Possible 2020 NFL Drafted Owls

When Karamo Dioubate was coming out of high school, his signing day ceremony was a short trip to my neighborhood Buffalo Wild Wings so I sauntered on over.

During it, he took a call from Alabama’s Nick Saban and turned down a last-minute offer, saying, in effect, “no sir, I’m staying home and headed to Temple.”

Those are the kind of calls top five position players in the country have to fend off on National Signing Day. Dioubate was switched from DE to DT when he got to Temple and it took him longer than expected to feel comfortable there.

Still, the talent is there for KD to blow up in this, his senior year. If he has the kind of offseason in the weight room than Michael Dogbe had last year, he could dominate on the field like Dogbe did this year. He has the size (6-3, 295) that Dogbe has. He needs only to develop the err, dog, Dogbe had.

dioubate

Buffalo Wild Wings was rocking the day Dioubate signed at Temple

While Dioubate was a rotation player for the 2016 AAC championship Owls, moving to tackle from end had its growing pains. Each succeeding year he has shown to be more comfortable as a DT starter. Dioubate has a low bar to become a fifth-round or higher draft choice. Byron Cowart, a Maryland defensive tackle, was picked in the fifth round by the New England Patriots. Cowart,  had 38 tackles, no sacks and ran a 5.16 40-yard dash. I’m going to go on record as saying Dioubate will do better than that this season. He had 23 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown this past season. Cowart, like Dioubate, was a top five DL recruit when he originally committed to Auburn before transferring to Maryland.

Other than Dioubate and RB/WR/KR Isaiah Wright–who could go anywhere from rounds 1-5 next season, the possible NFL draft pickings are slim but  there are plenty of guys who have a shot to make it as a UDFA or even a late-round draft choice.

In other words, Temple has plenty of talent in its current senior class.

I think linebackers Shaun Bradley, Chapelle Russell and William Kwenkeu have chances but both Bradley and Russell are on the small side for linebackers. Sam Franklin packs a Malcolm Jenkins-type punch as a NFL strong safety but will this current Temple staff use him there instead of forcing him into an already crowded linebacker room?

The talent is good in this senior class but the current listed redshirt juniors, who include center Matt Hennessy (6-4, 295), QB Anthony Russo (6-4, 230), DE Quincy Roche (6-4, 235), DT Dan Archibong (6-6, 285) and WR Branden Mack (6-5, 215), could be even better or almost certainly drafted higher.

If you want a real longshot, too bad cornerback Josh Allen (6-3, 190) is only a sophomore. The last two No. 7 NFL draft picks?

Both named Josh Allen.

Monday: Tale of the Tape

Wednesday: That Big-Time JUCO

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Between a Rock and a Wright Place

All we know from what Rod Carey has said is that Isaiah Wright “will be moved all over the field.”

Judging from what he has privately told some people, including Wright himself, the part of the field he will park himself most at is running back.

That both makes sense and is good news because not many college football teams have a first-team All-America returning and, in Wright, that’s just what the Owls have. Plus, the Owls have plenty of talented wide receivers.

They are a little thin at running back.

He was named first-team All-America kick returner by The Sporting News and, while Owl fans would like to see him in that role again this year, a team that desperately needs a top-tier running back could use Wright lugging the ball at least 15 times a game lined up behind Anthony Russo.

Screenshot 2019-05-11 at 11.43.57 PM

Army head coach Jeff Monken called Wright a “touchdown waiting to happen” before his team’s 2017 game with the Owls and with good reason.

What kind of running back would Wright be? He gave a slight glimpse in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook in 2016 when he carried the ball seven times for 48 yards but Wright was a true freshman playing in his second game. (For comparison, Bernard Pierce’s first game produced 44 yards on six carries as a true freshman.)

Wright would be more of a Pierce-like running back than Ryquell Armstead was. To use a baseball analogy, Armstead was a line-drive hitter who could occasionally hit a home run. Wright, like Pierce, is a home-run hitter who can take it to the house on any given play.

Wright will get a long look at the position at summer practice. Here’s hoping, instead of moving him around, new head coach Rod Carey will make the sound football decision for Temple and leave him right there.

