Ending a streak and starting one in Tampa

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Since CBS sports made this graphic, Owls have had four more games of 20 points or more that ended last night

A couple of streaks ended last night in Tampa, one important, one not.

Temple ended a rare two-game losing streak with a solid if unspectacular 17-7 win over a decent South Florida team. That’s the important streak one that supersedes everything else.

In the process, the Owls’ streak of 20-straight games scoring 20 or more points–a Group of Five that included Oklahoma, Ohio State and Clemson–ended when they eschewed a field goal with 32 seconds left.

Speaking of streaks, the Owls now have become bowl eligible for six-straight years under three head coaches (my editors always told me don’t say different head coaches because three is understood). I don’t think college football reference has a stat for that, but that’s got to put Temple in an elite group of maybe one. Plus, the Owls ended a streak of three-straight ugly losses in Tampa (although they did win a bowl game in nearby St. Pete).

Let’s put it this way. It could be a lot worse. We could be Rutgers and a fan base so delusional they think they can beat the Owls next year after they lost (48-7) to a team Temple beat (Maryland).

Always amused reading posts like this one last night:

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My reaction to the above post

As a Temple fan, I’m pleased that the Owls are making another bowl but I’m greedy. Put it this way: Was anyone all that excited about the Independence Bowl last year? How about the Boca Bowl? Or the Gasparilla Bowl? They all seem the same to me. The problem with the AAC is that the winner gets all the spoils and everybody else gets crumbs.

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With the new rules, Owls can take the redshirt off Gasparilla Bowl defensive MVP William Kwenkeu (35) and play him the final three regular-season games, still preserving his redshirt for next year.

I want a championship and, as long as that remains a possibility (although a remote one), that’s what the Owls should go after. UCF and Cincy need to lose twice more, knocking out UCF, and giving the Owls the head-to-head tie-breaker with Cincy and the East title. That probably means a rematch with Memphis on enemy turf, but that’s a fight the Owls should want to pursue.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but the point is a 9-3 finish–something the Owls can control–is a lot more rewarding than a trip to a non-descript bowl game. Let the chips fall where they may otherwise. If anything last night showed, it was if the Owls front seven (major hat tip to Quincy “Reggie White” Roche) plays the way they did against South Florida, the Owls can run the table.

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From Friday’s Tampa Bay Times

Meanwhile, it would be nice to get Isaiah Wright off the milk carton for once and turn those fair catches into 80-yard punt and kickoff returns, but that’s up to him and not us. The fact that head coach Rod Carey still has him back there indicates this is the desired result.

Now that Carey is probably without Isaiah Graham-Mobley (injured) for the Tulane game, this would be a good time to temporarily take the redshirt off Gasparilla Bowl defensive MVP William Kwenkeu and knock some rust off him. That would still be preserving his redshirt and helping Temple in the process.

It would be a win/win situation for the Owls, bolstering the linebacking corps for both this year and next and hopefully help jumpstart another long winning streak.

Sunday: Fizzy’s Insights on the USF Game

Tuesday: The Scenarios

Thursday: Stopping the hybrid triple option

Saturday: Game Day Tulane

Game Night Minus-1: Flipping the field

Going into the season, if you honestly asked yourself the question what sets Temple apart from every other team in this conference you might come away with these takes:

  • Great linebackers
  • Great offensive line
  • Great return game

The return game is led by the school’s first (and perhaps last) returning first-team All-American. (We’ll answer why later in this post.)

If there’s a key to winning in football, it’s accentuating your strengths to the detriment of the bad guys. The linebackers have been as advertised, all single-digit Temple TUFF guys who have played up to the honor. The offensive line is still the offensive line that Ryquell Armstead followed to six touchdowns at Houston and helped him become a fifth-round NFL draft selection.

Something appears to be missing.

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Forecast: Mostly cloudy with a chance of punt returns

Oh yeah.

