AAC Needs To Re-Think Schedule

composite

If the AAC really wants to be considered a Power conference, it can drop the slogans and the sideline markers that read “Power 6” and start scheduling like one.

Mike Aresco is good at public relations but PR won’t get the league to where it needs to be as fast as a thinking-outside-the-box scheduling concept.

west

Take Navy out of the West, put Cincy and ECU there, grab Army for the East and balance the schedules

He should ship two East teams (Cincy and ECU) out West, bring Navy back home to the East and add Army to the East as a sweetener to entice the Middies to make the move.

The league games would only feature East versus East and West versus West, making the championship matchup a fairer one in that every league game is against the same opposition.

That accomplished, the league should encourage its members to schedule Power 5 teams.

To continue to qualify for membership, each league member will have to schedule at least three games against so-called Power 5 conference teams.

What’s that, you say?

“They don’t want to play us.”

Sure, they do.

They don’t want to play us on the road but, if the AAC ever wants to be considered seriously, it will have to schedule less home-and-homes and be flexible to playing road games at Power 5 opponents.

Temple has done the AAC a solid by scheduling Boston College and Maryland this  year. Last year, UCF did the same thing by scheduling Georgia Tech and Maryland. UConn went one better and scheduled three Power 5 teams (Missouri, Virginia and Boston College). UConn got the scheduling part, not the football part.

There are reasons the five major conferences are called Power 5. They have the Power and the Group of Five schools do not.

To get the Power, you’ve got to fight the Power.

Short-term, this AAC schedule is just fine but the league has to address these issues within the next couple of years if it ever wants to be taken seriously.

Monday: Temple Schedules Going Forward

 

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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

Owls Need Experience at DC

cardinals

When Matt Rhule was putting the final piece to the puzzle that was his Temple coaching staff, he said to me over the phone two days after he was hired that “I have a older guy with a lot of experience in mind and with a young coaching staff, I think that’s the kind of guy we need.”

I later learned that was Phil Snow.

After a rocky start at Temple, Snow put his defense in place and, by the second AAC championship game he coached in, there were few better in the country. I wasn’t a big fan of Phil at first, but he won me over four years later when it took him that long to put in his defense.

formerowls

All but one of the above played for Rapone at Temple

Geoff Collins might be wise to consider the same approach now that Taver Johnson is headed to Ohio State to essentially fill the 10th coaching spot Adam DiMichele filled at Temple.

With all due respect to Andrew Thacker, he simply doesn’t have the experience at an important position that a school as large as Temple should demand.

Nick Rapone, who was the defensive backs coach with the Arizona Cardinals (Temple West, located in Tempe) for Bruce Arians, does and he has the ability to put any type of defense in at a faster rate than even the Sainted Phil Snow did for the Sainted Matt Rhule. You want real Mayhem? Hire Nick Rapone.

Rapone’s daughter graduated from Temple and Rapone himself has some deep ties to Philadelphia and the Owls, having served two stints as an assistant here already.

As DC at  Delaware, Rapone was a part of two NCAA national runner-up teams, including in 2010 when he helped the Blue Hens to a 12-3 record and a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title. Rapone was named the 2010 FootballScoop NCAA Division I FCS Coordinator of the Year as his defense led the nation in scoring (12.1 ppg), ranked fifth in total defense (280.7 ypg) and was 12th in rushing defense (105.3 ypg). The secondary included four All-CAA performers, including All-American selections Anthony Walters and Anthony Bratton at safety. The Hens also ranked ninth in the nation in passing efficiency (102.7), and the team’s 21 INTs were the third-highest total in the nation at the FCS level.

He was the Owls’ defensive coordinator under Arians and the Owls more than held their own as a defense against two top 10 schedules under him.

Most importantly, he’s available and he does have extensive DC experience at the highest levels of football, not at developmental programs like Kennesaw State.

That’s what Thacker does not have nor did Johnson. Neither of those guys have any history of stopping offenses. Rapone has a long and storied one.

Like Rhule said back then about Snow, I think that’s just the kind of guy Temple needs.

Collins should at least pick up the phone and give him a call.

Or vice-versa.

Valentine’s Day: Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes

Friday: A Closer Look at the AAC Schedule

Monday: Developmental Program?

2/21: Philly Special

2/23: New Transfer Rule

 

 

 

The King of All Classes

 

 

 

Cincinnati has Tavion Thomas, Temple has Travon King.

While no one really knows if either one will make an impact with their respective schools, the takeaway from National Signing Day on Wednesday was that Temple went for length and speed and character and Cincinnati reached for the stars.


You can talk about length,
speed and character until
you are blue in the face,
what matters most is wins
on Saturdays. That’s really
all that matters

Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back from Dunbar in Dayton, picked his nearby hometown squad after decommiting from Oklahoma. His final three were Cincinnati, Tennessee and Ohio State.

