Geoff Collins Unplugged

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A couple of weeks ago, at hopefully what will later be determined to be the low point of a long and fruitful (well, maybe just fruitful) career as Temple football head coach, Geoff Collins sat down with The Inquirer’s Marc Narducci and gave mostly guarded answers about his first season.

We’ll call those the “plugged” answers—as in those stock answers you’d expect most head coaches to say.

Today, with the benefit of hindsight, we’ll add some answers Collins MIGHT say if he was being unguarded or, in another word, unplugged. Our words mind you, but the words we guess Collins might be thinking now.

What has been the most pleasant surprise and biggest disappointment to this point?

REAL ANSWER: “The pleasant surprise has been the players. How they work every day, how they have a great attitude every day, how they are physical and tough every day in practice. They are very coachable and want to be great. That has been the biggest pleasant surprise. After coaching in the SEC the last six years, you don’t always get that, but these kids want to be great, they want to be coached and they are fun to be around. The biggest disappointment is just some of the young mistakes we have made. Three of the games in particular (against Houston, UConn and Army) were one-score games and a lot of those were things that were one or two plays away and that happened because of young mistakes. That has been one of the things that has been tough to deal with. The nice thing is that once they get the experience and they get it corrected, you don’t see it repeated. So you haven’t seen a rash of the same mistakes. A lot of times it is a new experience and a new thing that goes wrong with young players and that happens. But just the resiliency and coachability has been fun to be around.”

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COLLINS UNPLUGGED:  The pleasant surprise remains the same, but the biggest disappointment has been the fact that we tried to reinvent the wheel when they did just fine under their system the last two years. I told Mack Brown in the ESPN game prep for Cincinnati that we were going to go back to TEMPLE TUFF football—run the ball at the goal line behind the best fullback in the country—and you can see what happened. We got away from that in losses to UConn and Army. That’s Temple football and it’s got to be Temple football going forward: Run Rock and Hood behind Sharga (and Nitro next year), then have Frankie Juice make explosive downfield plays in the passing game by faking to those guys when the linebackers and the safeties cheat up to stop the run. It’s not the kind of ball Dave likes, but he’s going to have to get used to it. If I have to put my foot down, I will.

Depth has been an issue due to so many injuries, especially recently. Has that been eye-opening for you?

RA: “It has been tough and the thing I talked about to the team this morning (on Monday), one of the positions of strength both in leadership and depth and the ability to rotate guys through in our above- the-line system has been in our defensive line. We have played eight, nine and 10 and sometimes 11 defensive linemen. And there really hasn’t been a drop-off. The leadership from Jacob Martin, Jullian Taylor, Sharif Finch, has been outstanding and I would even include Greg Webb in that leadership piece. We are using that as a model for all the other positions moving forward. To build that kind of depth and that kind of leadership throughout the organization at every single position.”

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CU: Not playing Greg Webb—who started in the Navy championship game last year—against Notre Dame and Villanova was a big mistake. We probably would not have been gouged on those 17 running plays that gained like 8,000 yards had we had vets like Webb and FBL in there instead of the new guys. We’ve also got to get Karamo Dioubate started in the right direction and I’ve made a mental note to play him some more going forward. KD’s natural position is DE and shifting him over there will make him a Mayhem star next year.

The quarterback situation is probably something you didn’t envision and I would think you would have wanted to have had it settled well before the opening game instead of deciding the week of the opener at Notre Dame. How tough was that?

RA: “When you lose a kid who started so many games and thrown so many passes and had first-team reps for four years (the way Phillip Walker did), the transition trying to find that next guy, a first time as a head coach, has been challenging. The thing that makes it challenging is they have been good. It would be one story if they weren’t good, then it would be a different scenario. We have had some quarterbacks that have played really well and good enough that the separation has been tough throughout. Logan (Marchi) has played really well in some really good stretches. And I was proud of Frank (Nutile) who came in and played as well as he did last week in his first college start (with Marchi injured). It’s been a good issue to have that they are both good and competitive.”

CU: I’m kicking myself now but not going to Frankie Juice after Logan had that pass batted down against Villanova. That should have been an Epiphany moment for me but I kind of let Dave (Patenaude) talk me out of it because he had such a good relationship with Logan due to recruiting him for Coastal (Carolina). No doubt in my mind had Frankie played after Nova, his feet would have been wet enough to maybe beat Houston and definitely beat UConn and Army. From now on, we’re throwing out this metrics stuff at practice and playing the guy who plays best in real games and that’s Frankie Juice currently.

