Numbers gives Temple flexibility on special teams

Dante Wright shows off his punt returning skills at the 3:19 time stamp.

One tenant in Lincoln Financial Field is forced to play its best punt returner at wide receiver because (ostensibly) they don’t want to get half of the outside receiving game hurt.

The other tenant will not have that problem in 2023.

Given what DeVonta Smith did at Alabama returning punts–where he was nothing short of a magician in the open field–it has to be tempting for Nick Siranni to use him on special teams.

The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have that flexibility due the to limited numbers of receivers the NFL has.

Temple football does.

In this same season (BC=Before Carey), Temple’s Isaiah Wright returned a punt for a touchdown against South Florida.

Dante Wright is no Devonte Smith on punt returns but he will definitely be Temple’s best punt returner since another Wright, Isaiah, roamed the field in 2018.

That year, Wright–who had a cup of coffee with a Washington team called the Redskins (now Commanders)–was named the AAC Special Teams Player of The Year for his ability to break a game open with returns.

This Wright could fill the same role at Temple.

One, Wright was a dynamic punt returner at Colorado State.

Two, the 2023 Owls went from only five scholarship wide receivers at the close of 2022 to what will be 10 at the start of the 2023 season due to the addition of five outstanding players, including Wright–a 2019 freshman first-team All-American at Colorado State and Richard Dandridge, who many Florida prep writers consider the No. 1 outside receiver in the state of Florida.

To me, this whole notion of wide receivers getting hurt on punt returns is overblown. They can get hurt just as easily on a five-yard out as they can returning a punt but, even given that, the Owls have receivers like Amad Anderson, Zae Baines and Dandridge who can be dangerous and productive on the outside. They added three other dynamic newcomers but none have the history of returning punts and kicks like Wright. They can afford to put someone who has the ability to take it to the house back returning kicks.

Wright is that guy.

Now head coach Stan Drayton hasn’t officially named Wright as the punt returner, but he now has that flexibility. Temple used to have the best special teams in the AAC not only because Ed Foley’s units could block kicks on a consistent basis but because they always had a returner who was capable of flipping the field on every punt.

Wright was that guy. Wright is this guy, too.

It will be nice for a Temple special team unit to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition again.

Given the additional numbers on signing day, the Owls are trending that way.

Monday: New Year’s Resolutions

Friday: Four to Score

5 Plays We’d Like to Have Back

Quincy Patterson right after scoring against Rutgers. We think he would have gotten the first down against ECU. (Photos Courtesy Zamani Feelings.)

Over time, the players who Stan Drayton added to the Temple University football fold will contribute in their own way to the future success of the Owls.

What was apparent with the 24 new signees is that Drayton and company have a plan to address the needs of the organization and those needs might be fixed judging on five 2022 plays we’d like to have back, in no particular order:

The Tipped Pass _ The tipped pass against Rutgers that resulted an interception that beat the Owls, 16-14, before a large Homecoming Crowd wasn’t the result as much of E.J. Warner’s small stature as it was of a pass rush that got up on him too fast. The Owls addressed that need with some beef on the offensive line, including California JUCO Diego Barajas (6-6, 300), St. Peter’s Prep’s Eric King (6-3, 314), Wyoming Seminary’s Melvin Siani (6-4, 275) Clearwater Central Catholic’s Kevin Terry (6-5, 260), and St. Mark’s Luke Watson (6-5, 272).

The 1st and Goal Call _ More of a coaching problem than a recruiting one, that could be chalked up to Everett Withers taking over at the Navy game. With the Owls down by 3, a great catch by Amad Anderson set them up in ideal position to go ahead and win the game in the final minute (against a triple-option team) with a touchdown, not a field goal. First and goal at the Navy 5 and you’ve got to use some imagination there. They had trouble moving the ball all day on the ground and yet the first play was a handoff into the middle of the line for no gain. Had they rolled Warner away from the rush and tried a throwback pass to the tight end across the field, that probably would have resulted in 1) a touchdown; 2) a holding call in the end zone and Temple probably wins that game, 24-20, instead of losing it 27-20 in overtime. Maybe the new offensive linemen help but better awareness of play call and personnel was probably more responsible for that loss.

