Fizzy: Temple TUFF post-Fran Brown?

Baylor had to go through this exact same thing a year ago.

Editor’s Note: Fizzy checks in after Fran Brown checked out. 

By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I coached the junior varsity at West Philadelphia High School.

As this was an inner-city school, hardly any of the guys trying out had ever played organized football. So once they had their physical exams, we had them put on pads and a helmet from a large pile, and go through some skill tests. Of course, we wanted to see who could pass and catch, but our main objective was to find the tough guys. We knew if they were tough, we’d coach them up and find the right position.

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Another thing we did was give the players themselves a chance to tell us who they thought were toughest guys by secret ballot. On more than one occasion, we were surprised because we’d overlooked someone. One of my players once said, “Are you kidding? There isn’t a guy in the neighborhood who’d mess with him.”

I’m bringing this up because Temple football recruiting is now in deep trouble. Ed Foley was gone before the season began, and now Fran Brown has bolted to help Schiano rebuild the Rutgers program. These two guys had well-established relationships with high school coaches throughout the tri-state area. I can imagine there were many phone calls to Foley and Brown from High school coaches, and the conversation might have gone something like this.

“Hey Ed (Fran), you should take a look at this kid I have. He’s not on anyone’s radar, but he’s just learning the game. He didn’t come out until he was a junior because his family moved around a lot, and he got into a little trouble. This year though, he started to blossom and is going to graduate. Maybe you should invite him to one of your camps. He’s six-two, 220, and a real hard hitter. He should make a great linebacker.”

We all know the Owls hardly ever got the three and four-star recruits. And yet, this year’s talent level was damn near the equal of any other team in our conference. We got to that level because of situations and players like I just mentioned above. We recruited the late bloomers, the overlooked, and the second team all-conference players. Now, Temple doesn’t have any coach with that kind of local rapport and recruiting experience. The entire coaching staff except for Gabe Infante is from the mid-west.

Well, it is what it is now. So what do we do? One suggestion is Coach Carey quickly look over the top recruiters from the Penn State, Maryland, and Pitt coaching staff because they all heavily recruit here. Find the best. Find the money. Make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Another example is when Matt Rhule arrived at Baylor; he hired the president of the Texas coaches association. Temple football desperately needs someone with proven relationships in the tri-state area.

 If we can’t re-establish a loyal local base of feeder coaches, we’re in deep trouble. The tough kids live here.

Wednesday: The All-Hands Bowl

Friday: A close look at North Carolina

Carey on Foley: Plausible Deniability

retained

Carey’s litmus test going forward is to protect these other three guys and give them room to thrive.

A few weeks ago we wrote that Rod Carey had some “splaining to do” after the incident that caused Temple football to be jettisoned from a loyal soldier, Ed Foley.

The explanation came in a recent Marc Narducci story where Carey said that he had “too many offensive coaches on the field, including myself” and wanted to put a talented young defensive assistant, Tyler Yelk, on the field.

Narducci has been on fire recently, with a piece stating that Isaiah Wright wants an expanded role and another giving detail on Manny Diaz’s departure from Temple, but his stories detailing both sides of the Foley issue might have been the best of the summer.

Foley said he was leaving to go “with someone I trust and respect” and the implication was that he did not trust and respect Carey.

Then Narducci came back with Carey’s side of the story. 

A lot of fans, this one included, are still irked that Foley is gone but, given Carey’s explanation, it makes sense.

TLNXruN

Pretty much every Temple fan now watching how Carey treats our beloved trio of Adam DiMichele, Fran Brown and Gabe Infante.

One, Foley could have remained in an off-field capacity if he wanted and both men admitted that. Two, Temple did seem to be top-heavy with offensive coaches in a program that, as Carey has said, “hangs its hat on defense.”

Plausible deniability should Foley’s absence be felt this season. By that, I mean deniability that he’s trying to get rid of the Temple holdovers in favor of NIU guys. The litmus test going forward for Carey is to protect the other three guys (Fran Brown, Gabe Infante and Adam DiMichele) and give them a chance to thrive at Temple. Rod, we’re watching you. 

The bottom line is that Temple, which generally never had to worry about special teams, has one more thing to worry about now. That’s why Carey gets paid the big bucks, though, to make sure everything runs smoothly, including special teams.

The Owls have a serviceable kicker in Will Mobley, who did a nice job when Boston College transfer Aaron Boumerhi had a hip flexor last year. Boomer had the range, while Mobley was essentially a solid extra point kicker. They also have the nation’s best returner, Isaiah Wright, so the special teams should be OK.

