Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Practice, we're talkin' practice

The Nate Smith from Wood (left) and the Nate Smith who starts at linebacker.

A great philosopher (OK, it was Allen Iverson), once said: "Practice, we're talkin' practice. Not an actual game, practice."
It was funny and clever and heartfelt and, in many respects, true.
Jamie Gilmore: RB help is on the way.
I've always felt that practice made perfect and it was necessary but, after attending the last 30 or so Cherry and White games, I've come away with the feeling that I've just watched another practice.
Every once in a while, I think I learned something coming out of the Cherry and White game only to find out by the time REAL GAMES, started, it didn't mean a hill of beans.
Take the case of running back Myron Myles. He gained 157 yards and scored three touchdowns and, by the fall, he was gone. A generation earlier, a running back named Ventres Stevenson looked great in a C and W game, not as great against teams in different-colored jerseys.
I left one C and W day thinking Myles would help Temple and subsequent circumstances dictated otherwise. I had the same feeling about Stevenson.
I will be taking copious notes on Saturday, but my grain of salt will be nearby (on my soft pretzel).
In reality, what we learned about the 2012 Owls we will already know by kickoff.
  • Chris Coyer gives Temple a huge upgrade in quarterback over last year's two early starters (Mike Gerardi in the opener against Villanova, the second game at Akron and Chester Stewart after that). Coyer has looked sharper and more confident than ever. There is no truth to the rumor that the Athlon College Football Magazine preview states: "Temple will be strengthened by the graduation of quarterback Chester Stewart." Coyer has two tall and talented wide receivers to throw to in Deon Miller (6-6) and Malcolm Eugene (6-5) and a potentially explosive slot receiver type in Jalen Fitzpatrick, who currently is getting snaps at backup RB. Incoming freshman Khalif Herbin also has a chance to start in the slot.
  • Owls should not lose much at first-team running back as they return their No. 1 all-purpose back, Matty Brown, who replaces the No. 2 all-purpose yards producer, Bernard Pierce. It is not hyperbole to write that Wyatt Benson is a great fullback because he's proven it. Maybe he'll be rewarded with a few carries this year as well.
  • Owls are deep and talented on defense, returning nine guys who have started for them in the last two years. More impressively,  there is a potential upgrade in talent at two positions, where Kevin Kroboth at free safety will be replaced by either Vaughn Carraway (a former five-star WR recruit) or incoming true freshman, Archbishop Wood blue-chipper Nate Smith, a West Virginia decommit. Speaking of Nate Smith, another Nate Smith (Nate D. Smith) provides three-time first-team all-state talent at linebacker to replace Stephen Johnson, a former walk-on  from Methacton.  Johnson and Kroboth were warriors who played with their heads and hearts, but I can see more "talent" plays being made by the two Nate Smiths that will result in a net plus for Chuck Heater's defense. If the Smiths bring the same heads and hearts that Kroboth and Johnson have, Temple will be better off at both positions. My guess is that one of the Nate Smiths will inherit a distinctive nickname to distinguish him from the other Nate Smith. Maybe Superman.
  • The offensive line is looking good as 2009 starter Sean Boyle has taken over at center and 2011 starter Martin Wallace protecting Coyer's blindside at tackle. Head coach Steve Addazio was looking to find three players to separate themselves from a large group of that seems to have happened (see holding the line post below).
Are there areas of concern?
Depth along the offensive line is one and backups at quarterback and running back need to be brought up to BCS speed.
Temple will be royally screwed if it loses its only big-time kicker, Brandon McManus. (Crossing my fingers all last year kept McManus healthy and I plan to do the same this season.)
"He's a dominant player," Addazio said of McManus. "Dominant. Kicker. Punter. [His value] is critical."
Remember, though, Temple has a Big 10 No. 2 quarterback, Kevin Newsome, coming in to back up Coyer so that concern was addressed in February. Newsome was Darryl Clark's sub in the 2009 season at Penn State. If former JUCO All-American QB Juice Granger can wrest the No. 2 spot from Newsome in the fall, that makes Temple an even stronger team.
Also Temple has the No. 7 all-purpose running back recruit in the country, Jamie Gilmore of North Marion (Fla.) coming in by July and a certain No. 34-ranked recruit came in an made a significant impact as a true freshman in 2009.
His name was Bernard Pierce.
Still is.
Pierce never even played in a Cherry and White game before he ripped off 268 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 win at a Navy team which finished 10-2 that year.
So, right now, we're talkin' about practice.
Not a game, practice.
Still, it will be the only Temple football we will see until the last night of August so it should be fun nonetheless.