Temple: The Gold Standard of the AAC


When Jon Gruden took over the head coaching job of the Oakland Raiders, the first statement he made was that he wanted to “bring 1998 football back to Oakland.”

No one will help him do it more than Nick Sharga.

Sharga wasn’t drafted, but of the nine Temple Owls who signed for NFL teams, he might have the best chance to catch on because he and Gruden are kindred souls.

Gruden, more than anyone with the possible exception of Bill Belichick, believes in the fullback and the play-action passing game.

Simply put, it’s run the tailback behind a great blocking fullback who acts as an additional blocker and establish the run. Once the run game is established, the linebackers and safeties inch up to the line of scrimmage and become susceptible to ball fakes and passes off the fakes.

It’s a style of football that has succeeded in college and the pros for a long time and certainly was a staple of the Raiders’ offense circa 1998. It is probably the style of play Temple should have adopted in 2017 and certainly the style of play it should have going forward.


After Sharga was selected as an UFA, Geoff Collins said something revealing: “Nick Sharga led the entire nation in special teams’ tackles last year.” So much for the claim that Sharga was so injured he could not play fullback. If he was healthy enough to lead the nation in ST tackles, he certainly was healthy enough to be the full-time fullback.

Sharga was just one of nine Owls to NFL teams, with Jacob Martin (Seahawks), Julian Taylor (49ers), Sharif Finch (Tennessee Titans), Sean Chandler (New York Giants), Keith Kirkwood (New Orleans Saints), Adonis Jennings (Cincinnati Bengals), Leon Johnson (Denver Broncos) and Cole Boozer (Tampa Bay) the rest.

Martin and Taylor were late-round draft choices.

That illustrates the fact that Temple is The Gold Standard of the AAC. Not only are the Owls one of only two schools to appear in the finals twice (joining Houston), it is the only school in the American Conference to have multiple picks in each of the last three drafts.

In fact, of all 127 FBS schools, Temple is one of only 26 schools to have multiple players drafted in the last three years. Only Penn State of the other schools in the traditional Northeast can make the same claim.

Arguably, Temple has been the top football program in the AAC using those benchmarks. Add another title this season and a few more drafted players, and there is no argument at all.

It is something recruits should consider when choosing between Temple and a Power 5 school.

Friday: Calling All Fans


The Temple NFL Draft


About the only person who was not booed at the NFL Draft on Thursday night was from Temple University. The hometown Eagles’ pick was met with mixed boos and cheers, which was surprising. Picks of the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys were booed, as was the Commissioner, which was not.

Only Temple football was cheered, loudly and proudly.

In a city where Temple football has always been second fiddle to the pro team in town, that’s a tremendous moment.

Maybe the best.

“Temple TUFF is the
most elite, toughest,
hardest-working, people
on the planet.”
_ Haason Reddick

Haason Reddick, who was drafted No. 13 overall by the Arizona Cardinals, walked down the steps of the Art Museum to a crescendo of loud cheers and not a single boo.

Derek Barnett, the Tennessee defensive end who went next to the hometown team, was met with a scattering of boos and cheers. There were a lot of Eagles’ fans dressed in green exiting after that pick with thumbs down signs.

We’ll see what happens over the next few years but a writer could not have picked a better scenario for Reddick or a better place for him to flourish. Former Temple head coach Bruce Arians is in charge there and a couple of great former Temple assistants (Nick Rapone and Amos Jones) are among the numerous Owl connections out there.

There will be a lot of Temple stories, old and new, for Reddick to hear from and swap with the old heads.

Arians will take care of Reddick in a way that Doug Pederson could not have so, from the standpoint of a perfect fit, Reddick to Arizona is probably better than any other pick in the draft—even Myles Garrett to Cleveland at No. 1.

If Temple North is the New York Jets, then certainly Temple South is the Arizona Cardinals.

Temple Central will remain embedded in Reddick’s heart and he said it best when interviewed by Upper Dublin High School grad Suzie Kobler on ESPN when she asked him what Temple TUFF was all about. Kobler knows all about Temple having grown up across the street from Temple’s Ambler Campus.

“Temple TUFF is the most elite, toughest, hardest-working, people on the planet,” Reddick said.

Now it’s up to Geoff Collins to turn that quote and that moment into mining a 2017 recruiting class worthy of those words.

Reddick gave him a good head start with the unprecedented love.

Monday: The Other Guys

Reddick Taking It To Another Level

Coach Collins is using Reddick as an example for the rest of the squad.

To put into perspective what Haason Reddick did over the weekend, all you have to do is look what running back Bernard Pierce did in the same environment.

Reddick’s most impressive combine number was a 4.52 40-yard dash.

Coming out of the 2011 football season a year early, Pierce went into the combine and posted a 4.55 40-yard dash. This was considered good for a running back.


This was the same Bernard Pierce who was the PIAA state indoor champion in the 100-meter dash (10.8) while a senior at Glen Mills and was Pennsylvania’s version of Usain Bolt as a high school senior. Except that Bolt didn’t have Pierce’s moves in the open field.

Reddick took the combine to another level.