Where I think Temple fans will really notice Foley gone is in the area of blocked punts, field goals, and extra points. Foley consistently had the Owls in the nation’s top 10 in those categories because he was an aggressive coach who went after kicks. There is little in Carey’s history to suggest NIU was anywhere near as consistent in that area as Temple was.

When Al Golden got here and brought Foley with him, he said special teams were as important as offense and defense and he practiced what he preached. Let’s hope Carey continues that tradition. 

Monday: Up Against The Walls

Temple’s recruiting reset button

footballs

You’ll be reading a lot about politics (though not here) in the next year and one of those things might be about this political candidate or that one hitting the “reset button.”

That got me to thinking about what all these coaching changes Temple has had in the last half-decade or so has done to recruiting. AMR (after Matt Rhule), both Geoff Collins and even Rod Carey now have had classes where they could at best provide a band-aid here and band-aid there in areas the Owls need immediate help.

That is an apt characterization of the first recruiting classes of both.

Now Carey, with a $10 million buyout that even a Power 5 school would think twice before eating, has an opportunity to hit the recruiting reset button. Let’s hope he takes it because a couple of band-aid-type classes thrown in every few years depletes the roster and a depleted roster eventually shows up on the field. The latest promising addition is running back Jeremiah Nelson and he put a lot of good moves on film, both at Iona Prep and Nassau County Community College.

 

Carey certainly has his own recruiting ideas from six successful seasons at Northern Illinois but Temple needs to aspire to get a higher level of recruit and has the geography to do it. NIU wasn’t located in the middle of 46 percent of the nation’s population, as Temple is, so the formula for the Owls would be 1-5 projects that the staff really likes on film and the rest three- and four-star prospects that not only the Temple staff likes but every paid P5 staff out there likes.

Trust, but verify.

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“My recruiting philosophy is simply this: Recruit an entire team every year. Eleven guys on defense, 11 guys on offense and a couple of specialists and you are never going to leave yourself short.” _ Al Golden

Temple has a lot to sell. Twenty-four current players in the NFL speaks well for the opportunity to play one part of your career in an NFL stadium and finish up the rest of it in another NFL stadium. That, plus the fact that Temple is a proven winner. Since 2015, the Owls have won one AAC title, appeared in another and have won more AAC football games than anyone else, including UCF, USF and Memphis. Plus, the school is nationally known as the sixth-largest educator of professionals so that sheepskin is something to fall back on should a pro football career not be in the offing. It’s in the middle of an exciting city and, unlike, say, Penn State,  not situated in the middle of nowhere. That appeals to “regular students” and it should also appeal to dynamic football players.

Fortunately, Carey has a gem like Fran Brown to head up the recruiting effort. In recruiting, Brown is the starting pitcher and Carey has to be the closer. Brown knows how Al Golden and Rhule build this team from the national bottom 10 to respectability.

“My recruiting philosophy is simply this,” Golden said when he got the Temple job. “Recruit an entire team every year. Eleven guys on defense, 11 guys on offense and a couple of specialists and you are never going to leave yourself short.”

That kind of sound thinking is the Cherry and White reset button Temple recruiting needs to hit now.

Saturday: The Long Game

Wednesday: The Bright Side

The Wisdom of Collins’ recruiting

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One of the benefits of arriving at Cherry and White Day a couple of weeks ago was the Temple football informational sheet they handed out to every guest.

On one side was the complete roster, broken down alphabetically at the top and numerically below.

On the flip side were the football schedule (Bucknell, ugh), quick facts, coaching staff, pronunciation lists and football recruits.

The recruits–mostly the guys who arrive in July–seemed like a thin list but you could always find a number of guys who could be immediate contributors.

Not this year.

This year we found one: Wisdom Quarshie, who is listed as a 6-foot-3, 310-pound tackle who could play on either side of the ball. Todderick Hunt, the “Ted Silary” of NJ.com wrote this about him: “Senior defensive tackle Wisdom Quarshie is, arguably, the most violent offensive lineman in New Jersey. His highlight tape is a non-stop real of pancake blocks and on-field devastation. And he’ll now bring his lunch pail to Temple, less than 30 minutes away from his home, where his family, friends and all who support him can watch him live his dream.” (Note he called him a defensive tackle but said he was the most violent offensive lineman in NJ.)

