No way to win: Next Man Up

Had to laugh the other day when I saw one reaction to Darian Varner leaving on a major Temple sports message board was:

“Next man up.”

Understandable sentiment but, err, no.

If in Varner’s case, the “next man” up is a Scout team defensive end who only is able to put a hand on a quarterback’s green jersey in practice, then that’s the best way to turn this year’s 3-9 season into a third-straight 3-9 season in 2023.

Varner was a guy who regularly threw down great AAC quarterbacks like Clayton Tune and Sean Henigan violently on a regular basis. You don’t replace him with a Scout team guy. You replace him with a Power 5 top-level recruit who wants a change of scenery.

Most important Temple football TV broadcast of the Stan Drayton Era.

There was a TV show in the 1970s called “Mission Impossible” that started every episode with a cassette tape to a CIA agent that blasted: “Your mission, if you chose to accept it …” blah blah blah for that week’s hour.

Stan Drayton already accepted the mission from Arthur Johnson a year ago.

“Keep the good guys and, in the event you lose a good guy, go get a better guy in the transfer portal.”

Tough job, but that’s why Temple is paying you $2.5 million a year.

One of the major reasons that got Rod Carey fired is that he was hated so much by his players that a great Temple quarterback, Anthony Russo, thought that being a backup at Michigan State was preferable to starting for Carey again. That led to Carey starting a guy from Georgia who had more interceptions than touchdown passes there. When he was injured prior to the Boston College game, Carey was then forced to start a true freshman, Justin Lynch, who clearly wasn’t ready for the speed of being a FBS starter.

That produced a whole three points in a 28-3 loss.

Think that Russo–throwing to Randle Jones and Jadan Blue–would have produced a whole lot more points than Lynch did?

Yeah, I do.

Twenty-nine points is certainly debatable but certainly was doable.

Next man up my ass.

That’s why the “Temple Football Signing Show” on ESPN+ will tell you more about Drayton’s future success at Temple than even the recently completed 3-9 season will.

Varner needs to be replaced, not by a high school guy, but with a P5 guy with a high upside (think Manny Walker from Wake Forest a couple of years ago). Hell, at this point, an established FCS star (not just starter) would be acceptable. UCLA picked up the best college defensive end in Philadelphia and, surprisingly, he never practiced at 10th and Diamond. Temple probably needs to look to FCS to replace Varner. Harvard DE Truman Jones (6-4, 200 pounds) probably tops the list of available FCS players. He was Co-Ivy Defensive Player of the year and probably would be able to handle the rigorous course load as a grad student at Temple. As of Friday morning, he’s currently still in the transfer portal. He has 13.5 career sacks and blocked four punts.

Temple had a putrid running game this season with leading rusher Edward Saydee only getting 629 yards. The Owls need to go out and get one of the current 17 uncommitted 1,000-yard rushers in the portal to either replace him or give him more competition than Darvon Hubbard did. Ball State’s Carson Steele is still available, as is Western Michigan’s Sean Tyler.

This guy may be from Muncie, Indiana but he’s Temple TUFF

So far, all we’ve seen in the RB talk is a guy from FIU who had half the yards of Saydee for a far worse team than Temple. The reason is the flimsiest one yet. The current Temple Chief of Staff, Everett Withers, was the FIU defensive coordinator last year and a current Temple grad assistant was the RB coach at FIU last year.

That’s the lazy man’s way of recruiting.

That’s the way Texas Football Director of Operations Arthur Johnson hired Texas RB coach Stan Drayton to be Temple head coach.

If that trickles down to recruiting, it’s a bad sign.

The industrious way of recruiting is to go out and get on of those 1,000-yard backs who they “don’t know” but will advance the organization more than the comfortable pick.

If you watch next Wednesday’s show, keep that in mind. That will tell more about Drayton’s chances of future success than anything we’ve seen so far.

Monday: Double Digits


Portal players who can help the Owls win now

Sean Tyler would be a nice addition to the Temple backfield

College football a couple of days ago was fun.

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

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

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

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

First things first, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday: Next Man Up?