Sean Chandler

2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Welcome back, college football

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2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Welcome back, college football

College football is back, which means we get our first look at the 2018 NFL draft class.

I know what you're thinking, "It's way too early to look at draft prospects!" Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, but I respectfully disagree.

Without having a gauge of where the Eagles will pick or what exactly they'll need, let's take a look at some of the bigger games that feature a ton of NFL talent.

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Florida State (8 p.m./ABC)
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, junior (6-1/188)
Most eyes will be on the Alabama defense — more specifically safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison — but Ridley is impressive. His size is just OK but he's lightning quick in and out of his routes, is good after the catch and can take the top off a defense. After a prolific freshman season (89 catches for 1,045 yards), his numbers suffered a little in 2016 with freshman Jalen Hurts at the helm. Hopefully, Hurts will be more consistent in the passing game in Year 2 so we can all get a long look at Ridley.

Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State, junior (6-2/198)
The hope here is that Florida State keeps this one close so we can see McFadden and Ridley go at it on the outside. McFadden is the prototype of what NFL teams are looking for. He's tall with long arms and he's physical. He also has tremendous ball skills, picking off eight passes during a strong sophomore season. Would the Eagles invest in another corner in 2018? Probably not, but if a player like McFadden is on the board, he's certainly worth considering.

No. 17 Florida vs. No. 11 Michigan (3:30 p.m./ABC)
Martez Ivey, OT, Florida, junior (6-5/315)

I'd love to profile game-changing receiver Antonio Callaway here, but he is one of 10(!) players suspended for the Gators' opener against Michigan. Yikes. Ivey spent last season at left guard but will kick back out to left tackle for his junior year. His body type seems better suited for playing tackle but we'll see how he holds up out there protecting redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. I'm not sold on Halapoulivaati Vaitai as a long-term solution at tackle for the Eagles once Jason Peters retires. Tackle is a position of need for the Eagles. It would be good to have a player with Ivey's versatility.

Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan, senior (6-2/282)
Hurst is an undersized defensive tackle that excels at attacking up field as opposed to holding up blockers. The fifth-year senior recorded five sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for a loss last season. With Tim Jernigan set to become a free agent, Hurst could be an intriguing mid-round option in Jim Schwartz's attacking style. 

Temple vs. Notre Dame (3:30 p.m./NBC)
Sean Chandler, S, Temple, senior (6-0/195)

Every year there are prospects you fall in love with. Chandler is one of my guys this season (NOTE: I did not go to Temple, I genuinely like Chandler). He started off as a corner at Temple but made the shift to safety and has excelled. Versatile DBs that can cover like a corner but also play closer to the line of scrimmage against the run are all the rage in the NFL. Chandler's role at Temple is similar to what Malcolm Jenkins does for the Eagles. Speaking of Jenkins, he's not getting younger. Chandler can contribute on special teams and nickel situations while learning from Jenkins on the back end. As the signing of veteran Corey Graham shows, it's important for teams to have three competent safeties. Chandler will certainly be tested today against the Fighting Irish

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame, senior (6-8/315)
The Penn Charter grad might be the best tackle in college football and the first to come off the board next April. He's massive but he's not a stiff. He has the athleticism to keep up with quicker pass rushers and is able to get down the field and block at the second level. He will get beat by the occasional speed rush. He also has a little bit of a nasty streak and looks to finish his blocks.

Temple shaping up for transition year with Geoff Collins at helm

Temple shaping up for transition year with Geoff Collins at helm

A season of change is upon North Broad Street.

The new era of Temple football starts its engines this Saturday as new head coach Geoff Collins and the Owls head to Notre Dame for a nationally televised showdown with the Fighting Irish (3:30 p.m./NBC10).

Before Saturday afternoon’s kick off, CSNPhilly.com reporter Greg Paone breaks down the defending AAC champion Owls from every angle.

Offense
To say the most important position on the field is unsettled would be quite the understatement. Redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and true freshman Todd Centeio are all gunning for the starter’s crown. Yes, you read that correctly. Just hours before the Owls’ season opener, Collins has yet to publicly announce his starting quarterback against Notre Dame (see story).

He said earlier this week he knows who will get the first snap, but won’t say another word about it. Don’t be surprised to see a multi-QB system, at least as things shake out to start the season, as Nutile and Russo bring a pro-style game while Marchi and Centeio are much more mobile and can wreak havoc with their legs. Collins could well choose to use different QBs in different situations on the field. Either way, no matter who has the ball in his hands to fill the cleats of four-year starter and school record-breaker Phillip Walker, the inexperience will be there as the four current Temple QBs have combined for five completions, 69 yards and a touchdown in their collegiate careers.