That great return game, particularly on punt returns. Isaiah Wright, that first-team All-American punt returner, has 10 punt returns for 68 yards, a 6.8 average and no touchdowns. Pedestrian figures for a first-team All-American considering that he had 19 punt returns for 23.8 per return last year and two touchdowns. The alarming number is the good returns he has passed up so far, instead electing to fair catch. He’s had more fair catches (16) than punt returns (10). From my seat, he’s made pretty good decisions on about half of those as a guy was in his face. The other half, not so good. He’s had at least a step, maybe two, to work his magic.

Enough with the fair catches already. If we wanted a guy to make fair catches, we’d have any other wide receiver on the roster back there.

Nobody makes the first guy miss as much as Wright and, if I’ve missed anything this year, that’s what I’ve missed the most: Seeing Wright make the bad guys break their ankles trying to tackle him and make that punt return the best offensive play in the playbook.

I don’t think we will ever see a returning first-team All-American at Temple again unless he’s a true freshman or sophomore and Temple doesn’t recruit those kinds of guys (Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is an example). Once they are a junior, they can declare so Wright did Temple a huge favor coming back for his senior year.

He can do himself a bigger favor by returning those punts for the final half of the season and showing the NFL scouts that he still has the Wright stuff. He can still raise his stock from a UDA to a high pick with a good final seven games. Remember, at this time last year, Duke’s Daniel Jones was rated as a UDA but his terrific second half of the season–including the bowl win over Temple–kept moving him from a fifth to a third to a first-round pick as the season went along.

The most important thing now, though, is helping his teammates achieve their goal which is a championship run (see above video). Wright was a big part of those great plans for this year and just because hasn’t been so far doesn’t mean he can’t be going forward.

Nothing better than Saturday night to start flipping the field only the way he can and reminding people that the Owls have a weapon no other team in this league can match.

Predictions (for amusement only): A very tough week for picks. Thought about taking Tulane getting the 3.5 points at Navy but Navy is playing so well that I’m letting that game go. Do like Indiana giving the 1 at Nebraska, Georgia State as a pick at Troy (still not fully recovered from losing coach Neal Brown), Liberty giving the 7.5 at Rutgers (betting against RU has made a lot of people rich), Ball State giving the 3 at Ohio, fake Miami (Ohio) getting the 2.5 against visiting Kent State (can’t believe Miami is an underdog there), TCU getting the 2.5 over visiting Texas and Pitt laying the 5 against the real Miami. So thankful that Manny Diaz is learning on the job there and not at Temple.

Last week: As far as the spreads go, I was 5-2-1 (the push was Wake beating FSU by the 2) so I will just throw out the push. Lost on Cuse and Duke but won five straight: ECU covering the 33 against UCF, Minnesota covering the 29.5  (Rutgers never covers these ridiculous spreads) and also winning with Louisiana Tech (a much better team than people realize), Georgia Tech (Diaz is even worse than Collins, if that’s possible), and BYU not only covering but winning the game OUTRIGHT against unbeaten Boise State. For the season: 29-12 SU, 25-16 ATS.

Sunday: Game Analysis

 

Game Night: Wright Time to put best feet forward

Forget about baseball for a moment since just about all of the ratings indicate much of America has, even in the postseason.

This is football season and there are two games on nationally Thursday night.

One is an NFL game.

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The other is Temple football. Believe it or not, a large swath of the country doesn’t care much for the NFL but instead prefers college football and, for those folks, this is Temple’s chance to shine.

Maybe one or two times a year the university has a chance to put its front porch on the national stage without significant competition and one of them is Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN) at East Carolina. They won’t be seeing Temple as a chemistry class or a library or a band, but Temple as a football team.

So logic follows that maybe the Owls should put their best feet forward.

Or at least the best two feet they have: Isaiah Wright.

If there’s a common thread to the statements that Matt Rhule, Geoff Collins and Rod Carey have made about any Temple football player it’s various forms of this quote:

“We have to find a way to get the ball more to Isaiah Wright.”

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As a freshman under Rhule, Wright caught 8 passes for 74 yards with zero touchdowns but was more involved as a runner by carrying the ball 42 times for 232 yards, including a touchdown at Tulane.

As a sophomore under Collins, Wright had 46 receptions for 668 yards and four touchdowns and 25 carries for 188 yards and another touchdown. Those numbers regressed to 33 catches for 368 yards and three touchdowns and 19 carries for 84 yards a year ago.