Quarshie, a two-time first-team All-State player at St. Joe’s (Hammonton), appears to be ready-made to help but, of the 15 players listed as “recruits” on the info sheet, his sticking out like a sore thumb among those ready to make an impact points out the, err, Wisdom of Collins’ recruiting. Or lack of same. Hard to see anything but redshirts for the other 14 guys on the list of incoming recruits.

Collins had three classes and the only one worth much was unveiled on St. Pete Beach at the Gasparilla Bowl. In that one, he got two immediate offensive line starters and a grad transfer who became a second-round NFL draft choice.

Wayne Hardin once said recruiting was easy at Temple because you could “put a pencil in the middle of Broad Street and draw a 200-mile circle around it and come up with enough players to win.” Collins got away from that formula by concentrating his recruiting in the South. Good for him and his Southern-centric coaches, but bad for Temple.

Now that Fran Brown is back in charge of the important business of Temple recruiting, the Owls should return to their neighborhood roots where the fruits of Brown’s earlier stint here produced a championship roster.

Fran knows what he’s doing and, with him supplying the guys and Rod Carey coaching them up, that should be a productive partnership.

Friday: The Listerine Bowl

 

 

TU Coaching Search: Wait and Hurry Up

hurryupandwait

If the prior coaching search at Temple, the one that took place less than a month ago, was all about hurrying up to meet the early December signing period, this one was about waiting.

Then hurrying up.

Since there was only one other high-profile FBS job available, Temple athletic director Dr. Pat Kraft had to wait for what the Power 5 school (West Virginia) did and then move on after that. Kraft didn’t only have egg on his face after the Manny Diaz Fiasco, he had a whole Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast. No use hiring a guy on Thursday, only to have him move on to West Virginia on Friday.

We are exaggerating for effect. We think. 

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slownarducci

Seven hours between these two tweets

First, the waiting part.

Since West Virginia hired Troy’s Neal Brown–arguably the most accomplished proven FBS head coach out there–yesterday, Temple has a smorgasbord of pretty decent candidates to choose from and about $8.5 million to spend on a head coach  ($6.5 million in buyouts and Geoff Collins‘ regular $2 million salary) to spread over the next five years.

This time none of the candidates have a place to jump to after 17 days. One or two years maybe, but not 17 days.

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Temple’s depression-era offer of $12,500K per year lured Pop Warner away from Stanford. The second splash hire, Wayne Hardin, arguably turned out to be a better one.

The Owls can pay Dana Holgorsen money for a superstar like current Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold or national coach of the year Jeff Monken (Army) or they can dig back deep into the coordinator churn pile for someone like Texas DC Todd Orlando. Leipold is probably out because he has shown no interest in the Temple job (not everyone is), although the concept of hiring a guy who kicked Geoff Collins’ ass with Buffalo talent is more than intriguing. Temple produces NFL players so Monken and his triple-option is probably out and hiring another team’s coordinator after Diaz probably would probably not be received well by the Temple fan base demanding a splash with the newfound money. Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton pulled a minor miracle in an impossible place to win this year, but he hasn’t shown he can sustain it like Leipold and Monken.

Now Temple has money for a “splash” hire and one opportunity to spend it.

Really, a solid argument can now be made with Neal Brown gone that Leipold is the only “splash” candidate out there. Seven National championships plus an FBS division championship sets him apart from the rest. The only two times Temple went for a “splash” candidate, Wayne Hardin and Pop Warner, it turned out pretty well.


The only two times
Temple went for a
“splash” candidate,
Wayne Hardin and
Pop Warner, it turned
out pretty well

Popular hirings among a certain segment of Temple fans would be Al Golden and Todd Bowles. Golden gave Temple five great years–a lot longer than 17 days–and still has a tremendous relationship with many long-time Temple fans. He probably saved the program and turned a 0-11 season before he got here into a nine- and an eight-win season before he left. He still has terrific recruiting contacts up and the East Coast and good relationships with Ed Foley and Adam DiMichele. He probably has the competitive instincts to prove was better for Temple than Rhule or Collins. Kraft could not go wrong in bringing him back but we don’t know if he’s even interested. Bowles would be popular with players of the Bruce Arians’ Era but he would be a much harder sell in that he hasn’t really won anywhere.

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Don Brown in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. Note the words “not on anybody else’s terms.” Kraft could be demanding Brown keep Fran Brown, Ed Foley, Gabe Infante and Adam DiMichele, none of whom Brown knows. This problem would be solved by hiring another guy working in Michigan, Al Golden.