Wednesday: The 2020 NFL Draft and Temple

Gauging The Competiton: UCF, USF, Cincy

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Just a small portion of the 33,306 Temple fans whose chant of “DEE-fense!, DEE-fense!” was so loud the Cincy QB could not hear the snap count. Heroes, really.

Gauging is a pretty good word.

Defined as “to determine the exact dimensions, capacity, quantity, or force of; measure. to appraise, estimate, or judge” it is probably first best used after spring football practice to determine the weaknesses and strengths of Temple football opponents.

If I were writing this with cherry-colored glasses now, I would rate Temple as THE favorite.

The Owls have in my mind the best quarterback in the league in Anthony Russo and POTENTIALLY the best running back in the league in Isaiah Wright. Since we’re not sure new head coach Rod Carey will use Wright on more than a handful of plays from scrimmage, we will have to take those glasses off and put on the regular ones with brown rims and a prescription.

(If Carey made the announcement today or in the summer that he’s putting what Army coach Jeff Monken said was a “touchdown waiting to happen” permanently in the backfield, we’d change our minds.)

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Looking through those, I’d have to rate Cincinnati as the AAC East favorite, followed by UCF and then Temple. I cannot see USF rated ahead of Temple under any circumstances, but those are the four strongest teams in the East.

Here’s an early look:

(from USA Today)

UCF

UCF’s annual spring football game Saturday gave fans a chance to see just how close the quarterback battle is for the Knights. Head coach Josh Heupel let all four of his available quarterbacks rotate series under center.

Though they each showed flashes of brilliance, it was clear that more work needs to be done for a true starter to emerge.

“Some good and some bad,” Heupel said of his quarterbacks’ play today. “Today was not any of their best days collectively from start to finish. I thought there were some real positive things early when we were pushing the ball down the field. There were some times where we didn’t handle the tempo as well as we needed to.”

Redshirt sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. opened the game with a two-play drive that was capped off by touchdown pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Jacob Harris.

Senior Brandon Wimbush’s best came right before halftime when he led a lengthy drive that resulted in Jacob Harris catching his second touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with 13 seconds left.

CINCINNATI

Like Carey, Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell does not believe in spring football contact:

He believes full contact special teams in spring are a throwback. Fickell remembered doing them in his days as a player at Ohio State under Jim Tressel.

“It’s not that often that you get to do it,” Fickell said. “Coach Tress used to do it. You kind of get worried. A guy can get rolled up or this, that and the other thing. But as tired as they are by the end of spring, as tired as they are after covering a couple of kicks, the contacts are nearly as high speed.

“It was a great opportunity for our returners, our kickers in those situations were they have to make some decisions.”

The Bearcats are coming off an 11-2 season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl.  Quarterback Desmond Ritter, who blamed the Temple fan crowd noise for a key fumble in one of the two losses, looked good but he has lost his top wide receiver Kahil Lewis.

USF
The Bulls might have a new starter at quarterback in Plant City High’s Jordan McCloud, who was 17 for 25 for 228 yards and two touchdowns (and one pick) in the spring game.

The offensive line, though, which was the team’s weak point a year ago, needs “work” according to Charley Strong. It’s hard to make a living in the AAC with an offensive line in a state of flux like this one.

Sunday: Bulking Up a Position

Tuesday: The Drafted Guys

Friday: Shot Chart

Sunday: Blocked by Collins

Isaiah Wright: Temple’s Answer

wright

There are not many vexing questions out there regarding the Temple football team for 2019.

The Owls appear to be even more loaded next year than they were this year with the exception of one sore thumb question:

“Who is going to replace Rock Armstead as the elite featured back?”

The answer is right under our noses: Isaiah Wright.

matt rhule, temple football,

“If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback,  Isaiah Wright is capable of playing the position and I’m sure he would do a great job.” _ Matt Rhule, 2016

This is what Matt Rhule said about Wright after the then true freshman gained 48 yards on seven carries in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook in 2016: “The great thing about Isaiah is his versatality. If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback, Isaiah Wright is capable of playing thet position and I’m sure he would do a great job. The challenge, really for me, is to get him the ball a lot more.”

