No such thing as a moral victory … but

Stopped at Vincent’s Pizza in Rockledge on the way home from the Temple game on Saturday and a couple of young girls at the counter looked at my Temple Football Forever T-Shirt.

One of them said: “Were you at the Temple game today?”

“Yes.”

Not much to choose between these two teams.

“We were too. We were at the student tailgate. It was so much fun. We only saw a little of the game because we had to get back to work here.”

“Good. I hope you guys are fans for life like me.”

“Oh we are.”

That was their first Temple football game. It was my, by rough estimation, 612th going back to the time I split as a grade school youngin between Penn and Temple football games.

When Wayne Hardin came to Temple, I gave up the Penn fandom altogether.

One school in Philadelphia had the best coach in college football and it wasn’t Penn.

Sometimes the lifelong fandom comes as much in a loss at much as a win. I’ve always said there is no such thing as a “moral victory” but maybe an exception came in a 16-14 loss to unbeaten Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

A lot of Rutgers fans said they were going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. Far from it. There were at least 70 percent Temple fans there, as one of their “honest” fans said.

These Rutgers fans were on the money.

More importantly, Temple was without its best offensive lineman (Adam Klein), best linebacker (Tra Thomas) and two top running backs (Texas A&M transfer Darvon Hubbard and Illinois transfer Jakari Norwood) and played Rutgers to a virtual standoff.

Of course, a real standoff is preferable to a virtual one but the point is all of those guys will be back for the more important conference games.

The Owls were in this game against a Big 10 foe until the very end and there are a couple of “should-have, would-have” plays both fan bases can point to as keys. On the RU end, Temple’s first play from scrimmage should have been a pick 6. On the Temple side, Nathan Stewart dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from E. J. Warner.

Stuff happens. A few plays here and a few plays there make the difference.

On the way out of the stadium, Tony Russo–Anthony Russo’s dad–tapped me on the shoulder. Anthony Russo is one of the top four quarterbacks, statistically, in Temple history. He was 6-4. Warner, as a 6-footer, can’t be blamed for not picking up the danger that lay ahead in a real Pick 6.

“I really like E.J. Warner,” I told him, “but if he was 6-4 like Anthony, he wouldn’t have given up the pick 6. He would have seen over the defense.”

“He’s going to be a real good player here,” Tony Russo said.

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”

Pretty good endorsement from the dad of a former player. Kurt Warner should have been there to hear it.

Minus that play, Temple wins, but it shouldn’t have come down to that.

Temple had a nice little drive going from its own 10 in the final four minutes that would have set up Rory Bell to be the hero with a field goal.

About the second play in, I was hoping for Stan Drayton to throw the halfback pass. All the mental telepathy fell on deaf ears sadly. I think it would have worked. Trey Blair, his halfback, was a terrific quarterback in high school. Pitching it out to Blair might have suckered in the RU defense just enough that Blair could have found a wide-open Adonicas Sanders behind the defense for the win.

Maybe Drayton didn’t know Blair played quarterback in high school or maybe he’s saving that play for a conference game that puts him in the championship. My guess is that the new Temple OC doesn’t realize Blair was a damn good high school quarterback and the play was not in the books.

Hardin would have thrown that halfback pass against Rutgers. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t but he wouldn’t have left it on the table knowing it might have worked.

Moral victories meant even less to him but if Rutgers turns out to be the best team on the Temple 2022 schedule and the Owls use that to win the rest, this will be only “moral victory” we’ve ever seen at Temple.

Monday: Legacy Analysis

Recent development: The Temple Curse

Ifeanyi Maijeh is warming the bench at Rutgers two years after being a first-team AAC performer at Temple.

For those Temple players who saw the performance of Isaiah Graham-Mobley and Khris Banks on Saturday and think grass is greener on the other side of the street, they might want to think again.

For every IGM and Banks, there are about five Quincy Roches or Ifeanyi Maijehs.

Call it The Temple Curse. Call it whatever you want but, since Matt Rhule left, it also applies to coaches who succeeded him.

First, we will stick with the players.

Linwood Crump will have to wait 1 more year to play for Daz.

Roche left Temple to go to Miami was considered “a 3-4 round” draft pick had he gone straight to the NFL from 10th and Diamond.

He left for Miami to ostensibly increase his draft standing but he really made it worse. Roche was drafted in the sixth round (not fourth) and to add insult to injury had to split his time on the field in his final year with two other defensive ends in Manny Diaz’s rotation.