File that name away because what Cincinnati and the other AAC schools do is important in comparison to what Temple does. Cincinnati had the No. 1 recruiting class as ranked by the website 247.com (recently merged with Scout.com) and while the same service ranked Temple’s class as its best ever, it was still behind the Bearcats.

All you have to do is check the number of five-stars and four-stars on rosters like Alabama and Ohio State over the past few years to determine what the meaning of them on the field can be.

recruitingsnip

Geoff Collins, also a second-year coach, has not signed a four-star yet.

Maybe next year.

No one at the signing ceremony at the Aramark Facility (a huge upgrade, by the way, from the Student Pavilion) seemed to mind.

There were many of the obligatory ohhs and ahhs watching the highlight films of the Temple recruits. Here is the complete breakdown with heights, weights, 40 speeds and even some academic achievements. Nary a negative word will be found about this class on Pravda or any other site that covers Temple regularly using notepads, pen and tape recorders and “making phone calls”, but we will try to offer some balanced objective perspective here untainted by receiving a paycheck from Temple.

At the end of the presentation and remembering the similar feeling I had watching recruiting highlights the last three years, I got up out of my seat and the first thing I said to Temple linebacking legend Steve Conjar was: “How do we ever lose a game with these kind of players?”

(I did not have the heart to mention maybe it’s because we do some questionable, OK stupid, things like passing on first-and-goal at the Army 1 when we had the best fullback in the country available to lead block for a running back who gained 151 yards that day.)

It’s what you do with the players once you get them that determines wins and losses.

King represents what Collins is trying to do with this class. Collins called King a “designated pass rusher” and he had a couple of those in this class. If Temple can find a DPR who is also able to play the run well, that will be the guy who sees the field.

It would be nice to have reached up and grabbed a (five) star or four stars, but this is the process at Temple now and we won’t know if it’s a better one than the other teams in the conference until a couple of years from now. You can talk about length, speed and character until you are blue in the face, what matters most is wins on Saturdays. That’s really all that matters.

For now, though, the guys already in the program will have to make their mark. For the guys signed with this class, a little more patience is required.

Monday: Possible Johnson Replacement

Wednesday: Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes

Friday: Developmental Program?

Signing Event: Quality and Quantity

hardwork

Most of the hard recruiting work was done by this day on the beach in December with Kevin Kopp, Geoff Collins and Morgyn Seigfried.

Anyone who has been a Temple fan for many seasons has been to at least a couple of these recruiting signing nights.

The one that happens tonight (5-7 p.m., Student Pavilion Building) will have a different feel to it.

recruiting

Back when Al Golden was having these things, he’d roll out the projector and show all 25 guys’ recruiting highlights. Then the oohs and ahhs would follow, someone would yell out (“they all look like USC and Alabama recruits”) and Golden would shake a few hands of the fans and we’d call it a wrap. There were surprises, last-minute guys who Golden would beat a BC or a Pitt for and who would go on to be great Owls.

For the first time, though, a lot of the surprise element is gone this year. Because of the early signing date, we have known for over a month who is in the fold.

That’s a good thing, not a bad one, because in the past Temple would invariably lose a number of recruits to Power 5 schools between December and February. Off the top of my head, they lost a running back to Iowa, a fullback to Pitt, a safety to Penn State and an “athlete” to Ohio State. Since they did not go to Temple, they shall remain nameless in this space.

The best national site on recruiting, according to most objective observers, is Scout.com and that site has Temple signing at least 25 players with as many as four add-ons coming tonight. Since we’re a little superstitions so we won’t name them until the ink is dry on the dotted line. More on them in this space on Saturday.

Of the 25 so far, though, Scout.com has 22 with at least three stars. Only three of the signees have two-stars. That’s an important distinction because, while Temple has had higher-ranked classes before, they have never had over 20 three-star players in the fold in a single class.

Quality and quantity should be the theme here.

Expect Geoff Collins to talk about adding depth throughout the organization and, unlike last year’s class, there will be quite a few guys in the room from it tonight who will make an impact not only on the highlight screen tonight, but on the field in a few months. That’s because at least five December signees are already working out at the E-O.

That’s progress.

Friday: Recruiting Night Recap

Temple’s Super Bowl?

playoffbowl

By this 1969 playoff bowl between Dallas and Minny, fans and everyone else lost interest.

Back in the day, they used to have this thing in the NFL called the “Runner-Up” Bowl.

If you are a certain age—folks under 40 probably have never heard of it—it was either an interesting diversion or the most meaningless game at the end of the season.

If the “Runner-Up” Bowl existed, we’d be watching the Minnesota Vikings take on the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, maybe instead of a Pro Bowl that is also outdated. In 1967, near the end of this 1960s invention of the Runner-Up Bowl (officially called the Playoff Bowl), the Eagles lost to the then Baltimore Colts, 20-14, before 58,084 fans in Miami.

Two years later, it was over.