The 3d and 1 Call _ Against ECU, trying a pass at midfield on a 3d-and-1 play was a real head scratcher. The Owls have a 6-4, 252-pound player who might have gotten the first down with a quarterback sneak but decided not to use that skill set. Had to think Drayton, by calling a pass on third down, had already decided it was four-down territory but, after a Mike Houston timeout, changed his mind and punted. Bad news both ways because, by that time, Drayton knew he was kicking it to a team that already scored more than 40 points. A team that doesn’t have confidence in getting a yard down by running on third down probably deserves to lose and the Owls did that day. A championship team can’t be forced to pass on 3d and 1 going forward.

The Kickoff Return _ In the same ECU game, the third-down call would have been moot had they not given up a kickoff return for a touchdown. While the special teams covered relatively well, every other team in the league had a kicker who was at least 70 percent on touchbacks. Temple only had 28 percent of its kickoffs driven through the end zone and that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. There are plenty of kickers who can boot it consistently through the end zone. Temple is aware of the problem as they tried to recruit Hawaii specialist Kyler Halvorsen. If they can’t get him, they need to get someone of his caliber.

The Clock _ At Houston, the Owls had a first down with 2:13 left in the game. They scored with 1:22 left on a fourth-down pass to Zae Baines. If they had done a better job killing more than that minute or so between the downs, Baines might have scored with 22 seconds left, rather than 1:22 and Clayton Tune’s job might have been that much harder.

Those plays were the difference between a bowl bid and a second-consecutive 3-9 season. The Owls addressed some of the issues from a personnel standpoint last Wednesday, but they still need a kickoff specialist and a big-time running back.

Fortunately, the Owls have four scholarships left and the portal is still open.

Friday: Numbers Game

Merry Christmas From Temple Football Forever

EDITOR’S NOTE: Instead of JUST a Yule Log this year, we’re going to republish a story of ours that appeared at the top of the Philadelphia Daily News Op-Ed page on Sept. 25, 2003. We wish all of our readers (even the haters) a very Merry Christmas and a lot of Temple wins in 2023 but, more importantly, good health.

By MIKE GIBSON

I’M A TEMPLE football fan – and I’m going straight to heaven when I die. All Temple football fans will.
I say that because we are doing our time in hell right now.
“Temple football fan?” St. Peter will ask. “Go right ahead. You’ve suffered enough.”
Suffered through a dozen straight losing seasons, where many of us had just been beaten down too much and just gave up.
Not me.
Hope is all I have.


Hope . . . and suffering.
Suffering from being a fan of a school that’s the only one in history to be booted out of a major conference.
Suffering through the agony of not knowing until Aug. 13 where – or if – we would have a home field for a season that started on the road later that month.
Suffering, too, when newspaper estimates noted up to 10,000 fans turned away because of Temple’s poor ticket service at the first game at Lincoln Financial Field. (Lord knows, we need as many fans as we can get.)
But that suffering pales in comparison to what we go through watching what transpires on the field.
Take the last two games, for instance . . .
Please.
In the 106-year history of Temple football, there have been only two overtime games – the last two.
Two excruciatingly painful overtime losses, the first to a city neighbor, Villanova, that plays its ball in Division IAA, a full classification lower than Temple’s. Temple blew a chance to win in overtime when it had two consecutive false starts and then lost in double overtime.


If that weren’t bad enough, we Temple fans had to deal with that sour taste in our mouths waiting two full weeks for the next game.
That game, on Saturday at unbeaten 13-point favorite Cincinnati, finally came. So, Temple’s kicker missed field goals from 37 and 24 yards. Temple, with a 24-10 fourth quarter lead, threw a bomb on 2nd and 2. Incomplete, of course. The Owls also threw three passes when they had a first-and-goal on the Cincinnati 2.
INCOMPLETE, of course. Lost in three overtimes.
No one fully understands the searing, deep-in-the-stomach, pain that causes – other than a long-suffering Temple fan.
I should know. I’m the football fan a certain weekend sports talk-show host is referring to when he says, “My friend, Mike, the Temple football fan, says . . .”
My “friend” the talk-show host uses the word “the” for a reason. It’s his friendly dig at Temple fans, calling me the only one.
But I’m not.
More than 30,000 came out for the first Temple game at the Linc. And, judging from the cheering, more than three-quarters were pulling for the Owls.
Many of us remember the halcyon days in the ’70s of Wayne Hardin – the coach who went 80-52-3. And many of us have been waiting for a similar savior to come along to return us to the Promised Land. But while we remember, most others have forgotten.
Our suffering goes beyond the field to vague areas like perception, outdated stereotypes and beliefs.
With each loss and the thousands of ways we seem to find a way to lose, the suffering becomes more intense.
So excuse us when we bypass you in that long line at the Pearly Gates.
This story first appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Sept. 25, 2003.