Things are much more settled at running back, where junior Ryquell Armstead is the clear cowbell back. The 5-foot-11, 205 pounder is a versatile back who can power his way through the line of scrimmage and tackles, but can also slash to make opponents miss and then display breakaway speed that made him a track star at South Jersey’s Millville High School. Armstead racked up 919 yards on the ground last season, including a career-high 210 yards in a win over USF, and led the Owls with 14 rushing TDs last season. Behind him is junior speedster Jager Gardner, who owns the program record for the longest touchdown run with a 94-yard scamper vs. SMU in 2015.  He had just 111 yards and two TDs last season on the ground, but his opportunity to see the field more has arrived now that star Jahad Thomas has graduated.

Temple should have no problems on the outside, where the three-headed monster of seniors Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings and junior Ventell Bryant reigns supreme. The trio last season combined for 2,017 yards on 123 receptions, 12 of which were for touchdowns. Bryant led the way with 54 grabs and 895 yards. They each hauled in four scores apiece. There is talent, skill, speed, athleticism and everything in between when it comes to these three. There’s also no lack of confidence. “I believe, in my eyes, we're the best receiving corps in this country," Kirkwood said recently (see story). Having this experienced group will be an invaluable asset to the Owls’ green QBs as these three wideouts have the ability to correct mistakes when the ball is in the air.

Defense
The steep challenge here for Temple is replacing seven starters, including defensive end Haason Reddick — who was the 13th overall pick in this past April’s NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals — from a unit that ranked third in the nation in total defense (282.5 yards allowed per game), third in passing defense (151.2 yards per game), 11th in scoring defense (18.4 points allowed per game) and 25th in rushing defense (130.7 yards per game) last season.

Let’s start in the defensive backfield, where star senior safety Sean Chandler is now the unquestioned leader of the defense (see story). An uber-talented, versatile safety with the ability to both cover wideouts and patrol the field, Chandler is a four-year starter. Collins has already praised him among the best players he’s ever coached. Chandler has recorded 185 tackles, seven interceptions, three sacks and three forced fumbles in his Temple career. Keep an eye on his safety partner, hard-hitting junior Delvon Randall, whom Chandler has been mentoring. On the outside, redshirt sophomore Artrel Foster and senior transfer Mike Jones are expected to start at corner.

The landscape at linebacker is still fluid as the Owls have to replace all three starters from last year. Collins even admitted earlier this week that his thoughts on who could start at linebacker at Notre Dame could change in the days and hours leading up to kickoff. That said, expect redshirt sophomore Chappelle Russell and sophomore Shaun Bradley, both of whom are incredibly athletic, to see plenty of snaps as they look to cement themselves as the next great Temple linebacker. Here’s a change from last season: not one of the five LBs listed on Temple’s first “Above the Line” chart (Collins’ version of a depth chart) is shorter than 6-foot.

The defensive line features a solid mix of veteran experience and youth. Redshirt senior Sharif Finch and true senior Jacob Martin will lead the way on the outside at defensive end.  On the inside at defensive tackle is where youth will be served, as redshirt juniors Michael Dogbe and Freddie Booth-Lloyd and sophomore Karamo Dioubate will all have their time to shine.

Special teams
There’s an interesting kicking battle going on and, much like the QB situation, there may not be a clear-cut answer for a little while.

Senior Austin Jones is back from a torn ACL suffered while covering a kickoff in the loss at Memphis last October. Jones was kicking well, too, prior to the injury, as he was 10 for 12 on the year before going on the shelf. Collins recently said Temple’s strength coaches and trainers told him Jones’ leg is now even stronger than it was before the injury. But in his career, Jones is only 8 for 13 from the 40 to 49-yard range.

A former walk-on, sophomore Aaron Boumerhi stepped in and was a revelation as freshman last season, going 15 for 17, including 5 for 5 from the 40 to 49-yard range.

Again, much like with the QBs, Collins’ kicker of choice could well come down to the situation on the field.