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You talked earlier that in your previous coaching experiences for the most part, you only had to watch the defensive side of the ball. Now you have had to be in charge of the entire team. As a first-year coach has this been overwhelming task for you, and how has it been adjusting to being a head coach for the first time?

RA: “It has been exciting. I think I have improved every single week. I have been self-critical at every stage. I think at first you have to be critical of yourself before you can be critical of others. At Notre Dame (a 49-16 loss), I was still in that fighter-pilot mindset that I have been in for the last six years as a coordinator in the SEC and learned very quickly, I couldn’t do that. You see me at practice and I am a wild man out there and provide the energy and drive and I have been doing that more and more each week, so those kinds of things have been good. I found myself earlier in the season staying on the defensive headsets most of the game. The defensive staff has done a great job with in-game adjustments, and I now when the defense is on the bench, I have been able to be on the offensive headset the whole time, put my two cents in, tell them when we are going to go for it, when we need to run it, and when we need to take a shot, so that has been exciting for me. So more and more throughout the season since the South Florida game (a 43-7 loss on Sept. 21) we have done an elite eight, which are eight plays I give to the offensive staff. The crazy formations we started doing, I know as a defensive guy those are difficult to prepare for, so I give them a formation and two to three plays.”

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CU: As a head coach, you’ve got to be aware of everything and, for the first few games, I wasn’t that tuned into things. Pat Kraft strongly suggested that Dave go to the booth after his sideline demeanor against USF and that’s turned into a positive for us, not just in PR, but in productivity.

These last four games whether you become bowl eligible or not become critical when you are talking about next year. How critical is it?

RA: “We are probably four plays away from having a completely different record. We are playing a lot of young players at a lot of key positions. We have a lot of guys who will be coming back after this season so I think the future is really, really bright, but out of respect for our old guys, we are going to do it the right way for these old guys to finish out strong the final four games.”

CU:  We’re not playing as many young players as I’ve been saying all year. We’re going to be losing a lot more guys from this year’s team for next year than we did last year’s championship team for this year. So I’ve got my work cut out for me next year in terms of getting JUCO offensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs–not mention  replacing impact ends like Martin and Finch. A lot of our fans feel like we’re playing a completely new team but we’re not. Matt (Rhule) left me with a lot of great championship-level players and we’re going to lose a lot of those guys after, hopefully, the bowl game.

Friday: Our Annual Tribute To The Seniors

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“Krafting” Better Schedule

okie

Unless Pat Kraft tinkers with the schedule, after ND this year, Oklahoma in 2024 is really the only high-profile opponent on any of the Owls’ future schedules.

Whether or not he wants to admit it, Pat Kraft has a scheduling problem.

Too many Idahos and Bucknells on the schedule and not enough teams that create juice nationally.

As the Sixers learned in their pursuit of Fultz, there’s really only one way to fix a problem.

Give something to get something.

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Whether he wants to admit it or not, having Stony Brook on the schedule—instead of beating another Power 5 team—did the AAC champions no favors last year

 

 

Dr. Kraft, the athletic director at Temple, has something to give up for an overall greater reward.

Pick the Idaho and Bucknell years, specifically, and give up those home games for a road game against a more high profile opponent.

Kraft has said two things publically about his scheduling philosophy. One, that he will not accept anything less than a home-and-home with anyone. Two, that no one wants to play the Owls. While that might be his stated philosophy, there is evidence to the contrary.

Both have been debunked by the Oklahoma series starting in 2024.

That’s not a home-and-home (it’s a two-for-one) and, by playing the Owls, Oklahoma has disabused the notion that no one wants to play the Owls.

There have to be other Oklahomas out there and it is up to Dr. Kraft to find them.

Whether he wants to admit it or not, having Stony Brook on the schedule—instead of beating another Power 5 team—did the AAC champions no favors last year. That’s why the “prize” for winning the title of the best G5 conference was not a NY6 bowl but a back-to-the-future trip bowl that the Owls made in 2009.

Since the 2018 non-conference schedule (Villanova, Maryland, BC) is devoid of the Bucknells and Idahos—who really should not be playing Temple—let’s concentrate on the 2019 schedule first.

The Owls’ home opener is the body bag game with Bucknell on Aug. 31. On that weekend, for instance, Baylor is set to open with Stephen F. Austin. Kraft can get on the phone with his self-described “best friend in the whole world” (Matt Rhule) and arrange for the Owls to travel to Waco that day. Surely, Matt would not back down from the same kind of challenge Oklahoma accepted. Then his next move would be to get on the horn with K.C. Keeler and arrange for SFA to host Bucknell.