Temple Signing Day: A Golden Night

Roughly about the same time the most consequential Temple football class since Al Golden’s penultimate one was being signed on TV, down the dial iconic anchor Jim Gardner was saying his final goodbyes to Philadelphia.

From a ratings standpoint, bad timing.

Overnights had the 6 p.m. Action News broadcast at 540,000 viewers which was the highest rated 6 p.m. Action News since Sept. 11, 2001.

You all know what happened on that day.

Sorry, Jim, but I eschewed the local news that day for another down the dial, the Temple Football Signing Show (ESPN+, also 6 p.m.). Probably only the 20,000 or so hardcore Temple football fans joined me. Maybe a sliver of the 20,000 or so “softcore” Temple fans did as well.

The reason was simple: Action News goes on and on for another 46 years with or without Jim Gardner.

Temple football is always looking over its should for the axe.

Fortunately, due to what happened, the Owls future looks bright on paper and any rumors of their demise are, as Mark Twain would say, premature.

We have to say on paper because this is the highest-rated class since the second Steve Addazio class (52) after the big 2011 New Mexico Bowl win over Wyoming.

In fact, it ranks with Al Golden’s first two classes which were the top ones in the MAC.

Back then, Golden would host Temple fans for a night on campus to watch the film of the new recruits and take questions afterward. He always embraced the fact that the Scout.com and Rivals.com services had his recruiting classes ranked No. 1 in the league.

Golden never won a MAC title because recruiting classes have to cycle through the system for a full four years in order to win a league title and he left for Miami before that. A strong argument could be made that his recruiting got the Owls in a position where they were able to make a move up in leagues from the MAC to the Big East. Golden promised to build a house of brick, not straw,

Golden kept his promise and I had to laugh when all the stories about Matt Rhule being hired at Nebraska said it was Rhule, not Golden, who revitalized Temple football. Temple disagrees. Golden is in the Temple Sports Hall of Fame for a reason and Rhule is not.

Golden was the guy who did all the heavy lifting. Rhule benefited from it.

Now it appears that Stan Drayton is following the Golden Template, not the Rhule one, and the organization is better for it.

Drayton realizes his hard work has Temple ranked high up the Group of Five recruiting food chain and has, like Golden, embraced recognition.

The Owls had this chip once. They need to get it back.

Temple put out a couple of social media posts backing up its hard work and that’s smart. Every staff pats themselves on the back and thinks they did a great job but it’s nice to know impartial observers do as well.

For this post, we won’t go through every individual signee (there are plenty of days between now and Cherry and White to do that), but we will note that Dante Wright was a first-team freshman All-American wide receiver in 2019 and the first-team All-American freshman quarterback in 2022 was E.J. Warner.

Put those two on the field together in 2023 and the potential is there for the Owls to turn the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine. Freshman running back Joquez Smith is considered by most Florida prep writers to be the best running back in that talent-fertile state and his 55 touchdowns over the last two years provides the receipts. Edward Saydee had 53 touchdowns in three years at Penn Charter. Inter-Ac football is good, but it’s not on a 6A Florida level like Tampa Jesuit is. Saydee will give Smith a run for his money but we’ve got to think on pure logic alone Smith wins the job.

Plus, Amad Anderson and Zae Baines made huge receiving strides in the second half of the season and Richard Dandridge, perhaps the best wide receiver in the state of Florida, joins that room. Hands down, Temple has the two best tight ends in the AAC in David Martin-Robinson and Jordan Smith and having those two on the field at the same time only serves to jumpstart what had been a subpar running game. The offensive line has been upgraded so we probably won’t see a pass on a 3d and 1 next year. Gosh, I hope not.

The safest passenger on the bus home in 2016.