Rhule could never follow through because Thomas and Armstead were there to block Wright’s progress as a running back but at least he instituted The Wildcat for him. (I don’t like the Wildcat because everyone knows Wright is going to run when he comes out in it. The Wildcat is effective only if IW throws it 50 percent of the time and runs it the other half.)

Getting the ball to Wright was a challenge inherited by the Geoff Collins staff and, quite frankly, they have not been up to it. Wright doesn’t get the ball nearly enough even though Army coach Jeff Monken called him “a touchdown waiting to happen” in his assessment of the Owls before the 2017 game at Army.

saturdaypicks

Our picks for today’s games

For the record, I like Jager Gardner as well but, for some reason, Gardner has disappeared as the Armstead backup. He did score a nice touchdown at UConn. Gardner and Wright should battle it out as Armstead’s replacement and the Owls will be in good shape, but I think that’s a battle Wright would win given a fair opportunity. Tyliek Raynor as a third-down back (a Dave Meggett-type) would give the Owls a terrific trio of running backs next season.

First, though, Wright has to have every opportunity to grab the No. 1 job in spring ball.

The Owls can afford to move Wright from receiver to tailback because they are so deep at wide receiver. Randle Jones and Freddy Johnson return, as does this year’s true freshman Sean Ryan. The Owls have plenty of options at wide receiver.

“Armstead is the toughest running back in our league to stop,” Houston head coach Major Applegate said after the Owls won, 59-49, in Texas.

Putting Wright back there would give the Owls that same important advantage next year as well.

 

Taver, We Hardly Knew Ye ….

aramark

The Aramark indoor football field is twice as big as the old Student Pavilion and the ceiling is high enough for kicking practice.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes from about as interesting an offseason week for Temple football as we’ve seen in some time ….

Doing his best post-Pro Bowl Nick Foles’ impersonation, Taver Johnson walked sideways across the stage at the Aramark Center exactly a week ago and said this:

“How y’all doin’?”

famer

When a Temple Hall of Famer calls, Geoff Collins should have at least listened

Little did those of us in attendance know, at least at that time, that Johnson might as well kept walking and gone right out the side door for good because that’s where he was headed in a real sense. By then, it had to be obvious to head coach Geoff Collins that Johnson was leaving and Collins probably said, “hey, I need you through signing night.”

Going from defensive coordinator at Temple to a defensive backs’ coach at Ohio State is mostly seen as at least a lateral move, certainly not a step up in the coaching fraternity but if it floats Johnson’s boat, go for it. Heck, Taver had the same job at Purdue before being enticed to leave there for the DC job at Temple one year ago.

Temple was ranked No. 56 in total yardage defense and No. 58 in scoring defense a year ago and that screams two words to me: Mediocre and Replaceable. Giving up 28 (really, 21) points to UConn and 13 points to a Villanova team that Rhode Island … Rhode Island … held to six is not a ringing endorsement of last year’s defense.

With the dissolution of the Bruce Arians’ staff in Arizona, there are a number of “overqualified” guys with Temple connections who Hall of Famer Paul Palmer told me were definitely interested in the job: Former FCS Defensive Coordinator of the Year Nick Rapone and Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Famer Kevin Ross.

If one or both are hired, they immediately become the two best defensive coaches on the staff. Both guys are Temple (and Tempe) TUFF, love Temple, and would be a positive influence on the kids and their fellow staffers and the fans. This is about the biggest no-brainer in Temple history. Neither would leave Temple for lesser positions, even at Alabama. Of course, Temple being Temple it hired another less-qualified guy from the one of the same two directional Alabama schools Bobby Wallace last coached, West Alabama. It would have nice for Collins to look around and grab a guy or two from the pre-Al Golden Era at Temple. Sometimes, you think he believes Temple did not have football before 2005. This was one of those times.

“Mr. Mike”

Now that Nick Sharga has left, we all have to find our next favorite player on the Temple team.

(Hell, I’m not the only fan who had No. 4 No. 1.)

Mine has been Isaiah Wright since the end of our season.

wright

Like the guy said on the TV broadcast at the Army game, “Isaiah Wright is a touchdown waiting to happen.”

As I sat down next to long-time buddy and Temple linebacking great Steve Conjar, a guy across the table noticed me and said, “Mr. Mike!”

