No way to win: Next Man Up

Had to laugh the other day when I saw one reaction to Darian Varner leaving on a major Temple sports message board was:

“Next man up.”

Understandable sentiment but, err, no.

If in Varner’s case, the “next man” up is a Scout team defensive end who only is able to put a hand on a quarterback’s green jersey in practice, then that’s the best way to turn this year’s 3-9 season into a third-straight 3-9 season in 2023.

Varner was a guy who regularly threw down great AAC quarterbacks like Clayton Tune and Sean Henigan violently on a regular basis. You don’t replace him with a Scout team guy. You replace him with a Power 5 top-level recruit who wants a change of scenery.

Most important Temple football TV broadcast of the Stan Drayton Era.

There was a TV show in the 1970s called “Mission Impossible” that started every episode with a cassette tape to a CIA agent that blasted: “Your mission, if you chose to accept it …” blah blah blah for that week’s hour.

Stan Drayton already accepted the mission from Arthur Johnson a year ago.

“Keep the good guys and, in the event you lose a good guy, go get a better guy in the transfer portal.”

Tough job, but that’s why Temple is paying you $2.5 million a year.

One of the major reasons that got Rod Carey fired is that he was hated so much by his players that a great Temple quarterback, Anthony Russo, thought that being a backup at Michigan State was preferable to starting for Carey again. That led to Carey starting a guy from Georgia who had more interceptions than touchdown passes there. When he was injured prior to the Boston College game, Carey was then forced to start a true freshman, Justin Lynch, who clearly wasn’t ready for the speed of being a FBS starter.

That produced a whole three points in a 28-3 loss.

Think that Russo–throwing to Randle Jones and Jadan Blue–would have produced a whole lot more points than Lynch did?

Yeah, I do.

Twenty-nine points is certainly debatable but certainly was doable.

Next man up my ass.

That’s why the “Temple Football Signing Show” on ESPN+ will tell you more about Drayton’s future success at Temple than even the recently completed 3-9 season will.

Varner needs to be replaced, not by a high school guy, but with a P5 guy with a high upside (think Manny Walker from Wake Forest a couple of years ago). Hell, at this point, an established FCS star (not just starter) would be acceptable. UCLA picked up the best college defensive end in Philadelphia and, surprisingly, he never practiced at 10th and Diamond. Temple probably needs to look to FCS to replace Varner. Harvard DE Truman Jones (6-4, 200 pounds) probably tops the list of available FCS players. He was Co-Ivy Defensive Player of the year and probably would be able to handle the rigorous course load as a grad student at Temple. As of Friday morning, he’s currently still in the transfer portal. He has 13.5 career sacks and blocked four punts.

Temple had a putrid running game this season with leading rusher Edward Saydee only getting 629 yards. The Owls need to go out and get one of the current 17 uncommitted 1,000-yard rushers in the portal to either replace him or give him more competition than Darvon Hubbard did. Ball State’s Carson Steele is still available, as is Western Michigan’s Sean Tyler.

This guy may be from Muncie, Indiana but he’s Temple TUFF

So far, all we’ve seen in the RB talk is a guy from FIU who had half the yards of Saydee for a far worse team than Temple. The reason is the flimsiest one yet. The current Temple Chief of Staff, Everett Withers, was the FIU defensive coordinator last year and a current Temple grad assistant was the RB coach at FIU last year.

That’s the lazy man’s way of recruiting.

That’s the way Texas Football Director of Operations Arthur Johnson hired Texas RB coach Stan Drayton to be Temple head coach.

If that trickles down to recruiting, it’s a bad sign.

The industrious way of recruiting is to go out and get on of those 1,000-yard backs who they “don’t know” but will advance the organization more than the comfortable pick.

If you watch next Wednesday’s show, keep that in mind. That will tell more about Drayton’s chances of future success than anything we’ve seen so far.

Monday: Double Digits


22 thoughts on “No way to win: Next Man Up


    I don’t think I’ve witnessed such a cosmic shift in sports in my lifetime. We are in need of a new term to replace the “student-athlete’.

    “The NLRB will argue that athletes at USC are employees of those three groups and that their rights have been unlawfully restricted. If they are successful, athletes who play men’s basketball, women’s basketball or football at any private college in the NCAA will be granted the rights of employees, including the freedom to create unions.”

    From student athlete to NIL, to “employee”.

    Why did they give SMU the “death penalty” in the late ’80s? Seems pretty stupid now in comparison.

    • Good point. We’ve come from a sport that was heavily regulated to one where, “Go ahead and cheat, we don’t give a fuck” is the current mantra.

      • SMU should sue the NCAA for hypocrisy…., give Reggie Bush back his Heisman.., more hypocrisy…,

        we are witnessing in real time the dismantling of the NCAA

        The SEC and Big Ten would be better of w/o the NCAA

      • I don’t know if there’s even any hope left for college football, let alone Temple. I thought at this time last year that this is crazy. Congress has to step in and regulate college sports but Congress seems more interested in paying the players than it is protecting schools like Akron, Kent State, Georgia Southern, and practically every G5 school. They don’t have the money to compete with the blue bloods.

  2. Saw 2 D-lineman visiting this weekend, one who decommitted from GT and the second in the portal from Nebraska. Would be nice if a signing came out of at least one of these visits. As I’ve said in a previous post concerned that the team hasn’t closed on any of these transfer visits so far

    • I’m seeing a lot of guys who have past connections with the staff. That’s a double-edged sword. It’s a good thing if represent an upgrade from the current roster. It’s charity if once they get here, they can’t make an impact. Go out and get proven players at the FBS (and even the FCS) level. Shouldn’t matter if you know them or not.