This year: Wright has 22 receptions for 201 yards and three touchdowns but just four carries for 42 yards.

What do those statistics tell you?

When the guy’s number is called, he delivers but his number has not been called nearly enough–particularly on running plays. This is a coaching problem, not a player problem, and has been for some time. Carey isn’t going to run Wright out of the Wildcat (and that makes sense because he doesn’t throw from it) but more jet sweeps after faking inside to Re’Mahn Davis could be just what the doctor ordered. The film shows a lot of movement–mostly with wide receiver Jadan Blue–on running plays, but not a whole lot of use with a handoff off that movement. Get Wright involved on a few of those jet sweeps and chances are everything else opens up.

No better time than Thursday when the university is putting its best figurative foot forward on potentially the biggest stage of the year to put its best literal two feet forward.

Friday: Game Analysis

 

5 Goals Out of Summer Camp

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You can make up all the mock depth charts you want (as we have today) but the power of moving up the charts rests in what these young men do.

According to The Inquirer’s Marc Narducci, the highlight of the first day of Temple football summer camp was the handing out of single digits.

Count me among those loving Temple’s single-digit tradition–perhaps because it gets mentioned on every national telecast–but more significant highlights should be coming in the next four weeks.

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Owls have 2 votes in the coaches poll. Since you are not allowed to vote for your own team, I’m guessing Geoff Collins and Matt Rhule

Temple’s schedule is an odd one in that the Owls have nothing more than a practice game with Bucknell on the schedule on the last day of this month, followed by a too early bye week, then the real schedule.

These should be the 5 goals to accomplish in the next four weeks:

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Dan Archibong (photo by Zamani Feelings) is a good bet to earn a single digit.

Hitting

Few Cherry and White days were more disappointing than the past one. After watching a few drills that did not involve hitting, the fans left in droves. I was gone right after they practiced punt returns with the return guy catching the ball and running through a line of players who had no interest in touching him. That’s not football. After a 35-0 loss to Pitt in 1983, Bruce Arians brought the team out at 6 a.m. and had them hitting in full pads the next morning. “Dumb mistake by a rookie coach,” Bruce said at the end of that season. “We were out-hit that day. We got into a physical mentality in that practiced and we weren’t outhit the rest of the year.” Owls need to create that mentality early.

Depth

The Owls have a lot of promising players on the second units of both lines but few of those actually saw game action. They need to develop that depth this month.

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Solving the Running Back Dilemma

Head coach Rod Carey indicated that he’s open to moving Isaiah Wright into a full-time role at running back should no one emerge as a go-to guy. That beats what he said a week earlier when he indicated going to RB by committee was an option. Running back by committee is like having a baseball closer by committee. It never works. I like Jager Gardner as a backup but I don’t see him as an elite No. 1. Jeremy Jennings is fast, but he doesn’t have great open-field moves. Tyliek Raynor strikes me as a David Meggett-type third-down back. Maybe a true freshman will emerge like Bernard Pierce did in the weeks before the 2007 but, failing that, using Wright (where he has been used in the past) there will give the Owls the best running back in the league without hurting a deep and talented wide receiver corps.

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RPO: Blessing or a Curse?

Quarterback Anthony Russo talked about the Owls using more of a run-pass-option this year than in the past couple. That’s a blessing if the run option is to a running back instead of a quarterback. You won’t catch Bill Belichick using Tom Brady as a run option nor should Carey expose Russo to getting killed on similar plays. While Russo is no Tom Brady (yet), he is like Brady in that he’s more valuable as a dropback passer than as a run decoy. A good coach designs schemes to best utilize the talent he has, not the talent he wants and, for Temple this year, the RPOs should be delayed draws and an occasional swing pass out of the backfield and little else.

A place for Franklin

The Owls need to get Sam Franklin on the field and, with a linebacker corps that includes Chapelle Russell, Shaun Bradley, Isaiah Graham-Mobley and William Kenkewu, snaps will be limited there. He has an opportunity to play safety and that’s where he should line up.

Other than that, and getting the timing down, the Owls are all set to build on expectations that have them getting more votes in the coaches poll than Tennessee and Ole Miss.