He was cut by the Steelers and is now on their practice squad.

Had Roche remained at Temple and claimed a second consecutive AAC Defensive Player of the Year Award, chances are better than even that Roche would have been drafted no lower than four and a team with that kind of investment would have to think twice before cutting him.

Maijeh is a similar story. He was a first-team All-AAC defensive tackle in 2019 but used the portal to make his way to Rutgers where he has three whole tackles this season, all assists and no solo ones. His career definitely is on a downward trend and has been for some time. After that first season at Temple when he had 52 tackles and 6.5 sacks, he was putrid last year with only 15 tackles and no sacks.

Kenny Yeboah left Temple to go to Ole Miss but that didn’t help him in the draft, either. He wasn’t drafted and had to go to the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He was cut by the Jets and, like Roche, a practice squad player.

Anthony Russo left Temple to play in the Big 10 but it doesn’t look good for him, either, as Payton Thorne has been stellar. Russo got injured in meaningless mop-up time against Youngstown State and left the game in a walking boot. Had Russo remained at Temple he might have backed up D’Wan Mathis but more than certainly would have been ahead of true freshman Justin Lynch in the depth chart.

If that was Russo behind center on Saturday, do you think the Owls score “only” three points? I don’t. He put up a total of 58 as the starting QB against both Navy and Memphis last year and was playing a defense that allowed 28 points the week before to a far less talented UMass team.

Vandy running back Ra’Mahn Davis, who didn’t do squat in a 23-3 loss to East Tennessee (not regular Tennessee or even Middle Tennessee), was a victim of the Temple Curse as he is injured and for the season. He went the extra step of quitting in the middle of last season.

Cornerback Linwood Crump Jr. left the team to become almost a certain starter at Colorado State but he got injured in preseason and will not play this fall.

Somebody up there or down here or sideways doesn’t like players who leave Temple. So far so good for IGM and Banks but, if I’m them, my radar is up for cutback blocks or targeting next week.

Meanwhile, both Diaz and Geoff Collins are under fire at Miami and Georgia Tech and they might be dismissed before Rod Carey is because those schools routinely eat bad contracts and Temple does not.

Ironically, one of the stated reasons for this portal rule is if coaches could leave for another school without sitting out a year, players should be able to as well.

A simple solution for that (probably not holding up legally) would be for both coaches and players to have to sit out a year.

Now, it’s a free-for-all and MOST people are finding out that the grass is not greener on the other side of 10th Street.

Maybe that will stop the hemorrhaging of players in the future but it certainly doesn’t help Temple now.

Friday: The Wagner, err, Game

The Portal Pandora’s Box

Temple fans have seen the Georgia highlights, but this is what got Ohio State and Georgia’s attention.

The NCAA’s transfer portal always seemed to be a scheme cooked up by the Power 5 schools to further kneecap the Group of Five schools.

For Temple, at least, that’s what it turned out to be.

Owl fans are excited by the addition of Duece Mathis at quarterback but the reality is that they traded a guy with 44 regular-season touchdown passes and 31 interceptions in FBS real games for a guy who has more interceptions than touchdown passes in FBS real games. Interesting that Mathis originally committed to Michigan State, then flipped to Ohio State, then flipped to Georgia.

So in a roundabout way, Temple got Michigan State’s quarterback and Michigan State got Temple’s. One has lots of impressive FBS numbers. The other has impressive potential.

Temple’s major selling point for how long?

Potential, sure, but potential doesn’t win championships or bowl games.

Maybe being in a system that suits his style of play eventually makes Mathis one of the best three quarterbacks in Temple history in terms of numbers and winning percentage (like Anthony Russo was), but only time (three years) will tell.

There’s a flip side of the transfer portal and that’s the Pandora’s Box side of it. As Yahoo sports’ Pete Thamel points out in this excellent story, that side provides a cautionary tale for current players. Thamel quotes current South Florida head coach Jeff Scott saying that there could be as many as 1,000 players in this portal by this week alone who will not find scholarships at any school because those scholarships are almost gone.

The modern definition of Pandora’s Box is a process that generates many complicated problems as the result of unwise interference in something.

To me, that describes the transfer portal to an, err, Temple ‘][‘.

The NCAA had a good system going where players had to sit out a year before transferring to another school and it worked well for several decades. Then someone got the idea, hey, if coaches don’t have to sit out a year then players shouldn’t either.