Now the hurrying up part.

When Diaz left, Kraft issued a statement that emphasized two words: Excellence and stability.

Fran Brown, the current interim coach, represents “stability” and is well-liked by the players. Still, since he was seen not as a guy who could take over the Temple head coaching job 23 days ago, it’s hard to sell excellence and Fran Brown. Mike Elko, Don Brown and Manny Diaz were by reports the final three in the first search. Elko pulled out of the first search and used it as leverage to sign a new deal at Texas A&M.

That leads us to Don Brown. Of those mentioned so far, he brings both stability and excellence. He has all the big-time coordinator experience (BC, UConn, Maryland, Michigan) of the other coordinator churn pile guys but a 95-45 record as a head coach at three schools. That’s excellence. At 63, Temple would be his last rodeo and he can say with a straight face at the press conference that he’s not going anywhere. Another plus is that this will enable Fran Brown to learn how to be DC (not co-DC) under Don Brown’s watch and make him a more attractive candidate for the Temple job when Don decides to retire.

The narrow criteria of “excellence” and “stability” could make this hurry up phase of the second search go pretty fast and that’s what one Brown can do for Kraft that the other one cannot.

Monday: The special circumstance now

Diaz’s Presser: Better Than The Billboard

billboard

Photo courtesy of Manny Diaz Sr.

In the great tradition of one-liners at Temple football coach hiring press conference, Manny Diaz offered this gem about the university we all know and love:

“It was better than the brochure.”
Geez. I hope that was a good brochure but, truth be told, the press conference was better than I expected even though I did not get all the answers I wanted.

The brochure remark joined these great ones in the introductory presser Hall of Fame:

“We’re going to build a house of brick, not straw,” _  Al Golden, 2005. (Golden kept that promise, stayed five years and built a house solid enough to win a bowl game the year after he left.)

“My message is to make it a destination to be at Temple. Don’t be passing through. I’m now honestly living my dream.” _ Steve Addazio, 2010  (Addazio passed through after two years and then told BC he was living his dream. He must’ve had a lot of dreams.)

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Great coaching hire by Manny Diaz

“I asked Bill to sign a 15-year contract and he wouldn’t let me,” _ Matt Rhule, talking about athletic director Bill Bradshaw, who gave Rhule a five-year contract that the uni ripped up and extended to 2021 after the 2015 season. Rhule didn’t even serve the five years Golden did.

“We will compete for championships, we will provide a world-class student-athlete experience and education, and we will represent the community with pride.” _ Geoff Collins, 2016. (Depends on what your definition of “compete for championships” is but Memphis, which played UCF in the last two title games, fit that description better than Temple in the two Collins’ years.)

So we’ve gone from coaches who have promised to build brick houses to ones who didn’t want to pass through to one who wanted to sign a 15-year contract and another who wanted to compete for championships to a guy who said Temple was better than the brochure.

No promises, no demands, this time. Love is a battlefield.

Fortunately, the brochure guy got to work on the love part Friday night by bringing in Baylor assistant coach Fran Brown and that says more about his commitment to competing than any promises could. The billboard welcoming Diaz to Philadelphia (I95 Northbound between Chester and the airport) was impressive but the deeds already are paying fruition. Who knows? Having Brown learn how to be defensive coordinator under one of the best DCs in the country could be a succession plan of sorts. Brown is a great recruiter and one of the most popular coaches with the players in practice facility history, so that’s a good start. Brown is a keeper around the E-O, as is OL coach Chris Wisenhan, QB coach Adam DiMichele and the best special teams’ coach in the nation, Ed Foley.  That would be a nice nucleus. Collins can have the rest of the coaches.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, who tried to make a read-option quarterback out of a pro set one, probably should be packing his bags right now. Hopefully, Diaz has enough football savvy to know that making a read-option QB out of NFL prospect Anthony Russo makes as much sense as Bill Belichick suddenly making a read-option QB out of Tom Brady.  Patenaude has spent two years here trying to force square pegs into round holes and good coaches know that square pegs go into square holes.

Diaz didn’t promise to stay forever, but actions are always more important than words and his first hire was a helluva great action.

Monday: Out of Town Reaction

Wednesday: A Cautionary Tale

Friday: 5 Things We Won’t Miss About Mr. Mayhem

Monday (12/24): Hitting The Ground Running

Wednesday (12/26): T-Minus 1 To Game Day