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