How about coaches sitting out a year? (Yeah, I know schools could be sued for restraint of trade but, in a perfect world, coaches and players would have to sit out a year and fans of the schools could have some sense of continuity.) That would have allowed Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins to go out coaching bowl games for Temple.

This ended under Rod Carey in 2019

That would have been fairer to Temple and all the other G5 schools who lose their head coaches to the P5. Now the P5 has essentially stolen more from the G5 in creating a farm system to they can steal the best G5 players as well. It’s not fair. It’s not a perfect world and this is far from a perfect system.

While it’s still here, and I don’t think it will be for long, Temple should take advantage of it. The Owls have as many as seven scholarships for this class open and they should be able to get two of the best defensive tackles available and at least a couple of great linebackers. With 1,000 players left scrambling for the few scholarships left, Temple would seem to be in a good place to benefit, say, like Sonny Dykes did a couple of years ago when he brought in 15 Power 5 transfers as starters and went 10-2. Either way, this hurts the players who jump thinking getting a landing spot will be easy.

It won’t.

Maybe 1,000 or more players left holding the bag will cause college football to rethink this poorly conceived idea.

Friday: What players are under the Christmas tree?

Russo’s Temple legacy: A winner

If anything, the succession of four quarterbacks who tried to replace Russo showed how much he will be missed.

That old adage about statistics being for losers doesn’t apply to Anthony Russo’s all-too-brief three-year career at Temple.

He exits the school not only as a winner, but only behind Steve Joachim and Brian Broomell in winning percentage as a Temple quarterback.

To me, that’s the most important statistic.

Arguably, Joachim and Broomell and even P.J. Walker played with better talent around them (at least compared to the level of competition Temple was playing at the time) so Russo’s numbers were even more impressive.

Further, Joachim, Broomell and P.J. Walker were playing a systems more suited to their respective talents.

Under Rod Carey and, to a lesser extent, Geoff Collins, Russo was not. I’d love to see what Russo would have done at Temple under just the system Matt Rhule ran his last two years at Temple: Fullback, (often) double tight ends, establishing the run behind a premier tailback and then making the safeties and linebackers inch up to the line of scrimmage so that Russo could fake to, say, Ray Davis, and throw over the top to wide open receivers like Branden Mack and Jadan Blue.

Les Miles with AR when Les was head coach at LSU.

Unfortunately, we never saw that.

Now we will never see it because, err, that’s the offense “we” ran at Northern Illinois. Great coaches structure their offense around the talents of their players and not try to force feed their own philosophy on a different skill set. If there’s one thing we’ve discovered in two years, Rod Carey is not a great coach.

Even in that ill-fitting system, Temple, under Russo this year, was able to put up 32 offensive points against USF and 29 each against Navy and Memphis.

The other quarterbacks combined put up 3 (Tulane and ECU), 13 (UCF), and 23 (SMU).

There are certain quarterbacks who should NEVER be asked to run the ball except on quarterback sneaks. At Temple, I would have put Tim Riordan, Lee Saltz, Marty Ginestra, Pat Carey, Doug Shobert and Matty Baker into that group. You can ask Joachim, Walker, Walter Washington and Broomell to run but the first four were also effective in exclusive passing systems.

In the NFL, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford or Joe Flacco should never be asked to do that.

Not saying AR is headed to Michigan State, but these are his most recent followers on twitter.

And, above all, Anthony Russo should never have been in that kind of system at Temple.

Even a blind man can see that.

That’s probably why Russo is taking his talents elsewhere. There’s a lot of speculation about where he will land, but I think he’s better than any of the quarterbacks at Penn State, Pitt or Kansas right now. It’s not the school that matters, though, but how the coaches at any school will utilize his unique talents. The next few weeks he’s going to have to sort all that out.

If he finds one without an RPO, even if it’s not a marquee school, that’s where he should go and that’s where he will finally be able to reach his full potential and have his name called on NFL draft day.

Unfortunately, the name Temple will not be called once he walks to the podium.

Thanks to Rod Carey.

Friday: Digesting The Wednesday Signings

TU season: That was quick

This is how last season ended in Annapolis. It got much worse this season.

Well, that was quick.

A season that we thought would never start was over in a flash when the American Conference announced that the finale with visiting Cincinnati would be canceled and considered a “no contest.”

That’s curious because all week even the most ardent Temple supporters considered the upcoming game as a no contest. The season is gone, hopefully forgotten, but we doubt it.