That guy was Isaiah Wright and it was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He extended his right hand.

“I’m Isaiah Wright.”

“Isaiah Wright, my favorite Temple player. No joke.”

Then Isaiah introduced me to the guy sitting on his right, Linwood Crump (Junior), and I told the defensive back that he was going to be a starter but to not take anything for granted.

He said he would not.

Both can call me Mr. Mike any day of the week and, just maybe, they will give him No. 4 before the start of the season. Whatever number they give him, I just hope they don’t make him disappear like they did with Nick Sharga.

Aramark Center

Moody Nolan is listed as the architect for the new football stadium.

complex

He also did the job at the new Temple football indoor facility called the Aramark Center (the football team shares this spectacular indoor arena with locker rooms and training facilities with the rest of the students). This is a much-larger version of the old Student Pavilion, large enough to get some punting and field goal work in—something that could not be done at what Collins affectingly called the “Mayhem Mansion.”

That said, it takes up such a large portion of the 15th and Montgomery area that it would now be pretty hard to see how a 35,000-seat stadium could fit in a North-South configuration. It would have to be East-West and cross and close 15th Street permanently with the Student Pavilion and tennis courts knocked down. Had the Pavilion been knocked down and replaced by what is now Aramark first, there would have been no need to close down 15th Street.

Now it is really hard to conceive of a stadium fitting into the old Geasey Field square footage alone but that could be the least of Moody Nolan’s problems.

Friday: Thoughts on The AAC Schedule

The Stat Book According To Isaiah

 

In the bible, Isaiah is considered the prophet of hope.

When the persuasive recruiting powers of Matt Rhule lured Isaiah Wright to Temple over a number of Power 5 schools, that hope referred to his versatility and talent in a number of capacities. Wright was (and is) a special talent.

Wright could have been a NFL-level wide receiver (and he still can) but Rhule was so intrigued last year by the true freshman’s talent he tried him in the Stony Brook game at tailback. The experiment was a qualified success: Seven carries, 46  yards in 97-degree heat in a 38-0 win. Wright showed a great first step and, unlike teammate Ryquell Armstead, was a multiple-cut runner who could make a defense miss at the second level. He is like Matt Brown and Jahad Thomas in that respect. Armstead is like Bernard Pierce, a one-cut runner.  Now, more than ever,  Temple needs to utilize Wright at the tailback position, but does this staff even realize that or know Wright has a short but productive history at that position?

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After last year’s Stony Brook game, Rhule said what he found out was that Wright could be a great tailback option should anything happen to his then top two ball carriers,  Thomas or  Armstead. Since both Armstead and Thomas rushed for over 900 yards last year, that two-headed monster was enough to produce an AAC championship but Rhule still created a role for Wright as the wildcat quarterback and a part-time wide receiver. “We have to find ways to get him the ball in space,” Rhule said.

Rhule, though, always filed Wright in the tailback fallback file. Rhule felt Wright was the tailback of the future. Why Geoff Collins and Dave Patenaude don’t is a mystery to me.

That’s one of the reasons, to me at least, this new staff is so disappointing in so many areas.

Last week, we called out this staff for the underuse of Wright (only two touches in the prior two games) and, shockingly, the emphasis on Wright’s touches changed for the better. Here’s what happened: Wright, only a part-time wide receiver, has led the Owls in receiving in three of five games. His endzone catch for a TD against UMass made ESPN Sports’ Center’s Top 10 plays. Against Houston, he had five catches for 53 yards and six carries out of the Wildcat for eight yards. Those latter numbers were diminished because any good offensive coordinator knows for a Wildcat to work, you’ve got to have the Wildcat quarterback throw up to half the time. Unfortunately, Temple does not have  a good offensive coordinator. When the Owls shifted into the Wildcat, you could hear the Houston players from the first row in Section 122 scream “13, 13!!!!” because they knew he was going to run the ball. Have him throw a quick pass and they back off. That quick pass never came.

Armstead is fighting through injuries like the warrior he is, but he is nowhere near explosive as he was a year ago. David Hood is nothing more than a third-down back, ala David Meggett of Giants’ fame.  Jager Gardner is injured and out for the season. Collins is talking about using a walk-on who did nothing in the Philadelphia Public League at running back. Ugh.

caption

                                                 This caption might have inspired Patenaude to dust off the Wildcat for the first time last week.

