Crunching Leadership Numbers

More leaders coming back in these 32 seconds than have left.

A few weeks ago, someone broached a question about who the leaders will be on the 2017 Temple football team.

It was a fair question because a couple of leaders left on offense and a couple of more left on defense in Jahad Thomas and P.J. Walker and Haason Reddick and Nate Hairston.

The answer lies in the numbers.

 

thisandthat

This (left) more than made up for that (right).

 

 

Or, in this case, the number because the returning single-digit guys—particularly Nick Sharga and Ventell Byrant on offense and Jacob Martin and Champ Chandler on defense—are natural-born leaders and provide enough quantity to go along with the quality.

It’s no coincidence that Thomas, Walker and Reddick were single-digit guys and there is no law against any of the other guys assuming leadership roles, as No. 15 Hairston did by locking down one corner.

Anyone who thinks there is a dearth of leadership on the 2017 team should be disabused of that notion.

All you had to do was look at the widely viewed tape of “The Drive” when Bryant not only caught three clutch passes in 32 seconds against UCF, but staggered to his position just before the final play from scrimmage. Any other player would have been so hurt he remained down but, even though he was groggy he had enough sense to realize that if he had stayed down, there would have been a 10-second runoff and Temple would have lost the game.

That’s leadership.

That presence of mind led to the latest single-digit guy, Keith Kirkwood, who saw a ball in the air and knew he had to catch or the game was over. Kirkwood made a great catch in the back of the end zone and the Owls were on their way to a seven-game winning streak.

Kirkwood, Bryant and Adonis Jennings, among others, give the Owls what I feel is their best receiving corps since Van Johnson and Troy Kersey were on the same team.

On defense, with Chandler in the middle of the field for a full season and Martin and Sharif Finch creating Mayhem in the pocket on defense, the Owls are in good shape.

At this point, it should be fun watching this team develop their own identity between now and opening day.

 

Friday:  Month of Mayhem

5 Stats For Winners

Temple Tuff goes way back to this brawl at the end of the game (and the video). Thanks to David Nelson for it, all filmed at Temple Stadium.

 

A quick google (or was it dogpile?) search found the first reference to “statistics are for losers” with a time stamp on it came in 1962, when Associated Press reported: “The Cardinals outgained the 49ers, 314-215, [in a 24-17 defeat] but ‘statistics are for losers,’ [coach Wally] Lemm said.”

That was originally attributed to former Tennessee head coach Bob Neyland, but there was no date on the statement so we know it goes back sometime before 1962. Neyland coached at Tennessee between 1926 and 1952, so it could be way, way back.

Statistics are for losers but, in effect, are they really?

Here are five statistics we’d like to see that would guarantee Temple our minimum goal of breaking a more meaningful stat, the school record for wins (10, tied by two). The Owls only need to do one of these five to get to 11; anything above that would be gravy and probably add to thet win total:

AAC Championship - Temple v Houston

Phillip Walker.

30 touchdown passes

When he was P.J., Phillip Walker threw for 20 touchdowns after grabbing the job for good midway through his freshman season. With no pocket protection his sophomore year, he fell into a sophomore slump that had little to do with his own play but more to do with an offensive scheme that allowed defense a free run (blitzes) on Walker just about every third down. Now that the coaching staff has provided him with the pocket protection of a back and even very good blocker in Nick Sharga, Walker has a much better view of the field.  If Walker throws 10 more touchdown passes this season (one more per game), the Owls should get to 11 wins. (Twice, he kept the interceptions for a season down to eight and that has to be a goal, too.)

P.J. Walker, Jager Gardner, Temple football,

Jager Gardner

2,000 yards rushing

Between Jahad Thomas (1,278 yards, 17 touchdowns) a year ago and Jager Gardner, Ryquell Armstead and David Hood, this is challenging, but doable.