As the French say, Voilà!

Problem solved. Temple gives up a home game which would be sparsely attended for a road game where there’s a lot of juice to energize the fan base for future home games that year.

The next problem is the Idaho game, a home one on 9/12/20. Since the Owls’ long-term goal should be to get into the ACC, that’s where their focus should be.

Both Miami (Fla.) and Pitt have openings on that date and Temple should offer a home-and-home to both schools. If neither takes it, then offer up the Idaho home game as a sacrifice to the football Gods and take a one-and-done road game. Tell the Vandals thanks for the return date, but no thanks and help them get a game with Villanova or something.

Kraft’s scheduling problem is going to remain one until he does something about it. Otherwise, you can plan your shore trips around the Idaho and Bucknell dates.

Friday: Collins’ Best Week Ever

It’s (Not Always) Sunny in Philadelphia

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While the helmets look great, Geoff Collins and Pat Kraft never addressed the question of football coaching stability at Temple.

Today starts about the best week of weather in Philadelphia this season, splashing sunshine for most of the rest of the week.

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With this kind of weather, Collins should be out-recruiting Florida, Georgia Tech, SMU, UCF and UNC.

There will be sunshine all over the city, except for that little cloud that seems to always hover around Geoff Collins’ head.

It’s there simply because of what he did not say in his signing day presser. Sometimes, I think the guy could have used a good speechwriter because, while a lot of his bullet points hit home that day, it was what he did not say that will always cause some Temple fans like me to look at him with askance.

A simple speech like this AFTER THE WAKE FOREST DEBACLE would have done the trick, as short at the Gettysburg Address:

Tapping on the microphone, Collins opens up:

“Test. Test. Is this thing working? You will all have to excuse me because there  were a few words I did not say on the day I was hired that I feel I should say today. I have a few prepared notes for this occasion so I thought I’d jot a few down. Four scores and less than a month ago, this great program beat Navy and looked poised to enter the final AP Top 20 for the first time since 1979. That Navy team was playing better than just about any team in the nation going into that game, so a convincing win for us should have assured a final Top 25 spot.

“That did not happen for a couple of reasons. One, Matt Rhule, who is a good friend of mine, took what he thought was an opportunity of a lifetime and was faced with the difficult decision of leaving the very kids who helped give him that opportunity. Having been at that Wake Forest game and witnessed the half-hazard lead-up to it, I can say that, while Ed Foley did a great job, he did not have the requisite staffing support leading up to the game to adequately prepare the team.

“While researching this job, I came across a couple of sentiments I want to express today.  The day Al Golden was hired here, he said he wanted to build a house of brick, not straw, and I echo that statement today. The day Steve Addazio was hired from the same school which produced me, he said he wanted to reach out to the Wayne Hardin guys and so do I. Those are the true Temple legends, not the guys who graduated after 2010.

“When Matt was hired, he said he wanted to sign a 15-year contract. To me, a contract is a two-way street. My signature means I will hold up my end of the bargain. All I can say about that is to tell you right now that this is my opportunity of a lifetime, Temple. Not Baylor. Not Florida. Not Mississippi. While I cannot tell you what the future holds for me, I can promise right here and now to you and them that no future Temple team will be without the full coaching staff, including me, while going for a bowl win and a Top 25 ranking. That means too much to this great school and I will never dishonor this school. I wanted to clear this up because I felt I left some things hanging on the day I was hired. Thank you, and I want to open this up for questions.”

Thunderous applause all around would have greeted similar sentiments, but none of the sort came. Instead, Collins followed up on signing day by recruiting a class that suggested the house would be more straw than brick, and propped up by the foundation his predecessors laid. That leads to the inescapable conclusion that this staff is outta here with the first overachieving season, maybe even this one. Some people say that we as Temple fans should accept our fate as a steppingstone, but I’m not ready to do that. The notion that this staff might use Temple, heck probably will, is not good.

Looking up into the sky, that’s not a sunny prospect for the long-term viability of Temple football. There is still time for Collins to change that perception, but those days are dwindling down to a precious few. Cherry and White Day would be a good day to clear this up and remove that cloud for good.

Wednesday: No Punter, Big Problem

Friday: 5 Questions Pat Kraft Needs to Answer

Fly On The Wall

Maybe someday Pat Kraft will shed some light on what went on in the Collins’ interview.

As he usually does, 920 The Jersey’s Zach Gelb, a  Temple-Made sports talk radio host with a great future, asks the best questions at Temple press conferences.

