The Temple News sat down with the football team’s new head coach, Steve Addazio.
This spring, the football team finds itself in a transitional period as it begins practicing with new head coach Steve Addazio and his staff. Addazio was hired last December after Al Golden left the team to become the head coach at Miami.
Addazio was originally the offensive coordinator at Florida. Between then and now, Addazio has had to assemble a new staff, recruit new players and get acquainted with his current players and other aspects of Temple.
The Temple News sat down with Addazio to talk about transitioning to Temple and his early impressions of the team.
The Temple News: After being here a few months, how do you like Temple so far?
Steve Addazio: I like it a lot. I love living here, I love the program, I like the kids, I love the city, and I love everything about it.
TTN: Walk us through the last three months. Is there anything that you expected to be a challenge that wasn’t or something you didn’t see coming or caught you by surprise?
SA: No, I don’t think anything caught me by surprise. I knew coach [Al] Golden did a good job up here, recruited well and organized a solid program. I anticipated that these were kids that knew how to practice and knew how to respond, and that’s what I’m finding. I had a pretty good sense of what was going to be here and knew what our challenges were, and it’s our job to come in and keep the program going to another, and that’s the process we’re doing.
One thing I saw was that we lost some really solid guys on both sides of the ball. We probably got four to five NFL guys that we lost, and that’s hard to replace at any place you’re at, so that’s a challenge. Those were really talented players.
TTN: Were there any adjustments you had to make moving from an South Eastern Conference school like Florida to a Mid-American Conference school?
SA: Yeah, the SEC is unique. That’s the top conferences in the country. I’ve recruited here, this was my recruiting area, so I was always up here recruiting. I know the guys, my buddies come out who are high school coaches, who I’ve known for years, so that’s great to me. So adjustments? No, I’m just trying to be a good judge of where we are relative to the MAC conference. All I can do is watch the tape from a year ago to try and get a sense of that.
I’ve never been in this conference. I know the SEC, and of course mostly I’ve been at a lot of BCS schools, but I’m getting a gear for who exactly will we be playing, so to speak. I like what we have, I just don’t know what’s out there in that conference – that’s probably what I don’t have a great feel for.
TTN: You said in your initial press conference that when you recruited here, you saw Temple as “a diamond in the rough.” When you’re at the pro day and you see Muhammad Wilkerson, a potential first-round pick, do you say, “Wow, it’s almost there”? Do you see the strides they’ve made since you’ve been up here?
SA: Yeah, there’s no doubt. I mean, they’ve had good players come out of here through the years now, that’s not some unique thing that happened here. [There are] some hell of a [lot of] players [who] have come out of this place.
I think there’s great players in the greater Philadelphia area within the five-hour radius. There’s plenty of players out there, and a lot of times you got to develop guys to become great players. Maybe they weren’t that way in high school, and then they grow and develop. They get bigger and stronger, whatever, and that just reinforces that in my mind that there’s plenty of great players in this area.
TTN: After your first few practices, has anyone stood out to you? Is there anything you’ve noticed about the team now that is finally on the field?
SA: I think our backs are good players. I like what the tailbacks are doing. I think our secondary has done a great job in man-to-man coverage – I like the coverage aspect there. I’ve seen some good things up front. [Senior defensive end]Adrian Robinson, a hell of a football player.
I think the offensive line is coming together, and I’m very encouraged by our tight ends. I think they’re hard-working guys that have great ability. I think the quarterbacks have been tremendous with their work ethic. I love the competition between them. There’s spots all over the team where you see some positives.
TTN: In collegiate football, position switches are common. Is there anybody who stuck out to you that makes you think, “I see he might be good as a wideout, but he’s probably better as a corner?”
SA: Well we already [did] one of those, we moved [senior defensive end] Morkeith Brown from tight end to defensive end. I thought that was a great move, and I’m excited about that. There will probably be a few more things to come as we roll through the spring. That’s what spring is all about, getting your eye on people and making decisions.
