Though he has been on the job for less than a week, Temple football coach Manny Diaz was able to have many of the program’s recruits keep their original commitments in a class marked by versatility, length, and speed.
Diaz, the defensive coordinator the past three seasons at Miami, was introduced as Geoff Collins' successor last Thursday. This past week has been frantic.
A total of 17 players signed letters of intent on Wednesday’s first day of the early signing period, which ends Friday.
Diaz thanked the administration and the assistant coaches for keeping things together during a difficult period. He also said the current Temple players proved to be the best recruiters.
He told the recruits he knew why he wanted to come to Temple and wanted to know what their reasons were. It inevitably came back to the players.
“They [the recruits] all had very similar responses -- certainly everybody talked about the great university, the great academics that Temple University has come to be known by -- but every young man talked about the locker room, about our players,” Diaz said during a press conference. “They said, ‘Coach, I went to so many different schools and it never felt like it did at Temple.’”
Diaz said the recruits talked about how the players bonded and hung out together, and the energy and enthusiasm with the way they practiced.
“So I really have to express my since gratitude to the guys in our locker room because you can’t fake that,” Diaz said.
While the positions can switch in the future, Temple signed three each among offensive linemen, defensive backs, defensive linemen and linebackers, two receivers and one quarterback, one “athlete” and one running back.
In addition to players who had previously made an oral commitment, Temple also landed Mohamad Kamara, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker from Newark (N.J.) Central.
Kamara is familiar with the Temple program since his brother Amara played linebacker for the Owls from 2007-10 and was a captain his senior year.
Always of intrigue is the quarterback position, and Temple was able to land dual-threat Kennique Bonner-Steward, a 6-3, 215-pound standout from North Carolina’s William A Hough High.
Both Diaz and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude flew to North Carolina on Saturday to see Bonner-Steward after he appeared in an all-star game. Bonner-Steward had originally committed on July 4, but with the coaching change, other schools began inquiring.
“He has really refined his game as a pocket passer,” Patenaude said. “He can play in the pocket and also extend plays with his legs.”
Diaz says it is vitally important to recruit a quality quarterback, which he thinks he has in Bonner-Steward
"His inclusion in our class and his ability to stay firm [to his commitment] with a massive effort from the previous staff here, is really vital to our success in the future,” Diaz said.
While only one running back was bought in, that is a position played by Penn Charter’s Edward Saydee, who was recruited as an athlete. It’s possible that Saydee will play safety, but running back isn’t out of the question.
Regardless of where Saydee winds up, running back will be a priority in the next signing period on Feb. 6.
“We will probably continue to address the running back position,” said Reggie Garrett, Temple’s director of player personnel.
Tight end is a position that also wasn’t recruited, so that is another spot the Owls will likely look for.
Diaz pointed out that any scholarship offered to a player before his arrival was still honored.
Now the Owls will look to round out their roster with depth during the second signing period in February. Helping that effort is the addition of Fran Brown, who was officially announced Wednesday as Temple’s assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator. His return to Temple had been known since last week.
Brown, a former star at Camden, was an assistant for four seasons at Temple, went to Baylor for the past two years and is now back. He is considered vital to the recruiting effort.
“I am so excited to be home, especially with all the guys back next year, the juniors and seniors -- I recruited a lot of these guys,” Brown said.
Diaz will coach Miami in the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin, his final duty with the Hurricanes. He then will complete picking his staff and get on to the next recruiting period.
For now he is satisfied on his first signing day as a head coach.
“I feel it is a very strong class,” Diaz said. “I feel there are guys on both sides of the ball who have a chance to improve us, not just in terms of down the road but for next season when we feel we have a chance to be competitive for important things.”
Each player is listed with his height, weight, position and high school.
Simon Abedimungu 6-5, 221 DL Richard Montgomery High, Md.
Kennique Bonner-Steward 6-3, 215 QB William A. Hough, N.C.
Re’Mahn Davis 5-9, 222 RB Blair Academy N.J.
Jermaine Donaldson 6-4, 300 OL Eastern, N.J.
Kwesi Evans, 6-3, 198 WR St. Francis Academy, Md.
Chris Fowx 6-6 300 OL Archbishop Stepinac N.Y.
De’Von Fox 5-10, 173 WR Maple Heights, Ohio
M.J. Griffin 6-1, 189 DB Saline, Mich.
Mohamad Kamara 6-2, 210 LB Newark Central, N.J.
Thomas Joe-Kamara 6-0, 191, DB South Brunswick, N.J.
Jordan Magee 6-3, 208 LB Dover, Del.
Wisdom Quarshie, 6-3, 310 DL St. Joe Hammonton, N.J.
Yvandy Rigby, 6-2, 205, LB, Milford Academy/Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Edward Saydee 5-11, 189 ATH Penn Charter, Pa.
Jacoby Sharpe 6-3, 240 DL Lanier, Ga.
Victor Stoffel, 6-8, 282 OL Stockholm International, Sweden