Defensively, although Darian Varner made a dumb decision to leave for Virginia Tech (didn’t he learn anything from Jadan Blue last year?), defensive coordinator D.J. Eliott says Layton Jordan (the better Owl edge rusher) is all in and will return. Drayton got Jordan plenty of pass-rushing help and look for Jordan and Jordan Magee to have years next year that put them high up in NFL draft conversations. Staying at Temple will probably make Layton and Jordan millions in the NFL draft. Just ask Haason Reddick.

Jim Gardner might have been the big story on Action News Wednesday but what happened down the dial was the best news for Temple football we’ve seen since The Golden Era.

Afterward, Drayton talked championships as the Temple standard. Channel 6 can have the ratings. I will take riding home on a bus with the AAC championship trophy over that any day of the week. Wednesday made that day a lot closer.

Monday: Five Plays We’d Like to Have Back

Friday: Five scholarships left

Time for a new Temple tradition

The Temple brand was enhanced when single-digit guy Haason Reddick pointed to Kevin Neghandi on an ESPN show after the Owls won the AAC title.

While waiting for the most consequential television show about Temple since the 2016 AAC championship game, the thought occurred that the most high-profile of recent departures tweeted about receiving offers from Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt.

That’s what the transfer portal has come down to these days.

Darian Varner “thanked” Temple paying for his surgery by going elsewhere. Here he watches the ECU game from the sidelines. (Photo Courtesy of Temple Super Fan Mike Edwards)

An All-AAC defensive end leaving Temple for maybe … maybe … two bottom-feeders in Power 5 Conferences. SMH (or shaking my head as the kids say today). Does Darian Varner really think his NFL draft status will be more enhanced by playing for a losing ACC or SEC team vs. perhaps winning the AAC Defensive Player of the Year for a resurgent Temple?

If so, he’s getting some very bad advice.

Varner is not only the latest departure from Temple but he represents a trend that can and should be stopped now.

Single-digit guys leaving Temple.

It’s Varner this year, last year it was Jadan Blue and a couple of years ago it was Quincy Roche and Isaiah Graham-Mobley. Then Temple fans had to not only go through the indignity of watching their former players on TV for teams they don’t like, but they also have to hear the announcers tell them how tough the guy was because he earned a single digit at Temple.

After the signing day show (Wednesday, 6 p.m., ESPN+), Temple head coach Stan Drayton can remedy that situation with one simple announcement.

No more single digits will ever be awarded at Temple until the summer camp before that player’s senior and final season of eligibility at 10th and Diamond.

Part of being Temple TUFF is being Temple Committed and only those guys who stay until the end should be rewarded with a single digit for their final seasons. No longer will it be rewarded to underclassmen who have an option to leave.

It’s a Temple tradition and should remain that way.

Wednesday is shaping up as at least a decent day because the best high school running back in Florida (Joquez Smith) and ONE of (if not the best) high school wide receivers in that state (Richard Dandridge) reaffirmed their intentions of signing on the dotted line last week. They have a shot at Colorado State’s best defensive lineman and another transfer portal defensive lineman from Nebraska. Decent turns into good with the addition of those linemen. Good turns into outstanding if the Owls can grab an established FBS or FCS running back.

That’s important because if Temple doesn’t sign a 1,000-yard rusher from the transfer portal, the Owls only hope of upgrading the running game is if Smith either beats out Edward Saydee or Saydee has twice the production next year that he had this one. The Dandridge piece is important because he appears to be the heir apparent for Jose Barbon, who is leaving for the NFL draft. I don’t see Saydee getting twice as good and maybe Smith steps in and pulls the kind of true freshman season Bernard Piece did in 2009. Preferably, you’d like to see a big-time portal running back and a big-time portal wide receiver joining those two.

If Barbon came back, he certainly deserved a single digit.

If Smith and Dandridge stay for the full four years, they certainly should receive every consideration for the same honor prior to their final seasons.

Not before.

The era of Temple single digits leaving for elsewhere is something that can be easily fixed and should.

Friday: Reaction to Early Signing Day

Monday: Five Plays We’d Like to Have Back

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

Portal players who can help the Owls win now

Sean Tyler would be a nice addition to the Temple backfield

College football a couple of days ago was fun.