Wright is the perfect answer to put in that spot, and nobody at the E-O seems to have a clue.

The same thing applies for Nick Sharga, who is being criminally underused at fullback, considering that new head coach Geoff Collins called him the “best fullback in the country.” Sharga is also the team’s best linebacker, but this staff doesn’t seem to know or care about Sharga’s past history at the position–which included an outstanding performance two years ago in a 34-12 win over Memphis. The Owls only have Sharga for one more season and they better be able to use his multiple talents to help this team win. If they are only going to play him 15 plays or less on offense, which they have done in all five games, use him for 15 or more on defense at linebacker. Instead, in the summer, his “position of flexibility” was defensive end, not linebacker. Ugh (again). In no metric world is Sharga a defensive end. He’s a fullback/linebacker. Temple has plenty of experienced DEs; it could use Sharga’s experience at linebacker now.

Put Wright at tailback and Sharga at part-time linebacker and, for Temple, hope turns into a winning reality and a lot of positive plays get made on both sides of the ball.

With this staff, though, do not hold your breath.

That’s why this ECU game will probably go down to a field goal either way and that’s not the kind of result a defending league champion with this much talent returning should ever accept, even grudgingly.

Tomorrow: ECU Preview

Houston: Does This Staff Have The Wright Stuff?

What are you waiting for, the bowl game?

It might be a little harsh, but the term brain dead about a first-year coaching staff occurred to me more than a few times during the Notre Dame debacle, the USF debacle and similar near-debacles against UMass and Villanova.

Last year’s championship staff figured out, early on, that getting the ball in the hands of a talent like Isaiah Wright might be a pretty good idea.

connection

Wright, playing part-time tailback, had 46 yards on seven carries in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook. Temple had nice tailback options in that game, including Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead. Matt Rhule, a $7 million-per-year coach, chose Wright. Before you dismiss the Stony Brook program, it was in a tight game this year at South Florida in the fourth quarter.

Temple was not.

Rhule stated to the press that one of his priorities early in last season was getting the ball in the hands of the elusive Wright. They met across the long table in the coach’s office at the Edberg-Olson Complex and came to the conclusion they could use Wright as a wide receiver, a tailback and a Wildcat quarterback.

They only put the Wildcat package in BECAUSE they had him, not because they wanted to do it.

performance

“Operator? Please get me Waco, Texas; a listing for Glenn Thomas or Matt Rhule. Thanks.”

What did this new genius from Coastal Carolina do with Wright the last two games? Give him the ball four times in two games. For Louisville math majors, that’s two times in each game.

Ryquell Armstead is banged up and he looks slow behind an offensive line that returns three of its five starters. Those three starters blocked well all of last season, so it’s not on them. Having Wright in the backfield with his explosive first step and his multiple-cut abilities can only help whomever is the quarterback.

Getting the ball in his hands a lot more than two times might be the difference between victory or defeat on Saturday afternoon (noon start, be there or be square, that’s why we never give TV info for home games).

For the first four games, we’ve learned this staff is–to be overly kind–slow on the uptake. To me, you can maximize any slim chances you have against a 3-1 Houston team by the number of times you get the ball in the hands of your most explosive player on a team that, by the way, that has a number of explosive players still. His touches work at wide receiver, they work at running back and they work at Wildcat quarterback. He’s had only 10 so far and he’s produced 194 yards. Too few touches in my humble opinion. Give it to him double-digit times, and you open it up for guys like Armstead, Sharga, Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant.

Wright can THROW the ball on a dime from 70 yards and he can do a lot on CATCHING swing passes out of the backfield to beat a blitz or even a conventional rush. Geez, you would think this staff knows that by now. Certainly the other staff did.

If Wright gets the ball only two times again, we can officially declare this new staff brain dead and take them off life support. We will track each and every Wright touch against Houston and it will be the subject of our next Thursday post.

Geoff Collins, since you are the CEO of this organization, it’s ultimately your responsibility. This will not be on Dave Patenaude. You must tell him what to do and expect him to do it.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: Tracking The Wright Touches