Temple Owls

Temple's QB decision takes spotlight as Geoff Collins' 1st camp kicks off

Temple's QB decision takes spotlight as Geoff Collins' 1st camp kicks off

The last time Temple head coach Geoff Collins stepped foot in South Bend, Indiana, he was literally a man on the run about 10 years ago.

“You probably won’t believe this when I tell you,” Collins quipped jovially. “I trained to run a marathon. It was back when the College Football Hall of Fame was still in South Bend. The starting line was at the College Football Hall of Fame and, 26.2 miles later, on the 50-yard line at Notre Dame Stadium was the finish.”

In just over four weeks, Collins will return to Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since.

But when the coin is flipped into the late summer afternoon air right at the very same 50-yard line on Sept. 2, it won’t be the end of anything.

In fact, it will be quite the opposite. Because once that coin is flipped in front of a national audience, the marathon that is Collins’ head coaching career will hit the ground running.

But before Collins, the former University of Florida defensive coordinator who was hired to be the head man at Temple this past December after Matt Rhule took the head gig at Baylor, and his Owls battle the Fighting Irish in the season opener, there is still work to be done as training camp officially kicked off with Monday’s annual media day.

And Collins is doing that work his own unique way to help mold these Owls and the program itself in his vision.

And that includes the ever-present starting quarterback decision that is looming overhead as Temple prepares to replace four-year starter Phillip Walker, an undrafted free agent in camp with the Indianapolis Colts who holds the program records for passing yards (10,668) and passing touchdowns (74).

Redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and true freshman Todd Centeio are all racing during camp to earn the right to fill Walker’s cherry and white cleats.

Those four have combined in their college careers for five completions on 11 attempts, 69 yards and a single touchdown toss.

No pressure, right, guys?

How’s that going to sort out as camp begins? Good question, and Collins, per usual, had his own unique solution.

“One of the questions I preloaded is who is going to take the first snap [at Tuesday’s first camp practice]?” Collins said. “So, tomorrow, there will be four snaps that happen at the same time. At our practices, there are all kinds of drills going on at once.

“When we have the first snap, there will be four drills and the balls will be snapped by four different guys at the same time.”

Needless to say, this is the most pressing question Collins must find an answer for in the coming weeks. After all, it is the most important position on the field.

Russo, the 6-foot-4, Archbishop Wood product who was committed to Rutgers before decomitting and then rebuffing overtures from LSU before signing with the Owls in 2015, has all the physical tools of the prototypical pro-style quarterback and could be the favorite at this moment in time just for that last fact alone.

But the competition is more than wide open and live practice and scrimmage action will be the ultimate litmus tests.

And the name to keep an eye on isn’t that of the more game- and practice-seasoned Nutile or Marchi. Instead, it’s that of the true frosh Centeio.

The Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, native burst onto the scene with an impressive, poised performance during April’s spring game. Your eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to him on the Chodoff Field turf that day with precision passes, heady check-downs and smart, efficient scrambles out of the pocket.

As you may have guessed, the coaching staff saw all of that in Centeio that day, and even more since.

“When you start evaluating quarterbacks and start talking about personalities, you say is he a kid that gets it? Does he have ‘it’? And [Centeio] does,” new Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, nee of Coastal Carolina, said.

“He’s got a little bit of swagger to him. He’s got confidence in his ability. He’s a good athlete. He’s very bright and did very well in the classroom. … But he gives us a dynamic that maybe some of the other guys don’t — when the play breaks down, he can make plays with his feet. He’s a very willing runner.”

Patenaude said his hope is to have a decision on a lead horse down two weeks before the flight to South Bend. In the meantime, he has plenty he wants to see out of all four guys.

“A big piece of it is the stage isn’t going to be too big for them when they go to Notre Dame,” he said. “A big part of it is how they can handle the offense, what their demeanor is, how they can run the offense, get us in and out of checks, be able to handle themselves, not get too caught into the emotion of it.”

The other side of the equation here is made up of the guys who will be catching the passes thrown by whomever gets crowned the starter.

Guys such as Keith Kirkwood, Ventell Bryant and Adonis Jennings had been working with and catching passes thrown by Walker for the better part of two or three years. The chemistry was there in the blink of an eye. The intricacies of how each player works were there in a snap of a finger or, literally, in the flick of a wrist.

Not so much anymore as the wideouts will be tasked with getting on the same page with the new starter. That’s much easier said than done. And that’s why all these upcoming camp reps with all four QBs are so important.

“We have four quarterbacks, each and every one has a unique position and unique talent,” Kirkwood said. “Whoever plays on this field, every single player I feel has something to bring to this team and have a productive year.”

But still, that noise you hear overhead of 10th and Diamond Streets?

It isn’t the SEPTA train rolling by every so often above.

It’s the hands of the quarterback decision clock ticking.

Tick, tock.

Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

usa-shizz-alston-temple.jpg
USA Today Images

Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

BOX SCORE

With five minutes and 22 seconds left in the first half and Temple trailing St. Joe’s, 26-24, De’Vondre Perry took a three-pointer that hit the back iron and missed long.

Out of nowhere, Quinton Rose streaked down the center of the free throw lane, leaped above everyone on the floor, corralled the offensive rebound and completed the two-handed slam to tie the game, prompting an eruption from the Liacouras Center crowd.

“That’s just how [Quinton] plays,” Shizz Alston Jr. said. “When guys start jawing at him he just turns it up a notch. I think some of their players were talking to him and he just got juiced up off of that.”