“Why don’t these guys like me, Anthony?” “Coach, get Foley back, start blocking punts and returning kicks for touchdowns, give me a fullback and ditch the RPO and you’d be surprised how much the guys would love you.”

Temple football which, as late as the Memphis game, was the winningest AAC program in the history of championship league play, finished with a 1-6 record and now has lost eight of its last 10 games.

How did we get here?

To answer that question, another question has to be proposed.

Why did we hire Rod Carey?

Ostensibly, Carey was a rebound hire for then AD Dr. Pat Kraft. Spurned by Manny Diaz after 18 days, Kraft and Temple Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kevin Clark reached to the most familiar place they could find and they plucked fellow Indiana grad Carey for the job. No national search, no finding the best guy, just satisfying the comfort level.

He was hired to basically hold serve. Not advance the program further, but at least not demolish it.

On the surface, it appeared to be a good hire because Carey came here with a 52-30 record as a FBS head coach and by hiring a head coach, and not an assistant, Temple just wanted to continue the success of the last guy, Geoff Collins.

If Temple took just one backward step under Carey, that disproved the entire theory of the hire.

Instead, Temple took one side step and one gigantic backward step.

COVID is being used as an excuse, but it’s really not. Had the Owls been handcuffed by the City of Philadelphia under, say, Al Golden, it probably would have taken him no more than two seconds to move the entire practice operation to Ambler, a place where he had two Cherry and White games. Instead, Carey basically said woe is me.

It was not unreasonable for the Owls to post eight wins a year and maybe get a championship every four or five years. Carey was able to do that his first season, but there were major red flags. One, 2018’s AAC Special Teams Player of the Year, Isaiah Wright, was effectively muzzled in 2019 and the entire special teams have been a disaster for two seasons.

Only two years ago before this staff came to town.

There seems to be no sense of urgency to improve that.

On top of that, for the first time in Temple history, starters–good ones–have left the program for greener pastures. Last year, was Quincy Roche (Miami) and Kenny Yeboah (Ole Miss). Many more than that to come. The team’s best running back and only “home run hitter” (Ray Davis) left the team in mid-season. We’ve heard the top two receivers, Jadan Blue and Branden Mack, are considering leaving and Ifeanyi Maijeh, a first-team All-AAC defensive tackle, told OwlsDaily.com he was “exploring his options.”

You don’t explore options if you intend to stay.

Arguably, they are three of the top five players on the team. When three of the top five players on the team leave a year after two of the top three leave, you know something is seriously wrong.

It’s as clear as the nose on Jimmy Durante’s face that the players DO NOT LIKE THIS GUY for whatever reason.

Could you see P.J. Walker, Tyler Matakevich or Haason Reddick leaving Matt Rhule? How about Mo Wilkerson or Adam DiMichele leaving Al Golden? Or Paul Palmer leaving Bruce Arians, even with a transfer portal?

Err, no.

Those were popular “players coaches.” Keeping the players here in the era of the portal is half the battle.

Hopefully, KJ is privy to information most of us do not know.

The other half of the battle is gameday coaching and locking down key areas of the team like special teams. Temple used to be “Special Teams U” and now is a national laughingstock in that area. That third of the team has been that way for two seasons and there is no sense of urgency to improve that area by a) finding great athletes to return punts and kickoffs; b) even attempting to block punts like the Owls used to do on the regular.

On defense, the Owls could not generate a pass rush post-Roche and company and could not stop anyone.

On offense, it was painfully obvious that the Owls have no AAC-caliber starting quarterbacks behind Anthony Russo and, if he leaves, Temple won’t be able to generate any offense at all next year. In other words, if Russo leaves (and we pray to God he won’t), Temple is bleeped.

Russo not being around and the special teams being neglected and the players leaving and others getting hurt added up to 1-6 this season and, however you look at the math next season, it’s going to get worse.

Only a new head of the math department can change things now. Does the Temple administration have the gonads to spend money to make money or will it be satisfied with a return to the dark ages of 5,000 fans rattling around in a 70,000-seat stadium?

Over the next couple of months, we will find out if they can put two and two together.

Saturday’s Best Bets: Going with former Temple Owl Alex Derenthal and his Georgia State squad in laying the 1 against visiting Georgia Southern at the former Turner Field in downtown Atlanta and Duke as a pick in a game across town at Georgia Tech.