Not a single transfer portal player in sight, no NLI deals and no big game opt outs during Saturday’s 20-17 thrilling win for Army over Navy in the same stadium Temple calls home.

It was a refreshing respite and a reminder how college football used to be.

Somehow, the pendulum has swung the other way for the remaining 128 FBS teams (Air Force also enjoys the same immunity to the current ills of the system).

Reality returns today and Temple has to play the game by today’s rules. Because Darian Varner left for the portal and because Jose Barbon declared for the NFL draft, a pass rusher and a wide receiver are a couple of positions Temple didn’t need to fill a few weeks ago but must address now.

First things first, though.

Devin Phillips already has a solid relationship with Temple line coach Antoine Smith.

RUNNING BACK _ Temple, as I see it, needs a big-time running back to take some of the pressure off quarterback E.J. Warner. The Owls cannot be placed in a position where they have to pass the ball on 3d and 1 like they did in a 49-46 loss to ECU. Joquez Smith, the incoming recruit from Tampa Jesuit, might address that need but he’s 5-7 and the Owls need someone who can get the inside yards and also has the speed to get outside. We mentioned in this space a week ago Ball State’s Carson Steele and Alcorn State’s Jarveon Howard, but those aren’t the only two. UCF’s Bentavious Thompson is also in the portal as is Northern Illinois’ Harrison Waylee (1,018 yards, five touchdowns). Western Michigan’s Sean Tyler also is a 1,000-yard rusher and he’s available. Gotta like those guys’ consistency over Edward Saydee, who had one breakout game. The thing Temple can sell all of these top running backs is head coach Stan Drayton’s earned reputation as a running backs’ guru and current NFL players like Ezekiel Elliott are willing to pick up the phone and put in a good word.

This is precisely why players in the portal SHOULD accept the first offer or risk being without a team in a couple of months.

PUNTER _ Temple is without one but Monmouth’s punter, Ryan Kost (48.1 average) is less than two hours away and in the portal as in Arkansas punter Reid Bauer (44.6).

DE_ With Varner gone, four-star Missouri DE Travion Ford would be a good replacement. Already, Temple has made a home visit and defensive line coach Antoine Smith made a positive impression.

DL_ Smith also has a connection to portal transfer Devin Phillips, who has 39 starts as a defensive lineman at Colorado State, where Smith was his line coach two years ago. He’s 6-2, 290 and considered a very good run defender.

OL_ Another possible addition is Texas’ Andrej Karic, who worked with head coach Stan Drayton when he was the RB coach at Texas two years ago. Maryland lineman Austin Fontaine is also in the portal and Philly is a short drive up the road.

The difference in the portal between this year and last year is that the better players are getting scooped up almost as soon as they enter and he who hesitates is lost. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are so few scholarships available compared to players in the portal that players are more likely than not to take the first solid offer and reward a program that shows them some love.

That’s why Temple needs to strike while the iron is hot because in a couple of weeks, it cools down. Fans might not like how far the pendulum has swung away from fairness but the teams who learn to play by the new rules will thrive and the others will be left behind.

Friday: Next Man Up?

Algorithms and Temple football needs

I’d prefer Alcorn State’s Jarveon Howard but Carson Steele would make E.J. Warner’s life a lot easier.

Not ashamed to say that I’m nowhere near as big a Temple basketball fan as I am a football one but my job that pays (this one doesn’t even meet the expenses of running the site) enables me to listen to Temple basketball a couple of times a week while I work for pay.

To me, my fandom for Temple football over Temple basketball is a matter of necessity.

Nobody is going to drop Temple basketball after a few bad seasons. After a few bad ones, Temple football always has been in Jeopardy. That’s the reason for this site (see the logos through the years on the right).

Just check the 2005 vote, where the BOT saved Temple football by one man. Howard Gittis, the BOT chairman who knew nothing about football, cast the deciding vote because the man thought (correctly) that Temple, like every other freaking major university, should offer its students the things most major universities do and that included, as Gittis said “a great band and a great football team.”

To me, the first Sugar Bowl participant and a program that gave Temple a No. 17 ranking in both major polls should never be questioned but Temple football, unlike Temple basketball, always has to look over its shoulder.

Still, my connection with Temple sports in these dark and cold months is listening to the basketball games between now and Cherry and White Day.

You can learn a lot from these halftime basketball interviews.