During the introduction of Geoff Collins, Gelb asked Collins if he could guarantee Temple football recruits if he would be here four years from now when they graduated.  It was one of the few questions that Collins did not handle with the dexterity of an Ozzie Smith.

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Zach Gelb

Collins let that question go off the back of his glove into left field when he said all he was interested in was the here and now and that’s what he would tell recruits.

To me, that was an E6 on one of the few hardball questions Collins had to field that day.

Although I appreciated the honesty, if I were Collins I would have lied (if indeed it was a lie) my ass off and told him, of course, if this place is good enough for the John Chaneys and the Wayne Hardins of the world, it is good enough for me. I plan to be here for the long haul and make Temple football a national power.

That would have served two purposes, assuaging a couple of very important groups: The current recruiting class and the players in the program already. The first group is being told by the bad guys—the other coaches seeking Temple commits—that Collins is here only short-term and would bail after the first overachieving season and the second group has been already burned by a head coach who said it would take the perfect job for him to leave Temple.

Baylor’s a nice job, but with impending sanctions, it is far from a perfect one and there are many objective people on the outside—not necessarily Temple ones—who feel that Rhule had a better chance of succeeding at Temple than he does with the pair of handcuffs he has to put on to get the job done in Waco.

That leaves the next big question.

If Gelb, or really anyone, gets a chance, he should find someone who was in the room with Collins when he was being interviewed by the Temple Board of Trustees and ask if the same question ever came up as a condition of him getting the job.  By now, Temple should be extremely sensitive to coaches like Steve Addazio—and to a much lesser extent Rhule and Al Golden—using it and moving on.

Oh, to be a fly in the wall hearing the answer to that question. I hope that question was asked in the vetting process, but there is also a chance that it was not.

Perhaps athletic director Dr. Pat Kraft is best equipped to supply the answer and we know the perfect guy to ask him.

Monday: Temple’s Montana to Rice

Can Temple Screw This Up?

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John DeFilippo’s  major claim to fame is making Johnny Manziel the man he is today.

Plunking down $2 for my Sunday paper, I fully expected to read an update on the Temple football coaching search only to see a Flyers’ story, an Eagles’ story and a James Franklin story on the sports cover.

No problem. Surely, there must be a big splash on the upcoming Temple football hiring on the inside.

The second page had a full page on skating—yes, skating—while the third page was all Villanova basketball. The fourth page was all Phillies, the fifth page another full page on Penn State football, the sixth page Army-Navy and the seventh page Sixers.

Three more Eagles’ pages followed, plus another Flyers’ page before the sports section closed out with high school coverage. I could have used one less Penn State football page and maybe one less Flyers’ page in order to squeeze some Temple football news in, but hey, they don’t want my business.

Talk about a wasted $2.


… we should all know by Alumni Tent
time at the bowl game who the next
Temple head coach will be. It should
be a big enough name who is able to
sell 2017 season tickets, not a guy
who should be working at the
Will Call window.

To get my Temple coaching fix, I had to go online and the first thing that greeted me was this headline: “Temple Has Contacted Eagles’ QB Coach About Head-Coaching Job.”

Surely, this had to be from The Onion. It could not have been real but, upon opening the link, it came from Philly.com and the quarterbacks’ coach is John DeFilippo. Temple AD Pat Kraft is a busy man these days and he certainly does not have time to be contacting Eagles’ QB coaches about what should be the top job in the AAC. Before being the Eagles’ QB coach, DeFilippo was the QB coach with the Cleveland Browns when Johnny Manziel was there. Other stories online talk about Houston hiring Major Applewhite and South Florida hiring Charlie Strong.

The last four Temple coaches were all hired between Dec. 6-23, which means we should all know by Alumni Tent time at the bowl game who the next Temple head coach will be. It should be a big enough name who is able to sell 2017 season tickets, not a guy who should be working at the Will Call window.

That got me thinking: Could Temple screw this up?

It certainly can. Not on purpose, but if it Kraft wastes valuable time on things like this it is certainly not a good sign. Temple should be contacting the Detroit Lions’ tight ends’ coach, not the Eagles’ QB coach. Temple should be zeroing in on guys with a long track record of winning as a head coach on the college level, not a guy who has had 10 jobs in 11 years. Let’s hope it’s a case of DeFilippo contacting Temple and Temple saying, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”

If it isn’t, we’re all in trouble.

Wednesday: Learning From History

Departures And Arrivals

There have been two visceral reactions to my learning of the departure of the last two Temple head football coaches and both occurred while listening to the radio and driving in my car.