Coaching
Shortly after the Matt Rhule era reached its apex with last season’s AAC crown and then abruptly ended with his departure for Baylor, the Collins era began. The 46-year-old takes the reigns of the Owls after two seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida and four seasons as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State prior to that. Dubbed the “Minister of Mayhem,” Collins is a defensive guru known for his aggressive schemes and an energetic personality to match. He coached Eagles superstar Fletcher Cox while at MSU. He also coached NFL first-round picks safety Keanu Neal (Atlanta Falcons, 2016), corner Vernon Hargreaves (Tampa Bay Bucs, 2016) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (Detroit Lions, 2017) while with the Gators.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude comes to Temple after five seasons in the same role at FCS Coastal Carolina. In his time with the Chanticleers, Patenaude’s spread offenses were known to kick the tempo up and score in bunches. In five years at Coastal Carolina, Patenaude’s offenses averaged 34.5 points per game. And he likes to establish the run, as his teams averaged 189.7 yards on the ground per game in those five seasons. It will be intriguing all season long to see what he comes up with to utilize the weapons on offense the Owls possess.

Taver Johnson is a first-time defensive coordinator charged with revamping the historically stout Temple defense that lost so much after last season. While this is Johnson’s first coordinator gig, he has plenty of big-time college football experience as he has coached defensive backs at Ohio State, Arkansas and most recently Purdue, where he spent the last three seasons. While at Ohio State, he coached and mentored current Eagles star safety Malcolm Jenkins. Johnson has talent to work with at Temple, but it is youthful talent that still needs some seasoning.

Players to watch
Offense: Sophomore WR Isaiah Wright
Don’t let the wide receiver moniker fool you. Sophomore Isaiah Wright is a true playmaker with the ability to break off huge gains in a variety of ways. As a true freshman last season, he forced his way onto the field as a receiver, running back and punt and kickoff return specialist. But where he did most of his damage was out of the backfield in the wildcat formation, as he rushed 42 times for 232 yards and his first collegiate touchdown. He also snatched eight passes for 81 yards. It doesn’t matter how stacked Temple could be at wideout this season, Wright is too talented to keep off the field. Look for Patenaude and crew to continue to use Wright in a variety of ways.

Defense: Redshirt junior DT Freddie Booth-Lloyd
Even if you don’t know just who exactly Booth-Lloyd is, odds are you’ve seen him before. Booth-Lloyd was the star of this viral video from a few years back that showed him, an incredibly agile man of large size, blowing past track and field competition. Now, the 6-foot-1, 325-pound defensive tackle has the chance to use that incredible athleticism and agility to clog the line of scrimmage and get to the quarterback as he will see plenty of playing time this season. If he can channel all that athleticism, agility and raw power he possesses, he could be a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line.

Game to watch
Sept. 21 at South Florida
The easy, cop-out answer here would be Saturday at Notre Dame. But even with the hype and attention that comes with playing the Fighting Irish, the fact of the matter is it’s still the first game of a new season for a new coaching staff. It’s still a game where the Owls will have to get their footing under them and get a feel for things. But by the time Temple hits South Florida on Sept. 21, it'll have three games — two of which are against very beatable opponents in Villanova and UMass — under its belt to smooth any bumps in the road. And they’ll need to smooth out any bumps to hang with new head coach Charlie Strong’s Bulls, who are ranked No. 19 in the AP Preseason Top 25. They return dynamic QB Quinton Flowers to head a formidable attack. They’re the sexy pick among many to represent the Group of 5 in the New Year’s Six bowls this season. Want to know where this Temple team stands? The measuring stick comes early.

Prediction
There are no doubts that this is a transition year for the Temple program. With the new coaching staff, new quarterback(s) and all the new starters on defense, how could it not be? It’s a tough team to put a finger on the pulse of right now before seeing something out on the field. The QB situation does give significant pause, though. That’s an issue that needs an answer. The prediction here is 7-5 and no three-peat as AAC East champs. The Owls will still go bowling, though.

Amid change, senior safety Sean Chandler remains Temple's constant

Amid change, senior safety Sean Chandler remains Temple's constant

Winds of change have blown across 10th and Diamond Streets over the last several months.

Gone are the head coach and his staff who lead the revitalization of the Temple football program, a four-year starter at quarterback who rewrote numerous chapters of school’s record book and seven starters from one of the nation’s stingiest defenses that paved the way toward the Owls’ first conference title since 1967.

In are Geoff Collins and the assistant coaches of his choosing, four underclassmen quarterbacks of limited experience fighting for the starter’s crown before the nationally televised opener at Notre Dame and a youthful infusion of talent on defense.