TTN: What positions are the most competitive right now?
SA: They’re all competitive, honestly. That’s how I feel about it, I wouldn’t name a starter right now.
TTN: Is that why with the quarterbacks, you’ll have to wait until full summer practices are over to name a starter?
SA: I don’t know if I’d answer that yet. I’d like to wait till the end of spring and see where we are at that point. I can’t look out that far and make a decision right now and know that. Maybe, maybe not, you know what I mean? Let’s see where we are at the end of spring ball – I feel that way with most positions. I like guys that compete. If you don’t compete, someone else jumps up ahead of you, and that’s the way it is.
TTN: At one of your earlier press conferences, you talked about airing the ball out a little, which is something Temple hasn’t done in past seasons. How has the offense as a whole adapted to that style?
SA: We chucked it around out there today. We’re going to make the defense defend the whole field, through the run game and the throw game. That’s our goal. We’re not going to just run through the tackles, and we’re not just going to throw short control passes. We’re going to put that ball down the field and make them defend 53 and a third. That’s just the way it is. That’s our mindset. We’re going to stay true to that, remained balanced.
TTN: Is there anybody out there that reminds you of players you would see at Florida high schools?
SA: [Junior running back] Bernard Pierce is as good as any back I saw in the SEC. We’ve got some guys in here. Some talented players. We’ve got big receivers.
We’ve got a bunch of good football players out here. There’s great football players in the northeast now. I came up here and recruited those guys to go down there. It started with [sophomore defensive tackle] Sharif Floyd right down the street. [New England Patriots tight end] Aaron Hernandez from Connecticut, [former Florida safety] Will Hill from New Jersey. I like what we have here.
TTN: The last couple of years, Pierce has been the marquee player in this offense, but one of the knocks on him is that he’s gotten banged up down the stretch. Do you find yourself thinking about making an offense that limits his carries so you can have him later in the season?
SA: I just want a balanced offense. One player doesn’t make your offense. If you have one player that makes your offense and something happens to that player, you’ve got a problem. You’ve got to have the ability to utilize all your tools, and that’s our goal. To make him defend 53 and a third, you’ve got to utilize all your tools. And all your tools are wideouts, running backs, tight ends, everybody. It’s all about being balanced and making them defend the field.
TTN: When coach Golden was here, he instituted the one-day camps and was part of transitioning to the MAC. He really put his stamp on the program. What’s it going to take to put the coach Addazio stamp on this program?
SA: All I care about is that we’re a tough-ass physical team, OK? We want to compete really hard. When you play Temple, and you walk off that field, you know you were in a hard-fought game. That’s most important to me. I want to be Temple tough. That’s what I feel real passionate about. I don’t know all that other jazz. Put a team on the field that’s going to play tough and compete. I want us to be that team. That’s right in front of us.
TTN: You brought in [Pittsburgh Steelers center] Maurkice Pouncey and his brother former Florida guard Mike Pouncey. What did it meant to have to those two guys on campus and show the team the success you’ve had?
SA: I just had those guys around because I’m close to both those guys. I think they’re great role models for young players. The best part of their day was practice. They loved every bit of practice. They competed every practice. They were physically and mentally tough. They came up to see me and some of the other coaches and thanked us. It was really cool for them to come up and thank guys for what they did for them.
TTN: How’s the staff coming together? Were there growing pains where the staff had to mesh together?
SA: You’re hired here to mesh, right? To be aligned. There’s nobody here that wasn’t. They were all aligned. We all have the same mindset, the same goal.
TTN: Was it difficult dividing your time when you first got here between recruiting and putting together your staff?
SA: It wasn’t easy. You’ve got to take your recruiting, you’ve got to hire staff, you have to have a plan, and you’ve got to stick to it. That’s what I did. I wasn’t in a hurry to get my staff here. I took my time and did it right. I’m happy with what we’ve done. I had a good experience at Florida last year when I took over. I had to make some hires and close that recruiting class.
Brian Dzenis and Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.