A main reason the process for hiring Temple’s new football coach took less than a week is that the search committee was well aware how important it was to have the position filled before the early signing period.
That period goes from Wednesday through Friday and new Temple football coach Manny Diaz, formerly the defensive coordinator at Miami, has contacted every recruit who made a commitment to the Owls, hoping to have as many stay the course as possible.
On Sunday, while Temple (8-4) prepared for its Independence Bowl game against Duke (7-5), a number of players who had made oral commitments attended the practice.
According to a person familiar with Temple’s recruiting, a few players have changed their minds, others are up in the air and still more won’t be able to sign in the early period but could commit during the second signing period, which begins Feb. 6. Some potential recruits on the fence need to improve academically while others simply want more time.
NCAA rules prohibit any coaches from talking about a recruit until they sign a national letter of intent.
One thing is for sure: Temple shouldn’t be judged against last year’s class that committed in the early signing period. A year ago, former coach Geoff Collins had 24 commitments in December, which included two junior college transfers and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who played the previous three seasons at Presbyterian College. Ya-Sin enjoyed an outstanding season at Temple and is considered the Owls' top NFL prospect.
This year, the Owls should have at least a 13 commitments by Wednesday and possibly more.
One of the more highly regarded players in this year’s Temple class, safety MJ Griffin of Saline, Mich., is keeping his commitment. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Griffin said when Collins left for Georgia Tech on Dec. 7 that he admitted to having second thoughts about Temple.
“I was thinking of looking elsewhere,” he said in a phone interview. “I didn’t know who the head coach would be.”
After meeting Diaz, he felt comfortable enough to keep his commitment to Temple.
“I just though it was my best situation,” said Griffin, who listed FIU, Wake Forest, and Michigan State among other schools he was looking into.
Two local players, one from Southeastern Pennsylvania and one from South Jersey, who committed early also will sign with Temple on Wednesday: Penn Charter running back/defensive back Edward Saydee and St. Joseph (Hammonton) defensive lineman Wisdom Quarshie.
Saydee, who says he is being recruited as an athlete, never thought about another school, even after the coaching change.
“I didn’t pick a school because of the coach, I picked it because of the players and the culture,” he said.
Quarshie, who helped lead St. Joseph to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 state title, said meeting with Diaz on Sunday was enough to keep his Temple commitment.
“I heard nothing but great things about Coach Diaz and what he did at Miami,” Quarshie said. “I talked to him Sunday and he really made a good impression.”
It’s possible that Temple could add some names before the end of the early signing period, but because of the coaching change, matching last year’s early total isn’t realistic.
Here is a look at the players expected to sign football letters of intent with Temple on Wednesday. With the hiring of Manny Diaz last week, the Owls are looking to keep as many recruits as possible. This list is fluid.
Player, Height, Weight, Pos., High school
Simon Abedinungu, 6-5, 227, TE-DE, Richard Montgomery (Md.)
Kennique Bonner-Steward, 6-4, 215, QB, William Hough (N.C.)
Kwesi Evans, 6-3, 190, WR, St. Francis Academy (Md.)
Christopher Fowx, 6-6, 300, OT, Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.)
Devon Fox 5-11, 175, WR, Maple Heights (Ohio)
MJ Griffin, 6-2, 190, DB, Saline (Mich.)
Thomas Joe-Kamara, 6-0, 190, S, South Brunswick
Jordan Magee, 6-3, 205, LB, Dover (Del.)
Wisdom Quarshie, 6-3, 305, DL, St. Joseph’s, Hammonton
Yvandy Rigby, 6-2, 217, FS/LB, Milford Academy/Egg Harbor Township
Edward Saydee, 5-11 1/2, 189, ATH, Penn Charter
Jacoby Sharpe, 6-3, 240, DL, Lanier (Ga.)
Victor Stoffel, 6-6, 245, OT, Sweden
Nathaniel Wyatt, 6-1, 180, ATH St. Joseph, Metuchen