Update: Went 3-0 against the spread for last week as Coastal beat App State, 34-23, to lay the 6.5, Liberty “only” lost to NC State by 1 (15-14) to cover that 3.5 and Georgia State easily laid the 3 with a 31-14 win over South Alabama. Now 6-3 against the spread for the season.

Update 2: Split the 11/28 games in Atlanta, now 7-4 against the spread for the season. Won on Georgia State, lost on Georgia Tech.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Wednesday: Getting The Old Gang Back

Saturday: Five Guys

How Did Temple Get This Bad This Fast?

In any other year, Rod Carey would be on the hot seat at Temple University after a 1-3 start.

As we’ve all found out since about mid-March, this is not just any other year.

In the year of Covid, probably two or three years of it, really, no one is getting fired at any university because the revenue streams coming in are so unpredictable. The Owls are allowed almost no fans this year and next year is up in the air as well.

The university is in the hole for $10 million of a five-year contract to Carey and there is no Lew Katz around willing to eat it.

How did Temple go. in just two short weeks, from the No. 1 team in conference wins (since championship play began in 2015) to a likely 1-7 season?

In a word, Pride. In other, stubbornness.

As King Solomon, a pretty wise guy himself, said: “Pride Goeth Before the Fall.”

In Carey’s case, he had a nice “square peg” offense at Northern Illinois in the RPO and players suited enough for him there to post a 52-30 record as a FBS head coach. When he came to Temple, he found himself with “round hole” players who were more suited to a pro-set offense, and a quarterback who could never sell a defense on a RPO but is damn good at flinging it down the field after the run is established off play action.

Those of us who thought Carey might have been a good hire did so thinking a good coach adjusts his schemes to his available personnel and not try to force an ill-fitting system onto some great players from another system.

I did not see that coming. I thought a professional head coach would be able to improvise and adjust. Carey has not been.

What we learned in Temple’s 38-3 loss to Tulane–a loss that broke an 86-year (five games since the 1934 Sugar Bowl loss) winning streak–was that Anthony Russo is only about 10x a better quarterback than his two backups and that might be a conservative estimate.

Get well soon, Anthony.

Even more than that, though, is that Temple should have been 3-0 coming into the game had the Owls approached the red zone with some simple shit like throwing the fade to Branden Mack on first down instead of dicking around with runs on the first two downs. You’ve got a 6-6 wide receiver and a quarterback more than capable of throwing a fade like this and you piss away two wins by throwing a dump pass short of the goal (Navy) and running straight up the gut followed by a quarterback draw (Memphis)?

This is what Carey should have done for the 2-point conversion at Navy (30-second mark)

If Temple is paying Carey $2 million a year for that, the administration should demand its money back for those two losses alone.

Temple needed a running back and a pass rusher in the offseason but passed up on chances to get running back Ricky Slade from Penn State (who went to Old Dominion) and defensive end Scott Patchan (Miami, who went to Colorado State). Both were arguably better than any player they had here at both positions. Those are administrative errors, but Carey’s coaching errors cost the Owls two precious wins prior to the Tulane fiasco.

Due to missing 13 players (covid) and Russo (shoulder) it is hard to blame Carey for the loss to Tulane but, in the history of college football, rotating quarterbacks has resulted in about zero wins in 1 million games.. That’s why, if Russo is injured, you’ve got about three days to settle on one guy and not use a game as an audition.

This ain’t Hamilton where you audition guys to play the role of Aaron Burr during the play itself.

The Owls have tried two methods of hiring head coaches, one bringing in up-and-coming assistants, and one bringing in a proven FBS winning head coach. They haven’t tried the Greg Schiano Method (hiring a guy who proved he could do the same exact job at a high level), but Al Golden is available. Maybe even a better option is grabbing a local head coaching legend like Gabe Infante, who has been proven to be a great gameday coach.

So far, the prior two methods have been problematic. If Temple goes back to the old way, do you trust Fran Dunphy to identify the next Matt Rhule?

I don’t. Fran is more likely to bring a guy like Bob Diaco than he is a Jeff Hadley.

One led to a revolving door that ended finally after an 18-day turnaround. Another brought in a guy who wanted to do it his way when he was delivered a blueprint for winning at Temple long before he got here.

He ignored it and now we’re stuck with him for three more years. Saturday was ugly, but it’s about to becoming uglier and, unless one of us hits the lottery and are willing to buy him out, we can’t do a damn thing about it.

Brace for impact. To paraphrase King Solomon (and Barry McGuire), we’re on the eve of destruction.