Saturday: Around The League

Monday: 5 TUFB Headlines We’d Like to See

Saturday (8/17): Depth Chart Thoughts

AAC Media Day: Not-so-great expectations

Chris Giannini on 2019 Temple: “That is a really, really good team” .. yet he picks Owls to go 7-5

Anyone arriving at the AAC Football Media Day was greeted with one of those graphic boards usually seen at horse races listing the entrants and their odds.

This time, though, the board read the media preseason polls and the expectations for the season by a poll of so-called experts.

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The expectations for Temple, the winningest team in the league in the last four regular-season years (yes, more wins than UCF, USF, Houston and Memphis from 2015-2018) were not so great. The Owls were picked fourth in the AAC East behind UCF, Cincinnati and USF.

The reasoning was simple.

Temple was losing Geoff Collins and gaining Rod Carey was usually the first thing out of their mouths. The second thing was the loss of a NFL fifth-round draft choice at running back, Ryquell Armstead, who former Houston coach Major Applewhite called “the best running back in our league.”

Sound reasoning for outsiders, not so much for insiders.

Losing Collins, long on schtick and short on substance, was the antonym of the new Temple coach, Carey, a guy long on substance and short on schtick.

 

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The Owls are only 20-25 handoffs from this guy to that guy away from winning an AAC title.

It’s hard from an insider’s point of view–particularly this one–to see that as anything but a net gain for both the organization and its preseason chances.

The running back conundrum is another story, though.

Carey has promised to give the ball to potentially the best running back in the league, Isaiah Wright, a lot more. If Carey has the kind of substance we think he has, he will figure out the best way to do that is making Wright the full-time replacement for Armstead because, as good as Armstead was, Wright has the kind of moves and speed that could make the rest of the league forget about Armstead. It’s a no-brainer because Temple is extraordinarily deep at wide receiver with Branden Mack, Jaden Blue, Randle Jones and Freddie Johnson, among others. Still, the last two Temple head coaches also promised to get the ball into Wright’s hands more but did not deliver on those promises.

Nothing would achieve that goal more than quarterback Anthony Russo sticking that pigskin into Wright’s belly 20-25 times a game and maybe added a few swing passes out of the backfield to give Wright the space to do his thing.

In the middle of July, that, to me, seems to be the key to the season. Ride that horse and the Owls’ odds of moving from fourth to first improve dramatically.

Monday: Practicing What You Preach

Saturday: Plausible Deniability 

Monday (7/29): Up Against The Walls

Saturday (8/3): Game Month

Possible 2020 NFL Drafted Owls

When Karamo Dioubate was coming out of high school, his signing day ceremony was a short trip to my neighborhood Buffalo Wild Wings so I sauntered on over.

During it, he took a call from Alabama’s Nick Saban and turned down a last-minute offer, saying, in effect, “no sir, I’m staying home and headed to Temple.”

Those are the kind of calls top five position players in the country have to fend off on National Signing Day. Dioubate was switched from DE to DT when he got to Temple and it took him longer than expected to feel comfortable there.

Still, the talent is there for KD to blow up in this, his senior year. If he has the kind of offseason in the weight room than Michael Dogbe had last year, he could dominate on the field like Dogbe did this year. He has the size (6-3, 295) that Dogbe has. He needs only to develop the err, dog, Dogbe had.

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Buffalo Wild Wings was rocking the day Dioubate signed at Temple

While Dioubate was a rotation player for the 2016 AAC championship Owls, moving to tackle from end had its growing pains. Each succeeding year he has shown to be more comfortable as a DT starter. Dioubate has a low bar to become a fifth-round or higher draft choice. Byron Cowart, a Maryland defensive tackle, was picked in the fifth round by the New England Patriots. Cowart,  had 38 tackles, no sacks and ran a 5.16 40-yard dash. I’m going to go on record as saying Dioubate will do better than that this season. He had 23 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown this past season. Cowart, like Dioubate, was a top five DL recruit when he originally committed to Auburn before transferring to Maryland.