  3. Has anyone realized the uniqueness of TUFB ’23 Transfer Portal recruiting cycle?

    As of Dec 16th, amongst all schools with 10 or more players in the portal:
    * TU is the only school that has not inked a new player
    * None of the 13 TU players in the portal have found a new team

    Nobody wants to come to Temple, and nobody wants guys who have played for TU.

    Not Fake News, just sad stuff

    • Not having signed a new player is troubling, especially when you keep seeing players visiting other schools and their “signed, sealed and delivered” before they leave the same day. Plus, I’m not getting on the “it’s still early” bandwagon like a lot of folks on the TUFB fan Facebook page.

  4. Sitting here watching 2 bowl games each with a team that will be a new member of the AAC next season. UTSA, ranked, with an 11-2 record and within a couple minutes they had 2 sacks, a couple hurries and an interception – no push over there. And UAB at 6-6 struggling with 6-6 Miami, Oh – hopefully a win, but not necessarily. So, what is Drayton waiting for on these portal guys or do they just not want to come to Temple? If so, we’re in big trouble. Let’s see what happens….

    • Watching Incarnate Word, which beat Nevada, which beat New Mexico State, which beat Liberty (48-14), which beat Arkansas, which beat Old Miss. College football is crazy sometimes. Hope Temple gets involved on the top side in one of those chains very soon.

  5. Very tough sell in the portal for TU. Very good education in a major metropolitan area, but no enthusiasm for a middling college football program. No enthusiasm to play FAU, North Texas, UAB etc. for fans to attend, thus you have a ghost town of a stadium on Saturdays. No NIL $ at TU compared to everyone else, no proven coach. Recruits or Transfers make a list of positives/negatives. TU doesn’t have a lot of positives in comparison. I wish it wasn’t this way, but that is the reality. Your absolute only hope is to dig super deep in recruiting and the transfer portal, find a few hidden gems (because no way you get a lot) and hope those few can carry you to some success so that others get excited about the program. Give me 2-3 on each side of the ball. You have to find a few diamonds in the rough. Imperative, otherwise this program is sunk. Colleges are having endowments get pinched by capital markets declines, thus they are going to have to reduce expenditures. Soon the question will be “why the heck is the BOT whacking academic programs when we can whack a football program that is a dead stick.?” Endowments help these schools maintain facilities, hire professors, etc. Less endowment $ and believe me they are taking a hit makes a football program that maybe 20% of the 33k students care about look very expendable. Sad but true. Take a look at Lasalle these days, that school is in big trouble. They may not make it.

    • They are not dropping football. President is a football player and the AD is a former director of football operations. Stan Drayton would still be owed $10 million if they dropped football tomorrow. They are definitely seeing how the landscape plays over the next five years and watching if Drayton’s recruiting charm kicks in and brings Temple football above water. Don’t care about these other sports, frankly.

      • Mike, Fools Gold. MR’s success was TUFB Fool’s Gold, especially considering today’s dramatically changed environment.

        Drayton is a tough dude, he will leave only after posting a winning season. Drayton’s winning season will be more Fool’s Gold for the Uni Pres and AD. Detaching emotion from facts and reality is impossible for both of them.

        The winner will be Drayton. Got a walking dead program to a bowl game, and got a new P5 job.

        Guess who the losers will be? Alumni stay and suffer, everybody else gets to leave.

      • That winning season will be worth it. Name Chris Weisehan the successor in waiting.

      • Yes Wingard played football, but he has an obligation to the entire university and not just the football program. You made my point in your comment “Stan Drayton would be owed $10 million”–in what world should Stan Drayton (completely unproven) get $2.5 million per year. He sure as hell ain’t worth $2.5 million if you continue to get 20k into the stadium. You aren’t going to get any attendance push with the new AAC members. You see a tough environment for endowments in 2023, declining collegiate enrollment due to demographics and you will have some very tough decisions to make. I hope it doesn’t happen, but let’s be real clear, the support for this program is non-existent. They drew 14k for #25 Cincy (a good team). 13k for ECU. 13k for Tulsa.
        What do I know, I’m sure you will have 50K for Akron/ 50k for Norfolk State. Nobody cares about Akron or Norfolk State. You will have less than 15k at both. NIL $ is non-existent, I get you love TU football, but at some point a financial decision is going to have to be made as to the value of continuing to fund a program. Paying a Rod Carey his $, now paying Stan Drayton his $ is not cheap. Now days even if you get to a bowl game, anyone that has a shot at getting drafted (TU unfortunately does not have a lot of guys in that position) decides to skip the bowl games. Bowl games have been diluted. Damn shame, but let’s not put the cart before the horse, you need to get 6 wins to get to a Bowl game first. I’m worried that time is going to run out on this program, even with a football friendly Prez. P.S. He knows the difficulty in maintaining a D 1 program, Stanford has their issues, different than Temple, but issues that is negatively impacting football success.

    • KJ, your comment regarding the portal is one of the reason I follow Mike’s site, realistic assessments of TUFB. I can’t believe the delusional attitude of a lot of people over on the TUFB Fan Facebook page. So many comments that Drayton needs to take his time regarding the portal, need to have patience, more top players will be hitting the portal after bowl season, etc. The good players are either accepting offers quickly or are not interested in TU. TUFB seems to becoming the equivalent of a JUCO program for P5 programs

  6. I sure hope the old saying is accurate: “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” The comments on this thread are as bad as I’ve seen in so far as frustration and concern for the future of the program.

    I agree with Mike about the reluctance of the BOT and the president to jettison the program. What will cause any change is a redistribution (as in reduction) or disappearance of TV money. What will happen with new contracts among the SEC, B1G, and even the Big XII will suck up most of the money and leave peanuts for the rest. What comes will result in weeknight games as time fillers for ESPN (like MACtion). It will take most of a decade to build the league back to the status it’s had the last couple seasons.

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