Sports

Strengthened by newest recruits, football team assembles the puzzle

No one ever told Al Golden recruiting was going to be easy.But Golden must have known this was the case when he came to Temple, where wins are almost as scarce as four-star recruits.Almost. With his second recruiting class officially signing on last Wednesday, Golden has wrapped up what appears to be a strong and… Read more »

No one ever told Al Golden recruiting was going to be easy.But Golden must have known this was the case when he came to Temple, where wins are almost as scarce as four-star recruits.Almost.

With his second recruiting class officially
signing on last Wednesday, Golden has wrapped up what appears to be a strong and vibrant 29-man group.

That group is headlined by Philadelphia’s own Daryl Robinson, a four-star running back/defensive back combination who originally gave his word to West Virginia.

It’s foolish to think that one player could change the tide at Temple, where the Owls have been without a winning season since 21990. That’s because bringing in the pieces of the puzzle is not enough; the puzzle must be assembled in full to really see what you have before you.

“It’s ‘Let’s go.’ I mean, we’ve got our guys now,” Golden said to the media from Edberg-Olson Hall. “…We’re excited. I don’t set [win totals] out there, but we have high expectations of winning the [Mid-American Conference].”

Golden thinks the pieces are in place to build a winner. He just might be right.

Fresh off a 1-11 season in which the Owls started 22 true freshmen, Golden implied that the Owls will only get greener. The second-year coach said he expects all 25 of the true freshmen in this class to start at some point next season, which might not be such a bad thing.

This young team meshed under the direction of its spry, enthusiastic coach. And having the opportunity for this year’s recruiting class – and that of the season prior – to grow together for three seasons will only aid Golden’s efforts.

“We don’t have many Achilles heels right now,” Golden said. “[Other teams] can go after us on our record, but, like I’ve said, I’ve only been here for one year. And we’re just beginning.”

Record is one thing, but production is another.In terms of offensive output last season, the Owls were near the bottom in almost every category in a field of 119 Division I-A teams. Similarly, they were at the bottom of the barrel on defense, too.In recruiting, however, the Owls ranked much higher. Recruiting Web site Rivals.com tapped Golden’s latest signees as the nation’s 90th-best class. SuperPreps.com, another recruiting site, put them 18 spots higher at No. 72, and above all other Mid-American Conference teams.

That doesn’t happen by accident.

Last year Golden needed just two months to assemble the MAC’s top-ranked recruiting class and he likely achieved that same honor this year. So, for the Owls, the future is bright. Along with Robinson, several others figure to be prominent pieces of that future:

There’s Chester Stewart, a strong-armed quarterback from Maryland’s DeMatha
High who Golden said is “clearly different”
than others at his position.And what about Joseph Jones out of Florida? Labeled as “dynamic” by Golden, the 200-pound running back runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.

Then finally, there’s running back Kee-Ayre Griffin, out of New Jersey’s Saint Peter’s Prep. Touted highly as a junior – when he had as many as 30 scholarship offers
– Griffin did not play football as a senior.

(His school had abandoned its football program in preparation for its closing.)

And as he was being abandoned by so many D-I programs, Griffin could have transferred elsewhere. But doing the opposite attracted Golden.

“He didn’t take the easy way out,” Golden said.

In a way, neither has Golden.The young coach’s background is in recruiting, which he did exceptionally well at Boston College and Virginia prior to his arrival here. Recruiting is how he’s built his name in college football. It’s where he bolstered two already-powerful programs.And it’s where he’ll find a way to turn Temple from laughing-stock to bowl-game eligible.

While addressing the media, Golden momentarily thought about the future of Temple football. And he beamed.

“You can’t just have a vision,” he said, “You’ve got to be able to execute, and we’re ready to do that.”

Christopher A. Vito can be reached at christopher.vito@temple.edu.

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