At the conclusion of the 2017 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, Geoff Collins said, “The future’s bright at Temple Football.”
After a successful spring season and a headlining summer, this is about to be proven true.
The 2018 Temple Football season is officially underway as the Owls descended on North Broad St. Thursday morning. The team will begin practice Friday.
Coming off successful spring practices, the Owls had a busy summer. Between trips to Japan, multiple watch list honors, and recruiting headlines, the team is ready to begin what hopes to be an impressive season under second-year head coach Collins.
Collins already has a successful season under his belt as well as a Bowl win. Coming from highly-regarded football programs in the ACC and SEC, he had many expectations for the Owls. The team is focusing on what it wants to accomplish with the no-longer-new coaching staff.
“The guys are so much more understanding of the system,” offensive coordinator Dave Pataneude explains. “The second year of any system is the most critical for advancement.”
Pataneude expressed hope that his players would outperform their play from the 2017 season considering that they are more settled in their roles. As the coaching staff enters their second year, players are finding where they belong.
One player that has secured his spot is graduate quarterback Frank Nutile. Last year, after the quarterback position was up for grabs early in the season, Nutile slowly stepped into the starter role and became the unquestioned leader of the team. He completed the season with a 61% completion rate and has been named to multiple quarterback watchlists during the offseason.
This Summer, he and other Owls quarterbacks have been watching film together, studying what needs to change and be improved upon. Nutile understands just how important having a strong support system is. But he is restless for the season to start, nonetheless.
“I just want it to start,” he said about the upcoming season. “The summer felt really long.”
Behind Nutile are strong players on the offensive and defensive side of the field. Ryquell Armstead and Delvon Randall are returning this year with big responsibilities on their shoulders.
Armstead, an oft-injured senior running back, is sure to be a highlight of the offensive power of this Owls team. He is hopeful that his good health continues throughout the season and that he is able to be a leader offensively.
“I’m trying to lead by example,” Armstead said. “Me and the guys are focusing on a positive energy. That’s what helps us win.”
Armstead is another player that has been named to watch lists for the upcoming season. In total, there are six on the 2018 roster that have been named to watch lists. The player who has been named to the most lists is senior safety Delvon Randall.
Randall was a defensive powerhouse in the 2017 season, as he led the defensive backfield as a first-team all-conference selection. He was second on the Owls in tackles with 80 and led the team with 4 interceptions.
Randall isn’t focusing too much on the watch list honors. For him, it’s all about improvement.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on getting better,” Randall explained. “I want to be the best teammate I can be. If, at the end of the season, the award list comes out and I’m on it, great, but right now I’m focused on the season.”
Armstead, Nutile, and Randall all discussed how wearing single-digit numbers have impacted their play. Within the culture of Temple Football, the players who wore numbers one through nine were leaders. Only one player – Rock Ya-Sin – has worn a single-digit before playing a regular season game at Temple.
Ya-Sin, a senior transfer from Presbyterian, is coming from an FCS school where he started 24 games throughout his career and collected 95 tackles as well as 5 interceptions. While most players play for around two-to-three years for that single-digit honor, Ya-Sin earned it when he came in January.
“I’m honored to have been voted by my teammates and coaches,” Ya-Sin explained. “It’s really an honor.”
With the season approaching and 31 new scholarship athletes stepping foot for the first time at 10th and Diamond on Friday, Collins is excited for the new year.
“Leaving the Spring Game at the Temple Sports Complex, I knew we had a really good team,” Collins said. “Spring ball this year and last year was night and day.”
Collins is focusing on getting freshmen and transfers used to the culture of the team, so they can work together on and off the field. The grueling schedule this offseason is something he believes has brought the team closer. He said that veterans took a large step into showing the newcomers what they needed to do.
Excitement for the season is buzzing around the practice complex. The team has said it focuses on one game at a time. So, for now, Villanova is the focus for the season opener on September 1st.
“We have a really great team,” Collins said. “I’m really looking forward to what will happen on the field this year.”
Photo: Jonathan Wilson / Philly.com