The first came when Steve Addazio left and Harry Donahue broke in with the news on the 5:45 p.m. sportscast at KYW with these words: “There has been a coaching change at Temple … “ That perked me up a little because there is never a coaching change at Temple. I thought it might be Tonya Cardoza or some other minor sports coach moving on but instead Harry followed that slight pause with “Steve Addazio is headed to Boston College.”

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Hiring an assistant can go one of two ways.

As I made the left turn on Susquehanna Road near the Rydal train station, reaction was pure joy, pounding on the steering wheel and yelling, “Yes, yes, yes!!!”  That also had something to do with Temple never firing head coaches and I felt that Addazio would have to have many 4-7 seasons, not just the one he was coming off of, to be let go at Temple.

I did not want to live through that misery again, and Addazio’s future at Temple had a Ron Dickerson, Jerry Berndt and Bobby Wallace type quality written all over it.

On Tuesday, though, turning into the parking lot at work, the guy on one of the sports talk radio stations said at 11:40 this morning: “This just in:  Philly.com is reporting that Matt Rhule is leaving for Baylor.” The reaction had nothing to do with joy or sorrow and was just a knowing sigh.

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I knew this was going to happen last year with the Missouri dalliance when Rhule said he will always listen. I knew it was going to happen when he told a reporter who goes by the name “New Jersey Mike” in June that he cannot make promises, ostensibly to stay at Temple, and I really came to grips with it on Saturday when he told a press conference this telegraphed sentence: “It was a pleasure to have coached these kids.”

Notice the “have coached” part of that statement, which meant, at least to me, that he was not coaching the bowl game.  That’s OK, too, because the sanctions under which he will have to work with are crippling enough. He needs to recruit for Baylor and someone else needs to keep the current Temple recruiting class together (maybe Francis Brown).

I wrote Matt an old-fashioned handwritten letter upon returning home from work and placed it in the neighborhood mailbox after working out at the gym. I hope he gets it:

Dear Matt,

Thank you for giving me last Saturday, the very best of many great days I have spent as a Temple football fan over the last 40 or so years. Thank you for the way you and your wonderful players represented this terrific university and I wish you and your family many similar joyous days like Saturday in the not-too-distant future.

Good Luck,

Mike Gibson

That deals with the departure part of it, and now we get to the arrival area. To me, the university needs to no longer roll the dice with the hiring of an assistant coach. Being an assistant is not the same as being a head coach. It is a totally different job. You can be a great assistant and a terrible head coach. The world is littered with such examples. UConn found that out the hard way by hiring the “hottest” assistant coach available in Bob Diaco and that hiring turned out to be a train wreck.

NO MORE ASSISTANT COACHES. I don’t care if they are hot assistants, cold assistants, lukewarm assistants. Temple University should hire a proven winning head coach who has done it for multiple years at the FBS level, preferably at Temple University.

Al Golden, who has won here as a HEAD COACH, knows how to win and recruit here, is available and the current tight ends coach with the Detroit Lions. Ask yourself if you would rather coach the tight ends at the Lions or be head coach at Temple. He was 32-25 as a head coach under brutal sanctions at Miami and got fired for not achieving unrealistic expectations. He, above all other people, knows the grass is not always greener on the other side of the 10th and Diamond fence. If Golden can make written assurances with an astronomical buyout that guarantees a longer second stay, he is, as Bill Bradshaw wrote on that yellow legal pad in 2005: “Our guy.”

Thursday: Finished Business

Temple Better Be Paying Attention

Cincinnati Enquirer blows cover off Bearcats' Big 12 bid.

Cincinnati Enquirer blows cover off Bearcats’ Big 12 bid.

Since it was too cold to go outside on Saturday, time is never wasted watching ESPN 30 for 30 episodes of the award-winning series. The Saturday one featuring the Big East particularly pertained to Temple.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino hit the nail on the head when he said: “In all of those Big East meetings, everybody was swearing unity and allegiance to the Big East and the minute they were over, all of the athletic directors were on the phone trying to make deals with another conference.”

It is with that backdrop that Temple should be concerned with the Cincinnati Enquirer’s report today that the President of that university was in active talks with the Big 12 to get his team out of the American Athletic Conference (AAC).

Temple should be paying attention because, if it was not obvious before, it is every man (school) for himself and without Cincy and UConn, Temple could one day wake up and find itself in nothing more prestigious than Conference USA.

The Oklahoma President says that it is all about TV and, if so, Temple—not Cincy—holds the ace in this deck of cards and that’s something Neil D. Theobald and Pat Kraft should be hammering home. Temple should be looking out for Temple, period.

From the Enquirer’s report, it is clear that Cincy is taking that approach.