screen TV just outside Lot 10. (Greatness Doesn’t Quit beat Temple TUFF, 17-14.)

You could learn a lot watching that way and these were our five biggest takeaways:

centeio

Todd Centeio Is The Most Talented Quarterback In the Program

That doesn’t mean the true freshman should start, but it does give me a lot of confidence in the future. The kid has the “It” factor that I’m not sure all of the other three guys have, but he could certainly benefit from a redshirt year where he gets to spend a lot of time in two rooms—the weight room and the film room. I hope new head coach Geoff Collins doesn’t make the same mistake old coach Matt Rhule made with P.J.—burning the redshirt when Rhule had a perfectly good quarterback in Chris Coyer to hold down the fort. P.J. would have been starting at ND this fall in a more perfect world.

nutile

Frankie Juice is a Great Nickname

Frank Nutile (pronounced New Tile) had a nice game with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run, but I don’t think that separated him from either Logan Marchi or Anthony Russo. In fact, of the three, Russo’s 7-for-11 day was probably the best passing day and, if I were a betting man, I would put five bucks on Russo starting the Notre Dame game. All three players have a ways to go and that’s why I would not put 20 bucks on it. I wonder if Collins giving Nutile a sweet nickname (Frankie Juice) puts him ahead of everyone else in Collins’ eyes? We will find out by the first Saturday in September, but I would have liked to see one guy come away with a 25-for-32 day with 319 yards and three touchdowns.  That did not happen.

gardner

Jager Gardner is The Real Deal

Matt Rhule stunted the development of the program in two ways, I think, last year. One, was rather obvious. Temple blew out seven teams but P.J. Walker played, for all practical purposes, all of the downs. Why, in God’s name, did Marchi or Nutile not get significant throws in those wins? Probably for the same reason Gardner did not get a redshirt. Rhule knew he was outta here and used all of his available chips and overplayed the starters, thinking short-term, not long-term. Gardner getting only 27 carries all of last year was a complete joke and a wasted redshirt. Gardner will have a great year this year, as will Ryquell Armstead.

The Defense Will Be Great

Last year, “they” (pretty much the misinformed outside fans who don’t know anything about Temple football) said the Owls would take a step back due to losing three NFL draftees in Tyler Matakevich, Matt Ioannidis and Tavon Young. Those of us closer to the program knew better, said so beforehand, and were proven to be right. This year, the Temple defense, which has a single digit guy (Jacob Martin) starting at one DE and perhaps one of the best playmakers in Temple football history (Sharif Finch, five blocked punts, crucial interception against Christian Hackenberg) starting another, will be better if Taver Johnson can be the DC that Phil Snow was. The interior line is terrific (Michael Dogbe, Freddy Booth-Lloyd, Greg Webb and Karamo Dioubate) and will cause a lot of Mayhem this season. Cornerback Mike Jones went from being called the “late-round steal of the 2017 NFL draft” by Mike Mayock to Temple starter. Good move by Jones, who had an interception and a fumble recovery, and could move up to the third round or better in the 2018 NFL draft with a great year at Temple.

parents

Somebody get Collins a hat with a Temple ‘][‘ on it.

Who Will Be Punting?

For the first time in Cherry and White Game history, I never saw a punt return, a punt or a kickoff return. The last time I checked, you’ve got to do all of those things in a “real” game and it would have been nice for the kids to do that before the 4,000 or so fans who attended in the rain on Saturday. I suppose they will do it in the summer before nobody, then try it again before 80,000 at Notre Dame but that sets them up for a shellshock moment. Never forget Jim Cooper Jr., who never survived his opener at Notre Dame.

In short, unlike superfan Ted DeLapp, I’m not confident in winning at Notre Dame. However, I am very confident in this team kicking the living crap out of Villanova the next week and that will be the jump-start to anything from a 7-10-win season.

Hopefully, that’s good enough for a championship and a bowl win. Those two things might get next year’s spring game on TV.

Anything short and we’re looking at a lot of Poker faces.

Wednesday: Cherry and White Slideshow

Friday: The Temple NFL Draft

Monday: Poker Chips