Owls dominate the NFL draft again

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Penn State might be Linebacker U. and Miami (Ohio) The Cradle of Coaches but Temple is developing into NFL U.

At least in the G5 football world.

Hard to come to any other conclusion than this for current high school recruits based on the  2020 NFL draft. If those players have an eventual goal of making the NFL and are on the fence between picking a P5 or a G5 school, Temple is the place to go.

It’s not just the 2020 draft. It’s been that way for a while. The Owls have been the No. 1 Group of 5 team for nearly a decade in producing NFL draft choices.

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Over the three days of the 2020 draft, center Matt Hennessy was drafted in Round 2 by the Atlanta Falcons, defensive back Harrison Hand drafted in Round 5 by the Minnesota Vikings, and linebackers Shaun Bradley (Round 6, Philadelphia Eagles) and Chapelle Russell (Round 7, Tampa Bay) also were picked.

The reasons have been simple. Al Golden re-established a Temple TUFF culture that carried over into the next four coaches. Golden did it by making running, lifting and toughness a 365-day deal at the Edberg-Olson Complex. His practices were legendary for the level of hitting involved.  It is now up to Rod Carey to sustain that culture. Tyler Matakevich explained it perfectly once. “Our practices are harder than the games, so we’re really prepared to hit come game time,” he said.

Playing in an NFL stadium around an NFL culture also helps.

A couple of interesting things about this current draft: Had Quincy Roche come out instead of going to Miami, he would have been no lower than a No. 4 pick out of Temple. He was unquestionably the best player on a defense that included Bradley, Hand and Russell.

Hennessy will be joining former Temple center Alex Derenthal as a resident of Atlanta. Derenthal is the strength coach at Georgia State (which beat Tennessee last year).

Bradley is the first Temple player drafted by the Eagles in a long time and has a chance to stick if he can cut down on the targeting penalties. He plays hard through the whistle and sometimes beyond. I thought Mel Kiper’s analysis of Bradley was way off. He said Bradley “didn’t pack a punch” but I don’t think I’ve seen a Temple player hit as hard as Bradley over the last four years, and that includes Roche. If anything, he packs too much of a punch.

I wish the Eagles drafted Hennessy as well since Jason Kelce is getting long in the tooth. Yet the Eagles were set on Jalen Hurts in the second round. It might be just me, but Justin Jefferson was the best wide receiver in the draft and the Eagles could have had him in Round 1 and either Hennessy or Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins in Round 2 and been much better off. If they were concerned about the backup QB position, they could have upgraded from Nate Sudfeld and picked some better options in the lower rounds.

No doubt in my mind that the Owls had a better three days at the NFL draft than the other birds playing in the same stadium but only time will tell.

Russell will get every opportunity to shine as Bruce Arians has pretty much an all-Temple staff at Tampa Bay.

Getting drafted his one thing. Sticking in the NFL is another and, based on watching their careers here, I think all five of these guys have a good shot. The last 12 Temple players drafted currently are still on active rosters and only eight schools–all Power 5–have that kind of streak going. For the fourth time in five years, Temple has had more players drafted than any other G5 school. Only the “mythical national championship” team of UCF had more players drafted than Temple in the last five years.

Whatever happens, Temple should parlay NFL drafting success into attracting better recruits starting now.

Friday: Temple in the 2021 Draft

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

Friday (5/8): Suspending Campaigns

Monday (5/11): Virtual Press Conference

Friday (5/15): Recruiting Patterns

Monday (5/18): Smoking Out The Winners

The path is clear to nine wins

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Walking around like a Zombie at the season-ticket holder party back in August, one of the Temple players make a 40-yard beeline for me, shook my hand, and said: “Hey, thanks for coming.”

Chapelle Russell might or might not have known who I was (kind of doubt it), but I had to get something off my chest and he was the first Temple player I could talk to at the time.

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“I can’t believe how many people are saying on social media that this is a six-win team,” I told him. “This is at least a nine-win team. At least.”

“We know it,” Russell said.

Now the path is clear to nine wins, even though this is an awfully strange way of getting there. (I figured they would split the Power 5 games, lose at Houston and UCF and win the rest.)

After beating Houston, 59-49, on Saturday night, the path to a nine-win season is as wide open as the holes the young offensive line was making for Ryquell Armstead. Beat reeling USF on Saturday, then beat putrid UConn on the final day of the regular season and then beat somebody like Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl or give some SEC team a seventh loss in the Birmingham Bowl.

I doubt the Owls go back to Florida again because they’ve been there and done that. Because of their TV market, I would love to see them get a chance at a Penn State-type in another bowl if the AAC can sell Temple as an at-large team in for an open spot in a more high-profile bowl (a long shot, I admit).

Whatever, we know they are going to a bowl now and it’s up to them how good the bowl will be.

The only way to get there is to continue doing what they’ve done so far since Anthony Russo has taken over as the quarterback–try to go 1-0 every week. In the USF week, the Owls can’t worry about the eighth or ninth win, they just have to try to get the seventh.

Then on to the eighth and so forth.

They rode Ryquell Armstead’s 29-carry, six-touchdown, 210-yard performance to a win at Houston and might have learned a valuable lesson against these spread teams. Run the ball, shorten the game by chewing up gobs of clock and using that success to make some plays in the play-action game.  Houston was the first time the Owls even tried to do that since the Maryland game.

Now, with Armstead’s performance, the Owls have the all-time record holder for single rushing touchdowns in an AAC game and Montel Harris’ seven touchdowns in a 63-32 win at Army represented the most rushing touchdowns for any Big East team when the Owls were in that league.

They should feed the beast right up until that ninth win.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: USF Kryptonite (hint: it’s not the weather)

Saturday: Picks

Sunday: Game Analysis