The play energized the Owls after a slow start, highlighting a 17-3 run to end the half and leading to an 81-78 Temple victory (see observations). Alston Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, including five three-pointers, and Rose added a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double for the squad.

At the start of the game, St. Joe’s came out hot, hitting on three of their first five three-point attempts and jumping out to a 17-8 lead early in the game. After a Fran Dunphy timeout with just less than 13 minutes left in the half, the Owls seemed to tighten up defensively.

“He just told us we had to pick it up,” Rose said. “It’s simple as that.

"I think we had a lack of communication and the biggest thing is we don’t finish our possessions with rebounds. We give up a lot of second-chance points. We just have to straighten that up and I think we’ll be good.”

Obi Enechionyia and Rose came up with big blocks and Temple started forcing turnovers. This helped the offense get going, in particular, Alston, whose 15 first-half points kept Temple in the ball game despite the hot shooting start by St. Joe's.

Perry, a true freshman, provided a spark off the bench for the Owls, contributing nine points in the first half, including two threes and a tough finish at the rim.

“He showed a lot of toughness,” Rose said. “I mean he’s young, but he showed a lot of toughness on the defensive end and rebounding. He made some big shots for us too.”

Perry attributed a lot of the open looks he got to his teammates.

“My teammates opened it up for me,” Perry said. “Either driving or kicking or just doing what they do best by penetrating and giving me the ball.”

Temple’s star big man, Enechionyia, struggled throughout the game, going 1 for 8 from the field and finishing with four points while being limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Center Ernest Aflakpui came up big in his absence, putting up 12 points on 5 for 6 from the field and adding six rebounds.

“If we can count on a dozen points from Ern every game, that would be spectacular,” Dunphy said. “It’s obviously not his forte, but he did a terrific job. I thought he was poised at the rim and didn’t rush himself.”

In the last five minutes, the Hawks rallied from 16 down and cut the lead to four, but five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown sealed Temple’s first Big 5 and Atlantic-10 win of the year.

“I thought Josh Brown saved us at the foul line,” head coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought he played great again. He played great against Wisconsin and played great again. I’m very, very proud of him.”

The Owls, now 6-2 on the season, will host the No. 4-ranked Villanova Wildcats, who could jump to No. 1 in the country after Duke’s loss Saturday, in another Big 5 showdown this Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

“It’s a really big opportunity,” Rose said. “I hope they are No. 1 so we can knock them off.”

Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

uspresswire-temple-fran-dunphy.jpg
USA Today Images

Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

BOX SCORE

Temple on Saturday afternoon nabbed its first win against a Big 5 team and an Atlantic 10 team with an 81-78 victory over St. Joe’s at the Liacouras Center.

With five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown, the Owls held off a late rally by the Hawks. Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls with 20 points and four rebounds, while Quinton Rose added a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards.

Temple moves to 6-2 on the season with the victory.

• St. Joe’s was on fire early on, making three of its first five three-point attempts, en route to a 17-8 lead just over seven minutes into the game.

• After a Fran Dunphy timeout with 12:44 left in the first half, Temple turned up its effort on defense. Big blocks by Rose and Obi Enechionyia allowed Temple to take the lead, 18-17, with 9:30 left in the half. The Owls forced a total of eight turnovers in the first half.

• Alston, Jr. dominated the first half and really kept the Owls in the game during St. Joe’s early run. He went 5 for 8 from the field in the first half, including 4 of 5 from three-point range, for 15 points. The junior guard has developed tremendously since last season, coming into this contest averaging 16.9 points, which is up from 13.9 points per game last year in his sophomore campaign.

• Enechionyia struggled in the first half, going 1 for 6 from the field in 17 minutes of action. He missed multiple fadeaway jumpers on the baseline and didn’t make an impact in the post. He also picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half and had to go to the bench. The senior power forward finished the afternoon with just four points and six rebounds.

• Junior center Ernest Aflakpui filled in tremendously with Enechionyia on the bench. He scored 12 points while shooting 83 percent from the field, added six rebounds and disrupted shots around the rim.

• De’Vondre Perry also played a big role for Temple, putting up nine points, 6.9 points more than his season average, in 21 minutes of action, which is up from his season average of 12.3 minutes per game. The true freshman did it in a variety of ways as well, driving and finishing at the basket, drawing fouls and adding two three-pointers. Perry was the only freshman to play in the game.

• Rose displayed his incredible athleticism with multiple big plays in the first half. The sophomore guard slashed through the lane and made a contested layup to put Temple up 18-17, and then followed a Perry missed three-pointer with a put-back dunk that caused the crowd to erupt. He also missed a few layups during the game, showing he still can refine his touch around the basket, but finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

• The student section was involved throughout the game, bringing out big-head posters during opponents’ free throws, making noise after airballs and erupting after multiple big Rose dunks. In Temple’s second Big 5 game of the year, the Owls fans needed to out-do the St. Joe’s fans who traveled to North Philly, and they certainly did.

• The win marks Temple’s first Big 5 victory of the year, almost two weeks after its 87-83 road loss to La Salle. It was a physical matchup that seemed like it would get chippy. Rose got into a St. Joe’s player’s face after a layup in the first half. Enechionyia was elbowed in the face while going up for a rebound at the end of the first half. Temple was the more physical, scrappy team Saturday, but will need to be better this Wednesday against another Big 5 team, No. 4 Villanova.

The Hawks return to action next Sunday when they host Maine.