Sunday, March 11, 2012

Selection Monday: TU practice begins

Despite what this looks like, Daz is not thinking basketball these days.

While many, including me, fill out their NCAA brackets this selection Sunday, Temple head football coach Steve Addazio is making a list and checking it twice, scratching out some ideas and coming up with other ones.
Spring practice begins on Monday and this is Addazio's most intriguing one because, unlike last year, he's fully aware of all the moving parts he has on the team.
Last year's spring was a "get to know" process while this year's spring is fitting the right round pegs into the round holes and the square ones firmly into the square receptacles.
The results on the field this fall should demonstrate that knowledge for the good of the Owls.
I won the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News "for amusement only" basketball pool last year, but Addazio's pool is more fascinating to me because he's bracketing the best athletes into the best slots to help the Owls win in a BCS conference.
And it's way more important.
This spring's priorities, in order, as I see it:
Two of these OL guys return to open holes for Matty Rock.
REBUILDING THE OFFENSIVE LINE _  Even though Temple returns only two starters (Sean Boyle and  Martin Wallace), this area is not  as  in bad a shape as some opposing fans think. If I read one more time "Temple loses its entire offensive line" I'm going to go crazy. Temple does NOT lose its entire offensive line. Boyle and Wallace, starters throughout last season, are back. An oft-time starting tight end from two years ago, Alex Jackson, returns. Adam Metz, a Big 33 player from two years ago, is ready to make an impact somewhere only the offensive line. Daz is an offensive line guy and Justin Frye proved himself as a top-notch offensive line coach last year. Still, it should be interesting who emerges in a tight fight for a couple of positions there. Whoever emerges as "Temple TUFF" will earn a starting spot. (On a side note, I'd check with Steve Caputo to see if his knee as improved to playing shape. Nobody was more Temple TUFF than that guy and he still has eligibility left.)
The last time Nate Smith was a feature back: 32 TDs, 2,734 yards
(in one senior year of high school )

GETTING A BACKUP FOR MATTY BROWN _ They don't come any tougher and more elusive than Matty "Rock" (ice is already taken) Brown, who had over 1,000 combined rushing and receiving yards and six touchdowns last year in part-time duty. Let's face it, though. He's 5-5 and 150 pounds. I don't like the current alternatives. Daz seems set on giving Kenny Harper a chance but he typically does not make a first defender miss and is, at best, a 2-3 ypc back. He was an out-and-out stud, though, as a safety in high school on the other side of the ball. I see Harper as a future NFL player and Jacquaiwn Jarrett clone on the defensive side of the ball.  Jalen Fitzpatrick, while being elusive, is a small "slot receiver" type. On other hand, Nate Smith (currently a fullback) has the entire package. Speed, size, elusiveness, a nose for the end zone. I hope Daz uses this spring to give him an extended look at tailback. If not, hope someone from the gang of three (Brandon Peoples, Jamie Gilmore or Khalif Herbin) transforms from a high school star to a BCS one when they get here in July. Hope is never a good plan, though.
REPLACING ADRIAN ROBINSON _ Arob was the chief pass-rusher, but the Owls should be in good shape there. Sean Daniels showed Arob-type playmaking ability when forced to play extensively in 2010.  Still, Arob had a motor like nobody's business and installing  that motor in talented bodies like  Daniels' becomes a priority. It would be nice to collapse the pocket with two guys meeting at the quarterback in every third-down passing situation.
Matt Falcone (15) sprung James Nixon with a great block for 6 on this
KO return in the 2009 season. Falcone is rehabbing his knee now.
REMAKING THE SPECIAL TEAMS _ Brandon McManus, in my mind, is the 2012 most valuable player. He's the one player TU cannot afford to lose. Even though he was one of the best punters in the countryin 2011, it makes me nervous every time I see an NFL placekicking leg back in punt formation. The nervousness was unfounded last season but I still hope Daz finds a serviceable backup punter. The special teams has a new coach. I hope he does as well as Zack Smith did.
GETTING JUICE UP TO SPEED _ Now that Mike Gerardi is gone, I'd like to see Clinton "Juice" Granger brought up to speed as Chris Coyer's backup. I'm hoping by the end of the day on April 14, we'll be saying that Juice is significantly better than Gerardi and I thought Gerardi was serviceable. The best thing Kevin Newsome can do when he arrives is to volunteer to help out the team in any way he can and if that means defense, so be it. Nothing will demonstrate to Daz and the staff that Newsome is a team-first, me-second, guy than volunteering to play defense. If Coyer keeps the job, and I suspect he will, Newsome needs to get on the field in some capacity and he was an all-timer on the defensive side of the ball in high school.
Maybe he can take a few reps at QB each practice just in case Coyer goes down but he's too good of an athlete to sit on the sideline wearing a headset and holding a clipboard for the 2012 season.
That'll be determined, though, in July.
There will be enough work to do starting tomorrow.