One, the Owls’ quarterback, E.J. Warner, is all in on Temple football. Kevin Copp did a terrific interview with Warner during halftime and Warner said his No. 1 priority is to “improve the chemistry with my guys” including receivers like Amad Anderson, Nate Stewart, Jose Barbon, Jordan Smith and David Martin-Robinson.

Smart guy.

He’s not falling for the bullshit that Darian Varner fell for which is that somewhere other than Temple is a better path to the NFL.

Unlike Varner, Warner wants to build something here. If everybody other than Varner stays, he can and he will. Stan Drayton is building something special here but to do it he needs to keep the “good guys” and bring in about a dozen “better guys.”

Steele always bounces off the first guy for extra yards.

He lost only one good guy. Misguided guy, but a good player. If Varner lessens his stock as an NFL player by leaving Temple, it will be a predictable outcome given the history of guys like Quincy Roche, Anthony Russo and Jadan Blue–good kids who found out the hard way that leaving Temple was a bad move.

That brings us to the topic of this post.

Algorithms and Temple football.

Offensively, Temple has ranked 103 among 130 teams.

How can that be improved?

Temple was one of only 30 teams not having a 1,000-yard rusher.

Fortunately, there are several proven FBS ones in the portal, led by Ball State running back Carson Steele. He’d be a perfect fit for Temple but he’s not the only one. Alcorn State’s Jarveon Howard has a year of eligibility left and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be a 1,000-yard rusher here.

Get one who can put up 1,000 yards and the Owls immediately move up so, offensively, a big-time running back is the No.1 priority. Also getting three better offensive linemen than the ones who are here would help but that’s a more difficult pull.

Temple led both the

MAC (2007)

and the AAC

(2015) in average

attendance per game

Defensively, they will have to replace an all-AAC pass rusher. Fortunately, a four-star from Missouri has shown interest in the Owls and, if line coach Antoine Smith can work the same kind of magic with that he did with Varner, the Owls might have another NFL pick on their hands. Also the Owls need better run-stoppers. They are set at linebacker and on the back end of the secondary.

Special teams, the Owls need a kick returner and, in Harrisburg’s Kyle Williams, that problem could be solved. They need a kicker who can put the ball in the end zone consistently.

They need to keep this year’s gang together first and add on next.

If Drayton was smart, he’d call in all of the “good guys” for a heart-to-heart in the office and sell them on the fact that he’s bringing in better guys to augment them and to win that title he promised them a couple of weeks ago.

If the Owls win a title, the payday for the kids who stay now will significantly dwarf anything Varner can make elsewhere.

These Owls are that close to achieving what Drayton promised.

Howard Gittis (RIP) would be proud. A great band and a great football team was his solemn promise and the current powers-that-be, including the CEO of the football program, the BOT, the AD the President must make happen no matter how many meetings with the players they have.

Or how much money they need to spend.

Monday: Targets

Friday (12/16): Next man up?

Monday (12/19): The Single Digit Tradition

At Temple, the grass is always greener inside the fence

For Boston Red Sox fans, the Cloud that hovers over them is the Curse of the Bambino.

For Temple football players who have left via the portal, it’s the Curse of Temple.

There are a few high-profile examples. Leaving Temple has not turned out well for any high-profile player. Take the case of Jadan Blue for instance.

Blue left Temple despite needing only four receptions to tie all-time leading receiver Ventell Bryant (173). At Temple, he held the single-season (95) receiving record.

At Virginia Tech, Blue could only get 10 receptions for the entire season. That’s three fewer receptions than he got in a 2020 game at Memphis. Bad move.

Somebody needs to tell

ABC they forgot a team

Sometimes staying home is the right thing to do.

At Temple, it’s almost always the right thing to do.

All over college football players are entering the portal with the notion the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It seldom is because there are way more players than the scholarships available and you are leaving a guaranteed scholarship at your place with no guarantee of getting one elsewhere.

Plus, there is The Temple Curse.

The Temple curse isn’t as deep as the Bambino, but it’s just as evident. Boston’s baseball team hasn’t been to the World Series in consecutive years since 1915-16, winning both times (including beating the Phillies once). Babe Ruth, in the early stages of his career as MLB’s first great power hitter, won 41 games as a pitcher for those two clubs.