40 sacks

Before the Penn State opener, Temple head coach Matt Rhule set a goal of 40 sacks for his defense. When the Owls recorded 10 sacks against the Nittany Lions, fans assumed that goal might be achieved midway through the season. Instead, the Owls needed 14 games to get 32 sacks. They don’t need to get 10 sacks a game, but a more consistent 5-7 sacks per game should get them to a figure they should have had last season.  The overall speed of the defense—with possible kickoff returner Haason Reddick as one of the defensive ends—should make this happen. Reddick is without a doubt the fastest defensive end I have ever seen at Temple.

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Romond Deloatch

Someone making 15 Touchdown Catches

Bruce Francis did this in in the 2007 season and, if a guy like Jahad Thomas is split out into the slot (this would be made possible only if either Jager Garner or Ryquell Armstead prove they can provide his RB production), he’s got the breakaway skills to match that. Thomas’ position in the pros will be as a slot receiver, not a running back, so the Owls will be doing him a big favor by splitting him out for his senior year.  If not, either Marshall Ellick, Romond Deloatch, Ventell Bryant or Adonis Jennings have the talent to make it happen. Francis, though, had the talent and the drive and one of those three needs to find a stick shift to get to the next level.

Twenty-six interceptions

With Sam Shaffer getting nine of them all by himself, the Temple Owls led the nation in interceptions with 26 in 1981. The coach of the defensive backs at the time was city legend Dick Bedesem, who also had stints as head coach at Villanova and Delaware Valley College. Temple has a “Willie Mays” type centerfielder at free safety in Sean Chandler, and his vision and break-on-the-ball skills should make him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Any time the ball is thrown into the center of the field, it has a chance of coming back the other way. Chandler led the nation with two interception returns for touchdowns a year ago.

Monday: Temple’s Next NFL Back

 

Chandler Could Break Special Record

Phillip Walker will be happy when he doesn’t have to throw over Sean Chandler.

Thirty-five years ago, a kid came out of nowhere to set a Temple record and, in the process, lead the nation in interceptions.

Sam Shaffer, a safety who could play the middle of the field like a baseball centerfielder, had nine interceptions for the 1981 Owls.

Since then, we haven’t seen a guy with Shaffer’s vision in the middle of the field and his break on the ball skills until now. Appropriately enough, his nickname is Champ. For now, Shaffer is the champion of Temple interceptors and Champ is the, err, challenger. In a few months, those roles could be flip-flopped.

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Shaffer was 1981, not 1971, when he joined the list of these TU national stat leaders.

We cannot say for sure that Sean Chandler will lead the nation in interceptions, like Sam Shaffer did, but by putting Chandler at safety, he will definitely challenge Shaffer’s all-time single season mark with the Owls. Since it is August 17, we will go on record as saying Chandler will tie the regular-season mark with nine and add at least one in the postseason.

Temple head coach Matt Rhule kicked the offense off the field in practice on Tuesday and there are a couple of conclusions that could be made. The offense could be that bad or the defense could be that good and, for the sake of our own sanity, we will go with the latter. Chandler is just one piece of what has been a dominating defense in the summer and he should benefit from an improved pass rush and the overall speed of the defense.

Shaffer, though, should be remembered.

He twice victimized Todd Blackledge in a 30-0 loss to second-ranked Penn State on Oct. 3, increasing his total to five and took over the national lead in interceptions. Number six cam in a 24-13 win over Cincinnati and equaled the Temple record of seven — set in 1952 by Larry Cardonick — with a pick against Oliver Luck in the Owls’ 24-19 loss to West Virginia.

In the season finale against top-ranked Pitt,  Shaffer intercepted two Marino passes to eclipse Cardonick’s long-standing mark. His eighth and ninth interceptions came against a pretty good quarterback named Dan Marino.

We haven’t seen a Sam Shaffer play for Temple until now and, while he’s a challenger for a special record, he should be a Champ before long.

Friday: 5 Stats for Winners