Temple football players have been reacting to yet another coaching change in a manner-of-fact way: Been there, done that.
While it can be extremely difficult to adjust to a new staff, many of the upperclassmen are playing for their third head coach. And that doesn’t count Manny Diaz, who lasted only 18 days before bolting back to the University of Miami.
Spring football practice has been about adjusting. Sensing the difficult task, new coach Rod Carey has reached out to the players to make it a little easier.
“We tried to keep as much as we can [in the offense] because it is easier for us to learn them, but there has been quite a bit that has changed,” said Carey, who spent the previous six seasons as head coach at Northern Illinois.
Many of the players such as quarterback Anthony Russo were recruited to Temple by Matt Rhule, who left after the 2016 season for Baylor. Geoff Collins coached the team the past two seasons before leaving for the head-coaching job at Georgia Tech.
Diaz was named the coach, started learning the players’ names and left when the head-coaching job opened at his former school, where he had been defensive coordinator.
Nobody has a more difficult job learning a new offense than the quarterback, but Russo, who will be a redshirt junior, said he relishes the challenge.
“It is fun,” Russo said. “People think it is hectic, which it can be at times, but I am just learning more and more and want to be like a sponge.”
Russo said he has enjoyed interacting with the coaches, who have looked for players’ input while installing the offense.
“They ask me about what we did last year and I ask them about stuff they do in our offense and we kind of make things match, and it has been fun so far,” Russo said.
Before Diaz was named head coach and then again before Carey was hired, Temple players basically sent the same message on social media – “no matter who is coach, we will be ready.”
And that it how is has been in learning a new system.
“We have been meeting a lot with coaches, and it is not that hard,” receiver Branden Mack said. “I meet with coaches every day. Also, I can come out and play fast and have no mental errors.”
There is some learning for the coaches, especially ones who weren’t with Carey last year at NIU. One of them is Fran Brown, the co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach. Brown coached four seasons at Temple, spent the last two years as an assistant at Baylor and is now back with the Owls.
Like the players, he downplays the difficulty in learning a new system.
“Defense is defense, and there are going to be 11 guys on the football field, and you are either going to play [zone] or you are going to play man,” he said. “We aren’t going to do different things. Cover two is cover two.”
That said, it isn’t exactly the same.
“There will be different tweaks and a couple of different ways you read it, but, for the most part, it is about technique and discipline,” Brown said.
One change in the defense, according to redshirt freshman Elijah Clark, is that the Owls corners will play more off receivers instead of in press coverage.
“The system has been an easy transition, but the only thing different is we played a lot more on man-press,” said Clark, who figures to be among the candidates in the cornerback derby. “We have switched and play a little bit off, but I feel we have transitioned well.”
When it comes down to it, football players adjust, and that is what the Owls are doing, refusing to complain about the coaching shuffle and just getting down to business with yet another new staff.