But as the winds of change settle and the Owls begin to replenish, one constant remains anchored strongly in the defensive backfield — senior safety and four-year starter Sean Chandler.

And now, as his ultimate season, as an Owl draws near, the man they call “Champ” is ready to take on the leadership role he’s prepared the last three years for.

“I feel like I have to play more of that leader role now,” Chandler, a Camden High product who was voted the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, said. “Other guys have left now. So I have to step up to the plate and get the guys to follow behind me.

“When the new coaching staff comes in, I feel like you have to get the guys to buy in, to buy into the team. Now I’m the guy who feels like I have to make that connection from the coaches to the players and bring it all together.”

During his time at Temple, Chandler has been groomed for this type of role under tutelage of program greats such as Tyler Matakevich (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers), Tavon Young (now with the Baltimore Ravens), Haason Reddick (the Arizona Cardinals’ first-round pick this past year) and Avery Williams (in camp with the Houston Texans).

All of those guys always had their fingers on the pulse of the team and knew which buttons to push and when to push them, even during the trying times. They knew when to bump the coaches aside and take matters into their own hands when it came to getting a message across, all while navigating the program’s rise in prominence.

Chandler heard those messages loud and clear.

“I’m willing to fill in any role in any way possible to help this team and help my team win,” Chandler said.

“He has some charisma to him when he speaks up and lets everyone know what he’s thinking,” said Taver Johnson, who is Temple’s new defensive coordinator after spending the last three seasons at Purdue as defensive backs coach. Johnson also spent 2007-2010 as defensive backs coach at Ohio State, where he coached Eagles star safety Malcolm Jenkins.

“He’s got a good personality and, on top of that, he’s a worker. He does a really good job of getting out there and doing a lot of behind-the-scenes things. When the place is shut down, he’s usually here. Even on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, day or night.”

It’s not like “Champ” was just handed this role because he has the years he does under his belt. Sure, that plays a part. But his actions on the field make him stand out and they do a lot of his speaking for him.

In his three years in cherry and white, Chandler has amassed 185 tackles, 26 pass deflections, seven interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns), three sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 32 career games.

The talent and skill and respect have been there from the very beginning. Temple has a tradition of awarding single-digit jersey numbers to players voted the toughest by teammates and the coaching staff. Prior to his first collegiate game in 2014, Chandler was awarded his now customary No. 3 by his teammates. Former head coach Matt Rhule has said he wouldn’t give a single digit to a freshman, but trusted his players and let them overrule him for “Champ.”

A corner by trade at first, Chandler played his first two seasons at Temple on the outside. As Rhule and his staff watched Chandler mature on the field, they decided it would be best for the athletic, versatile 6-foot, 195-pounder’s professional future if they moved him inside to safety. Chandler’s first season on the inside was last year and he excelled with 51 tackles and two picks, all while missing four games with a leg injury.

Others outside of Philadelphia have now taken notice as Chandler is on four preseason award watch lists – the Jim Thorpe Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Bronco Nagurski Award and the Lott IMPACT Award.

The Thorpe Award is for the best defensive back in the country. The three other awards are various defensive player of the year awards.

“It just lets me know people are watching with a close eye now,” Chandler said of having his name on the watch lists.

“But they’re only watch lists. Gotta go win ‘em now.”

Collins has spent the last several seasons as a defensive coordinator with both Mississippi State and Florida in the college football pressure cooker that is the SEC, where defensive dominance reigns supreme among the conference’s and nation’s big boys.

And Collins knows his way around some elite defensive backs.

While at MSU, he coached Detroit Lions corner Darius Slay, who was a second-round pick in 2013.

At Florida, he coached corner Vernon Hargreaves, a three-time All-American, three-time all-SEC selection and the Tampa Bay Bucs’ first-round pick (11th overall) in 2016. Hargreaves made the NFL All-Rookie team last season.

Also while with the Gators, Collins coached safety Keanu Neal, the Atlanta Falcons’ first-round pick (17th overall) in 2016. Neal was also voted to the NFL All-Rookie team last season.

“I’m excited about [Chandler] and he epitomizes ‘Temple Tuff’ and single-digit tough,” Collins said of his senior safety. “He’s back and he’s better than ever. You just see him every day with a look in his eye and a desire to be great. I just think he epitomizes what this program is all about.

“Over the last seven years, I’ve coached some really good defensive backs. Sean Chandler is in that conversation with any of those kids.”

High praise.

But people inside and outside 10th and Diamond certainly are having conversations about the man they call "Champ."