Other than Dioubate and RB/WR/KR Isaiah Wright–who could go anywhere from rounds 1-5 next season, the possible NFL draft pickings are slim but  there are plenty of guys who have a shot to make it as a UDFA or even a late-round draft choice.

In other words, Temple has plenty of talent in its current senior class.

I think linebackers Shaun Bradley, Chapelle Russell and William Kwenkeu have chances but both Bradley and Russell are on the small side for linebackers. Sam Franklin packs a Malcolm Jenkins-type punch as a NFL strong safety but will this current Temple staff use him there instead of forcing him into an already crowded linebacker room?

The talent is good in this senior class but the current listed redshirt juniors, who include center Matt Hennessy (6-4, 295), QB Anthony Russo (6-4, 230), DE Quincy Roche (6-4, 235), DT Dan Archibong (6-6, 285) and WR Branden Mack (6-5, 215), could be even better or almost certainly drafted higher.

If you want a real longshot, too bad cornerback Josh Allen (6-3, 190) is only a sophomore. The last two No. 7 NFL draft picks?

Both named Josh Allen.

Monday: Tale of the Tape

Wednesday: That Big-Time JUCO

Between a Rock and a Wright Place

All we know from what Rod Carey has said is that Isaiah Wright “will be moved all over the field.”

Judging from what he has privately told some people, including Wright himself, the part of the field he will park himself most at is running back.

That both makes sense and is good news because not many college football teams have a first-team All-America returning and, in Wright, that’s just what the Owls have. Plus, the Owls have plenty of talented wide receivers.

They are a little thin at running back.

He was named first-team All-America kick returner by The Sporting News and, while Owl fans would like to see him in that role again this year, a team that desperately needs a top-tier running back could use Wright lugging the ball at least 15 times a game lined up behind Anthony Russo.

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Army head coach Jeff Monken called Wright a “touchdown waiting to happen” before his team’s 2017 game with the Owls and with good reason.

What kind of running back would Wright be? He gave a slight glimpse in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook in 2016 when he carried the ball seven times for 48 yards but Wright was a true freshman playing in his second game. (For comparison, Bernard Pierce’s first game produced 44 yards on six carries as a true freshman.)

Wright would be more of a Pierce-like running back than Ryquell Armstead was. To use a baseball analogy, Armstead was a line-drive hitter who could occasionally hit a home run. Wright, like Pierce, is a home-run hitter who can take it to the house on any given play.

Wright will get a long look at the position at summer practice. Here’s hoping, instead of moving him around, new head coach Rod Carey will make the sound football decision for Temple and leave him right there.

Wednesday: The 2020 NFL Draft and Temple

Gauging The Competiton: UCF, USF, Cincy

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Just a small portion of the 33,306 Temple fans whose chant of “DEE-fense!, DEE-fense!” was so loud the Cincy QB could not hear the snap count. Heroes, really.

Gauging is a pretty good word.

Defined as “to determine the exact dimensions, capacity, quantity, or force of; measure. to appraise, estimate, or judge” it is probably first best used after spring football practice to determine the weaknesses and strengths of Temple football opponents.

If I were writing this with cherry-colored glasses now, I would rate Temple as THE favorite.

The Owls have in my mind the best quarterback in the league in Anthony Russo and POTENTIALLY the best running back in the league in Isaiah Wright. Since we’re not sure new head coach Rod Carey will use Wright on more than a handful of plays from scrimmage, we will have to take those glasses off and put on the regular ones with brown rims and a prescription.

(If Carey made the announcement today or in the summer that he’s putting what Army coach Jeff Monken said was a “touchdown waiting to happen” permanently in the backfield, we’d change our minds.)

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Looking through those, I’d have to rate Cincinnati as the AAC East favorite, followed by UCF and then Temple. I cannot see USF rated ahead of Temple under any circumstances, but those are the four strongest teams in the East.

Here’s an early look:

(from USA Today)

UCF

UCF’s annual spring football game Saturday gave fans a chance to see just how close the quarterback battle is for the Knights. Head coach Josh Heupel let all four of his available quarterbacks rotate series under center.

Though they each showed flashes of brilliance, it was clear that more work needs to be done for a true starter to emerge.

