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

Military: All Hands on Deck Bowl

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It’s almost fitting that Temple’s football team is playing next at Navy because, for them at least, the Navy term “all hands on deck” certainly comes to mind in this matchup against North Carolina.

In the Navy, all hands on deck usually is a call for ship hands to come to the deck in times of crisis.

For Temple, this is one of those times.

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Last year left a bad taste in the mouths of just about every Temple football fan for a few reasons. One, it was the second time the Owls came in as a favorite over an ACC team and came away with a loss in the bowl game. Two, their best players–Ryquell Armstead on offense and Rock Ya-Sin on defense–decided to sit out the game with an eye on their futures. Three, in both instances their head coaches also decided to sit out the game for basically the same reason.

Nothing was a worse taste than being spanked, 56-27, and the Owls had to live with that taste in their mouths for nine months. They were up, 27-14, at halftime, and a steady diet of Armstead runs in the second half might not have secured the win but certainly would have avoided an embarrassing loss.

Now, all hands are on deck and the fans should be part of that equation, too, since the Owls have always drawn well in bowl games in the DMV area. Ten thousand Temple fans are not out of the question since the Owls drew a little over half of the 26,000 fans to the Wake Forest game in 2016.

The head coach, Rod Carey, isn’t going anywhere due mostly to a wisely negotiated $10 million buyout. One of the first promises Carey secured from senior leader Shaun Bradley was that no seniors would miss the bowl game this season.

That kind of commitment is vital to beating a good team like North Carolina. We’ll get into how good further in Friday’s post but, for now, suffice it to say that this is a much-better 6-6 ACC team than the last two 6-6 ACC teams Temple faced in losses.

The two times Temple was forced to play a bowl with half a hand it lost both games. The last two times Temple played with a full deck it won both.

Beating FIU and Wyoming did little to advance the Temple brand but beating North Carolina will advance the brand nationally so it’s a good sign that everyone in Philadelphia is committed to winning this time.

Friday: A First Look at North Carolina

More Cons Than Pros in Flexibility

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Eighteen nights until game day and the Temple Owls are testing one of the tenants of the Geoff Collins’ football philosophy:

Position flexibility.

I’m all for it if the guy doing the flexing actually plays some downs at his other position during the season.

If not, it’s a waste of time.

That’s kind of where I was leaning when I heard that Shaun Bradley, arguably the Owls’ best linebacker, was getting some time on the other side of the ball as a running back. That’s a real head-scratcher because the Owls are deep and talented on the other side of the ball with Ryquell Armstead, Jager Gardner and Tyliek Raynor leading the way.

I’d just as well keep Bradley as a linebacker, thank you, and spend these 15 practices between now and Villanova mastering the art of disrupting those pesky crossing patterns over the middle.

That’s one side of the “position flexibility” argument. The other side, of course, is that all of the offensive linemen should be able to play any position—with the exception of tight end—along the line and the defensive ends should be able to play tackle and vice versa.

Now that would be valuable practice time well-spent.

When it comes to defensive players on the offensive side of the ball, the term “diminishing returns” comes to mind. Same way for offensive players on the other side. Matt Rhule believed in a limited amount of flexibility, playing Nick Sharga at both fullback and linebacker in 2015 and 2016. In the 2015 win (34-12) over Memphis, Sharga was easily the best defensive player that day on a field that included the national defensive player of the year (Tyler Matakevich). Sharga not getting extended looks at linebacker last year was a waste of talent, especially considering OC Dave Patenaude’s aversion to using a fullback.

This year, though, the roster does not need flexibility, at least not the cross-side-of-the-ball flexibility Collins advocates.

The Owls also appear set at wide receiver with the injured Broderick Yancy returning to practice later this week to join a talented and experienced group that includes Isaiah Wright and Ventell Byrant. That mollifies the loss of wide receiver Marshall Ellick, who transferred to Stony Brook.

Bradley isn’t the only defensive guy being used on offense but it doesn’t appear to make sense when he’s missing valuable reps on defense doing something he is unlikely to do during the regular season.

Hopefully, Collins knows what he’s doing but, last year, Keith Kirkwood was talked about as a defensive end and Nick Sharga as a linebacker and neither played much at their secondary positions.

Position flexibility might be a tenant of Collins’ philosophy but winning football games should be the landlord.

Friday: Thoughts From Season Ticket Night

Monday: Dodging Bullets

Wednesday: Taking Shots