Chris Wiesehan starts every offensive line meeting the same way.
“Hold up your jugs,” the Owls’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator said. “Hold up your books.”
Every offensive lineman had both their water jugs and playbooks ready for a meeting at 7:12 a.m. before Temple’s first spring practice for the upcoming season on Tuesday. Coach Geoff Collins and the program offered reporters full access of the day at Edberg-Olson Hall.
The Owls are coming off their first bowl win since 2011 and enter the season looking to make a fourth straight bowl appearance — which would be the first time in school history.
Check out a timeline of the morning’s events leading up to practice, including meetings with Collins, assistant coaches and position groups.
Collins, with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to his left, sat at the head of a long brown table in Room 200 at the football complex.
After everyone was seated, Collins started going through Temple’s practice schedule on a spreadsheet on his grey laptop. He highlighted the pursuit drill, which includes defending the triple-option attack, as one Temple practices every day.
The Owls faced two triple-option offenses last season in Army West Point and Navy last season. This season, they will face Navy in an American Athletic Conference matchup. Temple held Navy to a season-low in rushing yards last season.
“Unstoppable” by rapper YFN Lucci blasted through the speakers prior to the defensive meeting until defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Andrew Thacker brought it to a halt.
“Darkside! Darkside on me!” Thacker shouted at his defense.
“Darkside!” the defense replied.
Thacker said the “Darkside” is the players’ idea of how they brand their defense based on toughness.
Every defensive meeting during spring camp will start with a coach or player talking about their “Thought of the Day,” Thacker said. The discussion could be about anything from football to something in someone’s personal life.
Thacker provided the “Thought of the Day” this time around. He pulled up a picture on the projector, which featured two opposite cartoon characters: “Freddie Soft” and “Timmy TUFF.”
Freddie Soft represented an entitled person who likes to blame other people for his problems. Thacker wants his players to portray the attitude of Timmy TUFF, who positively affects teammates and earns everything.
“That’s the good guy,” Thacker said. “That’s the guy that’s less entitled. That’s the guy that comes to work. The guy that has a ‘coach me, coach’ attitude versus Freddie Soft.”
“So it’s something cheesy, but something our kids identify with,” he added.
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude was addressing the offense in a different room on the second floor. He showed the players last year’s 3,273 passing yards, which rank second in program history and its 5,046 total yards, which rank third.
But he said those numbers were just OK.
“We left a lot of good plays on the field last year, in the passing game and also the running game,” wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said. “And if we did what we did with those numbers, we have should have been at least 1,500 to 2,000 yards more.”
Patenaude used a basketball analogy of scoring in transition to emphasize that he wants to play a fast-paced offense. He enters his second season as offensive coordinator. He told his players they’ll be successful if they “Do what we do better.”
“This time last year, we were trying to figure out what to do,” Patenaude said. “We were trying to figure out, ‘What does this mean? What is this play? What is that formation?’… Now what we have to get to is the why and the how.”
“We have all the people that we need in this room to win this league and then play in a bowl game on New Year’s Day,” Patenaude added.
Thacker began to talk about “changing the math,” which is how a defense can schematically adapt to benefit itself against different offensive formations.
Thacker asked senior safety Delvon Randall how Temple’s defense would “change the math” if former NFL receiver Calvin Johnson and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones lined up against them.
“Double them,” Randall replied.
“If we were ever to give a one on one to Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones, that is poor scheme,” Thacker said. “As a defensive coordinator, we’re putting our kids at a disadvantage. So ways in which you can schematically change that is we can create coverages where it’s two-on-one.
Last season, Temple began to incentivize players who created turnovers. Any player who got an interception or forced a fumble could give the ball to any coach who then had to do 10 push-ups.
Thacker has found a new way to motivate his defense during spring practices. He split the defense into three groups — defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.
Each group will compete to accumulate the most points through turnovers. Forced fumbles are worth five points, fumble recoveries are four points, interceptions are three points, strip attempts are two points and pass break-ups are one point.
Graduate assistant Ronnell Williams asked junior linebacker Shaun Bradley if his group would win the turnover competition.
“You know we will,” Bradley said. “I’m going to get all of the strip attempts.”
Position groups met with their coaches.
Thacker called on redshirt-junior linebacker Chapelle Russell to explain concepts more than the other upperclassmen in the meeting.
Russell isn’t practicing because of a torn ACL he suffered prior to the Owls’ game against Cincinnati on Nov. 10. Collins said he expects Russell to be ready for training camp.
Thacker said he called on Russell to keep him involved despite not being physically on the field.
“We still see ‘Pelle as a leader of a defense even though he’s not out there practicing right now,” Thacker said. “So we try to engage him as much as possible.”
Former Temple quarterback Phillip Walker, who is currently with the Indianapolis Colts, and former cornerback Artrel Foster walked into the pre-practice special teams meeting. They sat in the back and listened as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Ed Foley explained punt coverages to the team.
Collins reiterated the importance of strong special teams play at 7:55 a.m. by highlighting former wideout Keith Kirkwood’s efforts in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 20.
After reviewing the practice schedule, Collins played a video with highlights from last season.
Then Collins called redshirt-senior quarterback Frank Nutile to the front of the room. Foster and Walker, who each wore No. 8 in their senior seasons, presented Nutile with a No. 8 practice jersey.
Nutile will switch from No. 18 to No. 8, a single-digit representing his status as one of Temple’s toughest players. Nutile finished the 2017 season as Temple’s starter and threw for 254 yards in the Gasparilla Bowl in December.
Then Nutile, in his new uniform, took the field for the first time in preparation for a new season.
“Frank plays a lot better in games than he does in practice at times, but the players have a lot of confidence in Frank,” Hixon said. “So we will be OK. We should be a lot better as an offense compared to last year.”
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