“Some good and some bad,” Heupel said of his quarterbacks’ play today. “Today was not any of their best days collectively from start to finish. I thought there were some real positive things early when we were pushing the ball down the field. There were some times where we didn’t handle the tempo as well as we needed to.”

Redshirt sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. opened the game with a two-play drive that was capped off by touchdown pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Jacob Harris.

Senior Brandon Wimbush’s best came right before halftime when he led a lengthy drive that resulted in Jacob Harris catching his second touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with 13 seconds left.

CINCINNATI

Like Carey, Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell does not believe in spring football contact:

He believes full contact special teams in spring are a throwback. Fickell remembered doing them in his days as a player at Ohio State under Jim Tressel.

“It’s not that often that you get to do it,” Fickell said. “Coach Tress used to do it. You kind of get worried. A guy can get rolled up or this, that and the other thing. But as tired as they are by the end of spring, as tired as they are after covering a couple of kicks, the contacts are nearly as high speed.

“It was a great opportunity for our returners, our kickers in those situations were they have to make some decisions.”

The Bearcats are coming off an 11-2 season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl.  Quarterback Desmond Ritter, who blamed the Temple fan crowd noise for a key fumble in one of the two losses, looked good but he has lost his top wide receiver Kahil Lewis.

USF
The Bulls might have a new starter at quarterback in Plant City High’s Jordan McCloud, who was 17 for 25 for 228 yards and two touchdowns (and one pick) in the spring game.

The offensive line, though, which was the team’s weak point a year ago, needs “work” according to Charley Strong. It’s hard to make a living in the AAC with an offensive line in a state of flux like this one.

Sunday: Bulking Up a Position

Tuesday: The Drafted Guys

Friday: Shot Chart

Sunday: Blocked by Collins

Isaiah Wright: Temple’s Answer

wright

There are not many vexing questions out there regarding the Temple football team for 2019.

The Owls appear to be even more loaded next year than they were this year with the exception of one sore thumb question:

“Who is going to replace Rock Armstead as the elite featured back?”

The answer is right under our noses: Isaiah Wright.

matt rhule, temple football,

“If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback,  Isaiah Wright is capable of playing the position and I’m sure he would do a great job.” _ Matt Rhule, 2016

This is what Matt Rhule said about Wright after the then true freshman gained 48 yards on seven carries in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook in 2016: “The great thing about Isaiah is his versatality. If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback, Isaiah Wright is capable of playing thet position and I’m sure he would do a great job. The challenge, really for me, is to get him the ball a lot more.”

Rhule could never follow through because Thomas and Armstead were there to block Wright’s progress as a running back but at least he instituted The Wildcat for him. (I don’t like the Wildcat because everyone knows Wright is going to run when he comes out in it. The Wildcat is effective only if IW throws it 50 percent of the time and runs it the other half.)

Getting the ball to Wright was a challenge inherited by the Geoff Collins staff and, quite frankly, they have not been up to it. Wright doesn’t get the ball nearly enough even though Army coach Jeff Monken called him “a touchdown waiting to happen” in his assessment of the Owls before the 2017 game at Army.

saturdaypicks

Our picks for today’s games

For the record, I like Jager Gardner as well but, for some reason, Gardner has disappeared as the Armstead backup. He did score a nice touchdown at UConn. Gardner and Wright should battle it out as Armstead’s replacement and the Owls will be in good shape, but I think that’s a battle Wright would win given a fair opportunity. Tyliek Raynor as a third-down back (a Dave Meggett-type) would give the Owls a terrific trio of running backs next season.

First, though, Wright has to have every opportunity to grab the No. 1 job in spring ball.

The Owls can afford to move Wright from receiver to tailback because they are so deep at wide receiver. Randle Jones and Freddy Johnson return, as does this year’s true freshman Sean Ryan. The Owls have plenty of options at wide receiver.

“Armstead is the toughest running back in our league to stop,” Houston head coach Major Applegate said after the Owls won, 59-49, in Texas.

Putting Wright back there would give the Owls that same important advantage next year as well.