Reddick’s number was literally off the charts and that’s why he will be drafted anywhere from nine to 30 in the upcoming NFL draft in Philadelphia. His 40 time was one-tenth of a second faster than the Owls’ Nate Hairston, who many considered the fastest Owl last season. (You could probably get an argument from reserve wide receiver Cortrelle Simpson, who will hopefully show some explosiveness this fall when he gets on the field for the first time.)

My guess is that the number Reddick is drafted will be closer to 20 than nine or 30 and that will represent the best Temple has ever had if it happens.

Muhammad Wilkerson was a 30th-round draft pick out of the 2010 college football season and he is now considered one of the top five defensive linemen in all of football.

While offensive lineman Dion Dawkins got rave reviews coming out of the senior bowl and had a very good combine, there is more talk of him going in the second round than the first round now.

However, Mel Kiper still ranks Dawkins as his No. 1 SENIOR defensive tackle, so there’s an outside shot that Dawkins could go in the first round as well.

If that happens in a draft held in Philadelphia, that is a value from the Eagle-and-NFL-centric fourth largest market that would yield dividends down the line in areas like attendance and recruiting.

Friday: The Spring Game

Owls Will Prove Character Prevails

Matt Ioannidis made one of the most iconic plays in Temple history at the 1:20 time stamp here.

Back when getting into college was literally a matter of life or death, a lot of the Philadelphia Catholic League high schools started shifting their focus from core subjects to doing well in the SATs. A lot of the tests and courses were geared to getting that minimum SAT score and thereby saving a lot of the lives of their students with a heavy does of late afternoon tutoring.

You could be a real SOB but if you got the SAT score and the nice guy who got A’s in all of his classes sitting next to you did not, he was going to Vietnam and you were getting the student deferment.  It was a messed-up system, but it was the system of the day—SAT scores meant everything and grades meant little.


Tavon Young closes fast on Will Fuller.

So it is today with the NFL combine scores and the NFL draft. A lot of Temple nice guys who got A’s on the field got passed over but guys who did well on that combine test by SOBs.

The difference this time is that the nice guys will not get shot at, but instead will have a shot at sticking in the  NFL. The only Temple guys who got a fair shake were Tavon Young (fourth round, Balitmore Ravens) and Matt Ioannidis (Washington, fifth round).

Tyler Matakevich, the consensus national defensive player of the year, was seriously overlooked and went to the Steelers (seventh round) and Robby Anderson and Kyle Friend, while undervalued, will get a more than fair shake with Todd Bowles and the New York Jets as UDFAs.  Friend did not go to the combine, but both he and Anderson ruled Temple pro day. The real pleasant surprise was Brandon Shippen, who went to the Miami Dolphins as an UDFA.

The biggest offenders in all of this were the Philadelphia Eagles, who chose to draft guys of questionable character in rounds five and after when they could have had all but one of the Temple players. If you are wondering why the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, here it is:

Of the six players, the Eagles drafted on Day Three, three face character questions. Of the six players the Eagles drafted on Day 3, three face obvious character questions.  Fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood (West Virginia), was arrested on criminal charges of witness intimidation back in 2014.  In the seventh round,  the Eagles dipped into the sordid world of the SEC and took LSU safety Jalen Mills, who was arrested and charged with battery of a woman in 2014. Later that round, they picked Florida defensive end Alex McCalister, who  was dismissed from the Gators for an undisclosed reason in December. When they say undisclosed,  it usually is worse than you imagine.

Meanwhile, in a related development, former first-round pick Johnny Manziel watched the first night of the draft from a bar and purchased 300 shots for his fellow patrons.

Tuesday: Double Loss

Thursday: Soul City Walker


While Thursday is a big day for the first- and second-round NFL draft choices, there are no bigger days for Temple football than Friday and Saturday. On those days, up to five Owls could be and likely will be drafted in rounds two through seven, making it easily the biggest day in terms of the school’s relationship with the NFL. While Temple boasts of the only player in league history to make All-Pro at three positions, Joe Klecko of the New York Jets, and numerous players with Super Bowl rings, the Owls have never had five players drafted in the same year. Here are the five likely picks and their likely landing spots.



Playing against a consensus No. 1 NFL draft pick in Houston’s William Jackson, Anderson had 12 catches for 150 yards in the AAC championship game. Anderson helped himself by running a 4.37 40-yard dash at Temple’s Pro Day. The Packers are interested.


The Jets have had tremendous luck with Temple players in the past, from All-Pro defensive lineman Joe Klecko through Muhammad Wilkerson. Coach Todd Bowles is another Temple grad, who should be able to pick up Friend, a center, in the sixth round.

When the Steelers allowed corner Brandon Boykin to sign with the Carolina Panthers, that left a glaring need for a less expensive option. Young has a similar skillset and should be available as a fifth pick.


The Browns have a need for a lockdown run-stopper and the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Ioannidis certainly is that. He is also a better-than-average pass rusher who the Browns would be wise to pick up by the fourth round.


New England head coach Bill Belichick is a disciple of former Temple coach Wayne Hardin, both big believers in film over combine measurables. Matakevich, the national defensive player of the year, has film and should go no lower than the third round.