Monday: Fizzy

The Math Just Got Easier for Russo

Who would have thought that both of these guys would finish 1-2 in stats as a Temple quarterback?

As far as we could determine, this quote about numbers and people was first attributed to Matt Holloway, but we’re sure someone slipped it into a figure of speech sometime before then.


If the quarterback position
was meant for
a runner then we’d
still be playing
the single wing
 

“Numbers don’t lie, people do.”

The numbers for Anthony Russo to pass P.J. Walker as the consensus all-time best Temple quarterback were challenging coming into this season. Even with a full season this year, and that’s doubtful, Russo would have to pull 40 touchdown passes to knock off the toughest record ahead of him: Walker’s career touchdown list. Not impossible, since LSU’s Joe Burrow tossed 60 touchdowns last season, but not likely, either.

Now, though, with Russo stating in an OwlsDaily.com story quoting Anthony that he will be back for not only 2020 and 2021, all of Walker’s records become not only fair game but well within reach, especially his career yard total of 10,669. (OwlsDaily.com is well worth the subscription.)

That’s assuming a lot of things, though, among them that the current coaching staff is not so wedded to a read-option that it might ditch the better passer for the better runner. They do that to their own peril, though, and coaching staffs usually don’t commit career suicide. If the quarterback position was meant for a runner, then we’d still be playing the single wing.

Interesting that Russo had 10 more TD passes in two years than Mike McGann had in five (medical redshirt).

The other assumption is that the Owls will get a minimum eight and a maximum dozen games in this season and that could be problematic considering the science, politics and general angst over public health in relation to big-time sports.

All that aside, though, all Russo will have to do the next two seasons is do what he did in the 2019 regular season in touchdown passes (21) and yards (2,861) and he will have two significant career quarterback records at a school that began playing football two centuries ago.

He already has 15 wins in nearly two full regular seasons (missing the first two and the final UConn game in 2018). Walker had four full seasons with two wins his first year, six his second and 10 each in his junior and senior seasons. If Russo goes 15-6 in the next two regular seasons (we’re not counting bowl games because only a handful of Temple quarterbacks have played in one), he beats what in my mind is the most important stat a quarterback can have.

The “people lying” part of this equation was on display on the same OwlsDaily board when someone wrote: “Russo had a better season in 2018 than 2019.”

Huh?

He had 14 touchdowns against 14 interceptions in 2018 vs. 21 and 11 in 2019. The numbers said he got better, not worse.

Since people often lie when they move their lips and the numbers on the page always remain the same, I will take the latter over the former when discussing anyone’s legacy.

If Russo’s passing remains as on target the next two years as the last two, that legacy will be unsurpassed.

Friday: Projected Offensive Starters

Monday: Projected Defensive Starters

Some early stat predictions

russopj

Anthony Russo (circled) needs to improve by only two touchdown passes to break the single-season record held by both Adam DiMichele and P.J. Walker (above).

Weekly phone calls from Temple trying to sell season tickets is one indication that a full season will be announced soon.

How soon?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The school recently announced it will have both online and in-person classes and the second part of that pretty much confirms the requirement for a football season.

So here goes some early (on-the-record) stat predictions based on a full 12-game regular season (not including a potential bowl game):

We’ll repost this after the season to see how right we were but going on record is important.

grayunis

Quarterback

Anthony Russo is poised for an outstanding senior season. Even if he has a merely “good” one, he will break at least a couple of career passing records at Temple.

His sophomore season stats were these:

Fourteen touchdown passes, and the same number of interceptions. He had 2,563 yards in 2018; 2,861 in 2019. The record is 3,295 by P.J. Walker in that championship season (2016).

He improved those numbers by seven and three, both on the good side, in 2019 regular-season stats and, based on that math, we’re going for these predictions for 2020:

Prediction: 28 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and it’s not a reach that he will become the first Temple quarterback ever to have a 3,296-yard season so we will go for that. LSU’s Joe Burrows went from 19 touchdown passes to 60 his senior year, so it’s not out of the question that Anthony throws for 39 and ties the career record (74) of  Walker, but we’re not getting that crazy. We’ll take just the same improvement he made last year for next year.

If P.J. (who started the better part of four years to Russo’s three) still holds the career touchdown record, that’s perfectly understandable. The other two records are within reach, though.