 

Taver, We Hardly Knew Ye ….

aramark

The Aramark indoor football field is twice as big as the old Student Pavilion and the ceiling is high enough for kicking practice.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes from about as interesting an offseason week for Temple football as we’ve seen in some time ….

Doing his best post-Pro Bowl Nick Foles’ impersonation, Taver Johnson walked sideways across the stage at the Aramark Center exactly a week ago and said this:

“How y’all doin’?”

famer

When a Temple Hall of Famer calls, Geoff Collins should have at least listened

Little did those of us in attendance know, at least at that time, that Johnson might as well kept walking and gone right out the side door for good because that’s where he was headed in a real sense. By then, it had to be obvious to head coach Geoff Collins that Johnson was leaving and Collins probably said, “hey, I need you through signing night.”

Going from defensive coordinator at Temple to a defensive backs’ coach at Ohio State is mostly seen as at least a lateral move, certainly not a step up in the coaching fraternity but if it floats Johnson’s boat, go for it. Heck, Taver had the same job at Purdue before being enticed to leave there for the DC job at Temple one year ago.

Temple was ranked No. 56 in total yardage defense and No. 58 in scoring defense a year ago and that screams two words to me: Mediocre and Replaceable. Giving up 28 (really, 21) points to UConn and 13 points to a Villanova team that Rhode Island … Rhode Island … held to six is not a ringing endorsement of last year’s defense.

With the dissolution of the Bruce Arians’ staff in Arizona, there are a number of “overqualified” guys with Temple connections who Hall of Famer Paul Palmer told me were definitely interested in the job: Former FCS Defensive Coordinator of the Year Nick Rapone and Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Famer Kevin Ross.

If one or both are hired, they immediately become the two best defensive coaches on the staff. Both guys are Temple (and Tempe) TUFF, love Temple, and would be a positive influence on the kids and their fellow staffers and the fans. This is about the biggest no-brainer in Temple history. Neither would leave Temple for lesser positions, even at Alabama. Of course, Temple being Temple it hired another less-qualified guy from the one of the same two directional Alabama schools Bobby Wallace last coached, West Alabama. It would have nice for Collins to look around and grab a guy or two from the pre-Al Golden Era at Temple. Sometimes, you think he believes Temple did not have football before 2005. This was one of those times.

“Mr. Mike”

Now that Nick Sharga has left, we all have to find our next favorite player on the Temple team.

(Hell, I’m not the only fan who had No. 4 No. 1.)

Mine has been Isaiah Wright since the end of our season.

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Like the guy said on the TV broadcast at the Army game, “Isaiah Wright is a touchdown waiting to happen.”

As I sat down next to long-time buddy and Temple linebacking great Steve Conjar, a guy across the table noticed me and said, “Mr. Mike!”

That guy was Isaiah Wright and it was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He extended his right hand.

“I’m Isaiah Wright.”

“Isaiah Wright, my favorite Temple player. No joke.”

Then Isaiah introduced me to the guy sitting on his right, Linwood Crump (Junior), and I told the defensive back that he was going to be a starter but to not take anything for granted.

He said he would not.

Both can call me Mr. Mike any day of the week and, just maybe, they will give him No. 4 before the start of the season. Whatever number they give him, I just hope they don’t make him disappear like they did with Nick Sharga.

Aramark Center

Moody Nolan is listed as the architect for the new football stadium.

complex

He also did the job at the new Temple football indoor facility called the Aramark Center (the football team shares this spectacular indoor arena with locker rooms and training facilities with the rest of the students). This is a much-larger version of the old Student Pavilion, large enough to get some punting and field goal work in—something that could not be done at what Collins affectingly called the “Mayhem Mansion.”

That said, it takes up such a large portion of the 15th and Montgomery area that it would now be pretty hard to see how a 35,000-seat stadium could fit in a North-South configuration. It would have to be East-West and cross and close 15th Street permanently with the Student Pavilion and tennis courts knocked down. Had the Pavilion been knocked down and replaced by what is now Aramark first, there would have been no need to close down 15th Street.

Now it is really hard to conceive of a stadium fitting into the old Geasey Field square footage alone but that could be the least of Moody Nolan’s problems.

Friday: Thoughts on The AAC Schedule