I thought about that while watching the Philadelphia Eagles play in the Super Bowl last night.

My second favorite team in all of sports was getting a chance at being the best in the world.

What about my favorite sports team, The Temple Football Owls?

Do they have the same shot at being the best college football team in the world?

No, and it’s not even close.

The system is so skewed against Group of Five teams it is not even funny.

If the best UCF does in an unbeaten season is No. 7 in the country, the system is stacked against the Group of Five teams so much that it should be illegal.

If Temple is set up for, in Geoff Collins’ words, a “ridiculous” season in 2018, the best the Owls can hope for is college football’s version of the runner-up bowl.

Realistically, the best Temple can hope for is to do what UCF did—beat a successful and respected Power 5 team in a NY6 bowl—and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe this year, with wins over Boston College and Maryland and rolling through the league schedule unscathed, Temple gets a better break than UCF did but that’s asking for a lot more than any organization should be asked.

What UCF did was pretty darn good and it is something the Owls should aspire to do from time to time.

According to Collins, this appears to be one of those times.

In an unfair system, and until Temple can position itself to join the big-time, that’s our Super Bowl.

Wednesday: Signing Day Primer

Boomer: The One Who Got Away

boumerhi

Boomer started his first season helping students into dorms here.

You cannot go back in time and say for certain one thing would have happened under different circumstances, but Temple let a good one get away at the kicking position the other day.

We’re not talking about Austin Jones, the graduate transfer who we will be watching kick for Alabama next season, but about our own Aaron “Boomer” Boumerhi.

What’s that you say, Boomer is still here?
journey

Yes, for next year and for 2019 but except for some incredibly botched handling of the kicking situation by the current coaching staff, he could have been here in 2020.

Hindsight is 20/20 and that just so happens to be the year Temple could have had the services of Boomer until. Like many things on this site, the coaching staff did not need the benefit of hindsight; they just could have read this blog and would have saved themselves a lot of heartache. Jones, in a two-kicker system, got hurt in 2017 but who knows what would have happened in the injury department had he been awarded the job on his own? He might have gotten injured, but then again he might not have. He deserved the chance to prove either way.

This is what should have happened and what we outlined in a post in this space way back in August and here is the proof in black and white.

Jones should have kicked his senior year here, using up his eligibility, and Boomer should have been redshirted, saving a year of his.

That was the King Solomon Solution: Split this kicking baby right down the middle like a Jones/Boumerhi field goal and keep the good times rolling at a very important position for another year.

Why did the staff choose the two-kicker solution, you ask? Good question. As all detectives can tell you motivation is a tricky thing to determine, but my educated guess is that this staff did not think they would be here in 2020 so why do they give a flying fuck about Temple having a serviceable kicker in that season? (Excuse my language, but this is the college football world we live in today.) I do. Maybe other Temple fans do, too. You could give me $7 million to write a Baylor blog extolling virtues of Baylor football, but I’d have to say no thanks. This is my school and the the Temple football team is the sports team I love above all others, including the Eagles, Phillies and Sixers. Coaches come, coaches go, I and a great many Temple fans will be here forever. Not all coaches burn redshirts like the Steve Addazios and others. Say all you want about Al Golden but he promised Temple he would “build a house of brick, not straw” and he delivered on the promise by redshirting 10-15  guys every season. Golden would not have gone with the two-kicker system, if he had two kickers who were even because he felt his word was his bond. Collins has made no such promises and that’s his right, as it was Golden’s right to reward Temple with solid assurances. Golden gave Temple five good years and the uni is indebted to him forever for that.

Coaches with one eye on the door don’t make the promises Golden kept.

Who knows if Jones had been allowed to kick this season by himself he would have gotten injured like he did? We cannot say for sure. Nobody can, but it was a plan that needed to be executed first. Kick Jones this season, save Boomer’s redshirt.

Instead, they tried the two-kicker system and that’s never a good plan.

There is no guarantee that Collins—or Al Golden or whomever succeeds him—is going to be able to recruit a kicker near the ability of either Boomer or Austin in the future and there’s quite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

From 1991 until 2009—which so happens to correspond to the longest period of futility in Temple or any other kind of football—Temple had a lot of nondescript and comically ineffective kickers.

There were exceptions to the rule, of course, such as when Cap Poklemba kicked for Bobby Wallace, but the rule pretty much held firm until Brandon McManus came to town. When Steve Addazio was running Montel Harris into the middle of the field to set up for an OT win at UConn, he said: “We were going to put it in the middle of the field and let the best kicker in college football win it for us.”  Before that, it was just an embarrassment at the position. After that, an embarrassment of riches.

Like the stock market and a ball that sails off a foot, what goes up must come down and it would have been nice to have a blue-chipper in the portfolio for one extra year.

Monday: Temple’s Super Bowl

Wednesday: Signing Celebration Primer

Friday: Signing Celebration Recap

Monday: The New Transfer Rule