Receivers: (Jadan Blue and Branden Mack):

Blue set single-season records for Temple in both receptions (95) and yards (1,097). That was a terrific improvement from his 2018 season. He did, however, only have four touchdown receptions and those numbers are going to have to improve to get attention of NFL scouts looking for impact-makers. So we’re going to go with fewer receptions (90) and yards (1,007) but we’re going to add five more touchdown receptions:

kwenkeu

William Kwenkeu (35) revives his Gasparilla Bowl MVP performance by leading the Owls in tackles this season.

Prediction: Blue, 90 receptions, 1,007 yards, and nine touchdown receptions.

Mack had seven touchdown catches and is taller (6-5 to 6-1) so we’re going to give him those seven and raise his number of receptions from 44 to 61 and his yards from 667 to 897.

Running backs

Ray Davis had 900 rushing yards in his first season as a freshman.

Prediction: He will raise that to 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns his second season simply because Rod Carey and staff will realize they have a big-time playmaker on their hands and won’t make the same mistake of game-planning 26 passing plays in the first 34 snaps from scrimmage (see Cincinnati game, 2019).

Defense

Sacks: Interior tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh will lead with 9.

Interceptions: Safety Amir Tyler with 5.

Tackles: Linebacker William Kwenkeu with 88.

Tackles for loss: Linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley with 11.

OK, those are guesses. Guys will have to remain healthy and, as always, someone will come from nowhere to surprise everyone. My guess is that a DE named Nickolos  Madourie  (who had 17.5 sacks as a JUCO in a single season) will be just one of those guys and there could be many. Graham-Mobley could lead in overall tackles and Kwenkeu–who had two sacks in a bowl game–could lead in tackles for losses.

That’s part of what makes college football great and that’s why we hope there is a concrete announcement saying we will have it soon. Save this post and clip it and hammer me if I’m wrong in December.

If I’m above 50/50, I will take it. More important is getting to those double-digit wins which will mean the profile of all the above guys will rise considerably more than anything they can put on the stat sheet.

Monday: A Potentially Special Addition

 

Owls poised to build on NFL draft success

 

Probably one of the wisest of many clever things former NFL coaching legend Bill Parcells said was this:

“You are what you’re record says you are.”


The interior push with
Ifeanyi and Dan to sack
opposing quarterbacks this
year could be the best we’ve
seen since Joe Klecko was
playing in the middle
all by himself

When it comes to projecting success at either the NFL level or the college level, clues are almost always left behind.

That’s why I got extremely excited when the Owls brought in Adam DiMichele from his junior college baseball hiatus in 2005. His Sto-Rox high school football record: 35 touchdown passes his senior year and an offer from Penn State. Not excited when one of his successors, Vaughn Charlton, brought with him nine touchdown passes his senior year at Avon Grove and a smattering of MAC offers in addition to his Temple one.

Just as I expected, DiMichele was an outstanding quarterback at Temple and Charlton, to be kind, was mediocre.

 

I remember at the time Charlton apologists were saying those stats were due to Avon Grove playing a “flex-bone” in the now-defunct Southern Chester County League.

Flex-bone, doggy bone, I said. If Charlton is competing in the SCCL and DiMichele in the WPIAL, Charlton would have to have 50 touchdown passes to be even compared to DiMichele.

I was right and so was Parcells. You are what you put on tape and in the stat sheet. There are exceptions but they are so rare they are not worth mentioning.

That’s why the Philadelphia Eagles’ first-round pick of Jalen Reagor was illuminating to Temple’s chances of making a splash in the NFL draft again last year. If Reagor’s “record” is a guide, the Owls could be poised to have their first offensive player chosen in the first round since Paul Palmer in 1987.

Jadan Blue’s 40-yard dash speed is 4.38 while Reagor was clocked at a 4.47. Reagor’s junior year stats vs. Blue’s junior year stats:

Reagor: 13 games, 72 catches, 1,061 yards, 9 touchdowns

Blue: 13 games, 95 catches, 1,067 yards,  4 touchdowns

Since Reagor’s “better” of his two years were his junior one, it’s a fair comparison. The bar is pretty low for Blue now since he had more than 20 catches and six yards than Reagor did and he’s faster and the same size (6-foot-1).

However, if Blue gets nine touchdowns or more and repeats or even gets close to his 2019 Owl stats, you can book it.

He will be a first-round pick.

My guess that there will be a season no later than spring of 2021 (still holding out hope for the fall, though) and my money is on Blue putting up close to those numbers again.

I can see three other possible Owl picks in the 2021 draft, quarterback Anthony Russo and defensive tackles Ifeanyi Maijeh and Dan Archibong.

