First-year Temple football coordinators ready for spring practice

Co-Offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich and defensive coordinator Jeff Knowles talked to The Temple News before spring practice starts on March 12.

Coach Rod Carey (left) speaks at his introductory press conference on Jan. 11 at the Liacouras Center. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University football is 10 days away from its first spring practice and this signal that the 2019 season starts soon.

On Feb. 20, the Owls’ first-year coach Carey finalized Temple’s coaching staff, which includes 18 members from Northern Illinois University.

Co-offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich and defensive coordinator Jeff Knowles followed Rod Carey after he was hired in January. Uremovich and Knowles coached in multiple roles under Carey at Northern Illinois since 2016.

The Temple News sat down with Knowles and Uremovich on Tuesday at Edberg-Olson Hall to talk about transitioning to Temple, potential position battles and what to expect from the team this season.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

How has the transition to Temple been?

Knowles: The transition’s been great because we’ve got a bunch of players that want to get better and want to be coached hard. So that part of it has been great. But the family part of it, that’s been the whirlwind. Because they’re still back there until the end of the school year when the kids come out. But they’re handling it well, and I’m looking forward to seeing them on spring break here.

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jeff Knowles was Northern Illinois’ defensive coordinator for the past two seasons under Rod Carey. | VIA / COLLEGEPRESSBOX.COM

How important is having familiarity with former Northern Illinois coaches?

Uremovich: For the most part we’re just trying to educate the players. Where, when you’ve got a bunch of new coaches from different staffs, you’re spending half of your time trying to get all the coaches on the same page, and then getting the players to come with you. … So, us knowing our systems allows us to teach them better from the beginning.

Co-Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Mike Uremovich was previously the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois under Rod Carey. | VIA / COLLEGEPRESSBOX.COM

How is the dialogue with co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Fran Brown about the defense?

Knowles: Most of our staff is all here from Northern Illinois. So the transition isn’t as much. Mainly, we’re coaching the defense to Fran, and he’s picking it up and he’s excited to be a part of it and we’re fired up to have him because he’s bringing some things to the defense that can make us better.

What is going to be the team’s identity?

Knowles: We talk about, “You’ve got to be that way regardless of circumstance.” So no matter what’s happening, we’ve got to be the same. We’ve got to be “attack in everything we do” And the good thing is, the culture here, these kids are tough, and they want to be coached hard.

Approach to setting the foundation before spring practice?

Uremovich: Our day really consists of three things, in a different order. But every day we’re going to spend some time with our players, we’re going to spend some time as a staff talking offense and defense, and we’re going to spend time recruiting. Now some days that’s 33 percent, 33 percent, 33 percent; some days it’s 60-20-20. But we’ve got to do all three of those things every day.

What should we expect on a day-to-day basis from the new Temple offense and defense?

Uremovich: Offensively, we’re always going to run the football. And then with our RPO game, we’re going to throw the ball, and then our play action throws the ball down the field. … I can’t tell you [personnel] right now because we’ve got to get through spring practice. But I can tell you what we will do, and that’s physical and tough just like we’re trying to be on defense. And we don’t want to beat ourselves.

Knowles: What I talk to the guys about, they’ve got to love to run and they’ve got to love to hit. And that’s what we want to see. Relentless pursuit to the football, guys who play fast and play physical. That’s going to be the things we’re looking to hang our hat on.

Thoughts and impressions on redshirt-junior quarterback Anthony Russo?

Uremovich: I like him, he’s a competitor, he’s a good kid. You can tell he’s got really good leadership qualities. And with that being said, I like all those quarterbacks. For the quarterbacks that we have in that room, the older guys, I’m happy with those guys. And it’s going to be fun to see all of them, especially the three older guys, compete. Because quarterback is no different than running back. We’re going to get the best dude out there.

With Ryquell Armstead graduated, how do you view the running back position leading into spring practice?

Uremovich: The great thing is with spring practice is, and I told the team this, I said, “I don’t really determine who starts.” They all get to pick it. … The film doesn’t lie, so we go out there and we run these five runs with this back, the same five plays with this back, and the same five with this back. And whoever plays better gets to play. Whoever’s most consistent gets to play. And if you’ve got two really good guys and you really can’t decide, play them both.

How will you lean on the four senior linebackers’ — Shaun Bradley, Chapelle Russell, Sam Franklin, Isaiah Graham-Mobley — leadership in your first season?

Knowles: A great team always is led by the players. I’m going to teach them and coach them and get their eyes right, on the right key, and try to make it so they can play as fast as they can. But they’ve got to take ownership and lead, and I think they will. From what I’ve seen so far they are eager to learn and they want to do it. Now, the step they have to take is, “Ok, they’ve done it, they’ve shown it in our room, but now, can they make it spread to [other positions].”

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