After that, he was traded to the Yankees and the Boston team fell into oblivion for most of the last century.

While that curse has mostly affected Boston fans, this one has affected mostly Temple players who have left.

“You all stay in this thing, man.”

Quincy Roche was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year and was projected by NFL experts as a fourth-round pick if he left Temple for the NFL after his junior season. Instead, he wanted to raise his profile at Miami and it backfired as he finished 2020 as a backup for Manny Diaz and was drafted in the sixth round which cost him some money. In fact, the best move for Roche might have been to remain at Temple, repeat as league MVP, and then move up a tick or two in the draft. Leaving Temple hurt Roche, not helped him.

Quarterback Anthony Russo was virtually assured of setting all of the all-time passing marks at Temple had he remained for his senior season but left for Michigan State instead. The best he could do was ride the pine behind Payton Thorne and entered only one game for an extended period all season, against Youngstown State.

There were extenuating circumstances for the above guys and they could not be blamed for leaving because they hated Rod Carey.

However, the portal was meant for backups, not starters, and starters who have left Temple never had the production elsewhere they did while wearing Cherry and White.

There is no Carey to hate now and plenty of evidence that the grass is not greener on the other side of the Edberg-Olson fence.

Friday (12/9): Algorithms and Priorities

Monday: (12/12): Targets

Friday (12/16): Next man up?

Temple football: New Beginning, Part II

Watching Temple coach Stan Drayton interact with former Owls has been an educational experience and the best lessons have been off the field.

Go to events like Cherry and White Day, some road trips, and season-ticket holder day and it’s evident that Drayton has an appreciation for past Temple players that many of the recent Temple coaches haven’t had.

“I went to a practice and he just came up to me and introduced himself and said how you doing,” said Matt McArdle, a starting safety for the 1978 team. “He asked me who I was. I’m a nobody and he makes you feel like the most important guy there. It really makes you feel good.”

If he makes those players feel good, you can imagine how he interacts with his current players. It seems to be working because Drayton has stopped the transfer portal bleeding. Under the past guy, the portal players leaving were starters. So far, only backups have left under Drayton and we’re crossing our fingers and toes and hoping that pattern continues.

Watch this video. What a terrific job narrated by the one and only John Facenda. Great comments from Arians and former Temple President and Chancellor Pete Liacouras (RIP). Also a good look at the greatest uniforms any college team ever wore.

Drayton has a special connection to the Bruce Arians’ players, who came a little after McArdle. At the Cherry and White tailgate, Drayton took the microphone from disc jockey Kevin Jones (a great offensive tackle for Arians) and said, “We’re going to get this thing back to the way you guys are used to seeing it.”

You could tell Drayton meant it.

Then he gave the mic back to Jones and Drayton watched his wife line-dancing to the tunes and had a big smile.

As one of the three white guys in that spot on that day, I stood back and watched in awe and took in the general positive vibe with my friends from many years.

He made a commitment to them and he intends to keep it. He made a commitment to all of Temple.

If it sounded familiar to those guys–in their 50s now–it should. At one time, a charismatic new Temple coach named Bruce Arians made the same kind of commitment to those guys when they were teens and a lot of folks think that Arians worked miracles here.

Although he had “only” two winning seasons, both were against top-10 schedules and, given that background, an argument can be made that Arians did just as good a job as Wayne Hardin. Neither coach has the facilities Drayton does now. In all fairness, Temple doesn’t have to play that murderous schedule now that it did then. In the last five years, the Temple schedules were ranked 97th, 73d, 86th, 91st and 99th in that order.

With Temple’s recruiting base–46 percent of the nation’s population within a six-hour drive of the stadium–it’s reasonable to set occasional G5 league championships and bowl games every season as a baseline goal.

It’s still a tough job but the expectations aren’t out of whack. Nobody is asking to get Temple back into the Sugar Bowl, which is what Pete Liacouras asked of Arians. Winning the new AAC is a much more reasonable goal to achieve than consistently winning seasons against top-10 schedules.

They always say you show the most improvement every year from Game One to Game Two. That goes for seasons as well. This past season was about changing the culture.

Mission Accomplished.

It’s all about the wins from now on and the number on the left has to be higher than the number on the right.

Monday: Greener and Bluer