Compare Russo’s 2019 stats to Green Bay Packers’ first-round pick Jordan Love:

Russo: (6-4, 235 pounds) 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 246 completions in 419 attempts; 

Love (6-4, 225): 20 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 293 completions in 473 attempts

To put that even in a better perspective, Russo is playing in a far-tougher league. Almost every team in the AAC is tougher than any team in the Mountain West.  You can say all you want about Love’s “footwork” being better than Anthony’s, but the proof is in the stat pudding.

To me, Anthony can go 21-12 again and pick up two more wins and he’s between a 2-4 pick. Winning will cure all that. If he goes 30 and 5 with those wins, he’s a first-round pick. He can make all the throws and his maturity should cut down on his INTs.

Footwork smootwork.

I also think Maijeh’s defensive tackle teammate, Dan Archibong, has an excellent chance of being picked in the first seven rounds. The interior push with Ifeanyi and Dan to sack opposing quarterbacks this year could be the best we’ve seen since Joe Klecko was playing in the middle all by himself.

Beyond that, there will be a surprise. To me, Chapelle Russell was this year’s one. There are plenty of Owls with that same kind of potential. We won’t mention any names because I think it could be as many as a half-dozen. Not all six will rise above UDFAs but those with fire in their bellies and sacks and interceptions will.

Winning games will put those guys on the NFL radar faster than anything else.

Like Bill said, you are what your record is.

Monday (5/4): 5 Best Next-Tier Wins

Friday (5/8): Smoking Out the Winner

Monday (5/11): Virtual Press Conference

Friday (5/15): Recruiting Patterns

Monday (5/18): Suspending Campaigns

 

 

 

Flip side: Why 2020 Could Be a Step Forward

The Rutgers Al of Miami, coach Coop, is still not completely sold on Manny.

From the moment the season ended, it’s been nothing but bad news for the Temple football program.

Other than the expected losses, players with returning eligibility left for the NFL (2) and other FBS teams (2).

Pessissmism, not optimism, have understandably reigned.

Still, all is not lost. There are several reasons for optimism left in no particular order and we’ll go with just five names:

disclosure

Manny Diaz. Despite having three top 10 national recruiting classes in the last six years, Diaz took that talent and lost six games, including crosstown rival FIU (which had six classes rated lower than Temple prior to last season). If Diaz “coaches” Miami (with D’Eriq King at quarterback and Quincy Roche at DE) to a loss against visiting Temple, the season momentum could be off and running for the Owls.

Anthony Russo. Even in an ill-suited offense (for him), Russo improved from 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions to 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. If he makes even the same kind of improvement this season, that will be 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. No Temple quarterback has ever had that kind of season, even in a 10-2 season (Brian Broomell), a 10-3 season (P.J. Walker) and a 9-1 season (Steve Joachim). Gotta think that 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions get the Owls at least 10 wins.

russo

Ray Davis. Maybe 900-plus yards from a true freshman running back will convince this coaching staff to put more emphasis on the running game, even with an RPO approach. If it does, that sets up success in the passing game.

Jadan Blue. Three years ago, Blue had over 100 yards and three touchdown receptions in what might have been the last “true” Cherry and White game of the century. People who saw that performance knew we had something then. His record-breaking season in 2019 cemented that perception. If Blue even has a “slightly” better season in 2020, he could be a first-team All-American. His style of play reminds me a lot of Gerard “Sweet Feet” Lucear, a former great Owl wide receiver from Georgia. With him as the “speed” receiver and Branden Mack as the “possession” receiver (with a whole lot of speed), Temple’s passing game could be lethal.

Nikolos Madourie. Who? At Temple these days, you’ve got to check the official roster daily to see if the guy’s still here. (Madourie still is.) He could be the impact pass rusher Roche was. For comparison’s sake (recognizing the levels of play are different, though), Roche was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year with 13.5 sacks. Madourie, a 6-6, 240-pound player from Sunrise, Fla,., had 15.5 sacks his last year of JUCO ball. If he gets, say, 13.5 this year, he will be more than an acceptable replacement for Roche especially since guys like Dan Archibong, Ifeanyi Maijeh and Kris Banks are going to provide a good push up the middle.

You want optimism? That’s the best we can do now, a week before the start of spring practice.

Otherwise, we live in Philadelphia but our mindset is in the Show Me state of Missouri.

Friday: A Look at Depth