Sunday, May 6, 2012

Five potential position upgrades

Malcolm Eugene is playing like he did in this 2010 highlight reel.

Pick up a college football magazine, ANY college football magazine, and the thing that strikes you other than they come up way too early is the recurring theme throughout.
"They will be hurt by the graduation of _____, at quarterback, ______ at running back and ______ at linebacker.
Almost none of the magazines will mention that a team MIGHT improve at the position where a starter left.

Yet I see that happening at Temple in AT LEAST five positions from the way it was at start of the 2011 season:
Chris Coyer
QUARTERBACK _ Chris Coyer is unbeaten (4-0) as a Temple starter. Given his productivity (three touchdown passes) after he was inserted in the Ohio game, I believe he would have been 5-0 had he played the first two series. Heck, you can make a strong argument that the New Mexico Bowl MVP might have been a difference-maker against Bowling Green, Penn State or Toledo, too. Coyer is a major upgrade from a Chester Stewart/Mike Gerardi hybrid. I've studied game tape of all the returning Big East quarterbacks and Coyer takes a back seat to none of them.
Sean Boyle

CENTER _ John Palumbo, the 2011 starter, was hobbled by injuries throughout his final season. Sean Boyle, a 2009 starter, is back and more healthy than ever. A lot of people around the Edberg-Olson Complex believe Boyle is a better center than Palumbo was and Palumbo was very, very good.
Plus, it's only logical that if Boyle can start over Palumbo in the opening game fo the 2009 season, he's better than Palumbo now, too. Palumbo was here in 2009 as well.
FREE SAFETY _ Kevin Kroboth was a three-year starter and an outstanding player for the Owls, but he was a heady guy who didn't necessarily make "talent" plays like intercept the ball and take it to the house. Incoming freshman Nate Smith is such a player, as is current first-teamer Vaughn Carraway. So is developing redshirt sophomore Brian Burns. Unless something unforseen happens, like Kevin Newsome switching over the defense in August, I see both of those guys being able to make all the cover plays Kroboth was able to make and also be able to pick off a pass or two and go to the house. If I had to predict one "true" freshman starter, it would be Nate Smith. Archbishop Wood is a fine academic school and has prepared Smith for the rigors of Temple.  Wood doesn't produce writers the quality of, say, Archbishop Ryan or Father Judge, but recently has done a much better job of producing BCS football talent than the two mentioned schools.
Nate D. Smith
MIDDLE LINEBACKER _ Nate D. Smith didn't get the nickname "Superman" for nothing. A Temple coach who was around for the Al Golden Era and the beginning of the Steve Addazio Era said the Owls have never had a playmaking linebacker with Nate D. Smith's ability. Stephen Johnson was very good in his final season and got the most out of his talent, but Nate D. Smith was a three-time first-team All-State player in New Jersey and if Nate D. Smith gets the most out of his talent, you've got to believe he'll be a major upgrade over a walk-on from Methacton.
SLOT RECEIVER _ Joey Jones was a dependable slot receiver for the last couple of years, but Jones lost a lot of his explosiveness when he tore his Achilles tendon in his freshman year. Jalen Fitzpatrick has all of Jones' dependability and adds a lot more explosive element. Fitzpatrick is a special talent, who can play all over the field. He'll be a major upgrade over Jones, who I liked very much.
Nate Smith, the free safety
WIDE RECEIVER _ As good as Rod Streater was, and I think he was good enough to be drafted, Malcolm Eugene has shown more in practice than Streats ever did. As we found out with Chester Stewart, practice can be deceiving but the actual game (recruiting) tape on Eugene as a junior college player his a virtual highlight reel and the recruiting tape on Stewart was spotty at best. I think Eugene is going to be enough of an upgrade on Streater for everyone to notice. In fact, I like the different talents this receiving corps brings to the table better. Deon Miller is a nice 6-6 end zone target and Eugene and Fitzpatrick can make explosive plays in the passing game plus Ryan Alderman is a solid and dependable possession receiver. Alex Jackson is a potentially great tight end as well. You need that kind of mix.

This is how good programs become better and it appears Temple's recruiting is so back-loaded (talent level in subsequent years) that in  most cases better players are coming in to replace the ones who leave.
That's consoling to know after losing three players to the NFL draft and eight more to free agent contracts.