Over the last 15 years, Feb. 1 was always just another day for the football team. National Signing Day would come and go during that decade and a half, and Temple hardly made a noise in the Division I recruiting world.
The Owls have 15 consecutive losing seasons to show for it.
In his first year at the helm, coach Al Golden sees Feb. 1 as a day to stake recruiting claim on the East Coast.
Last week Golden announced the Owls’ 2006 recruiting class during a 30-minute press conference at the team’s practice facility at Edberg-Olson Hall.
Of Golden’s 24 new student-athletes, half of them played their high school ball in New Jersey. All but two of the players were found within Golden’s tight recruiting area, which stretches from Connecticut to Virginia, and as far west as Pittsburgh.
Golden and his eight-man staff landed 13 players on defense and 11 others on offense. Fifteen of the players were captains for their former teams.
“We signed just about a full team on offense and defense,” Golden said. “… I believe Temple University has put a lot of trust in me and my staff. I think I owe it to them to build a house of brick, and not a house of straw.”
Each of the Owls’ two-dozen recruits had committed to Temple early on National Signing Day, unlike previous years when faxes and phone calls solidifying commitment would trickle in throughout the day.
Golden used a couple of different pitches to lure players to commit to Temple. Namely, the coach wanted players to see Main Campus and Philadelphia. He said the amenities of a big city and an urban campus are attractive to many.
Additionally, each of the newest Owls were enticed by the challenge of rebuilding a program in shambles, Golden said.
“That’s a topic kids will like to bring up, but we’re able to corner it and say, ‘Look, that wasn’t our staff that [went 0-11 in 2005],” Golden said.
“… We need to build things up, build some experience. They have the chance to be the foundation of the program that’s going to have the greatest turnaround in college football history.”
A New Jersey native with previous experience at Virginia and Boston College, Golden said he was all over the East coast during recruiting season. Neither he nor any member of his coaching staff has any ties West of Philadelphia, though.
That’s where the Owls struggled in recruiting. They got only two commitments from Pennsylvania products, including only one from Philadelphia, which Golden said he was upset with.
“That was disappointing,” he said. “I will apologize to the Pennsylvania coaches when I see them. … I’ve been to a couple high schools in the state. My coaches [were] still calling every high school, like they had been in the [last two months]. It was just to make sure [the players] knew we were committed to them.”
While Golden said he would like his new recruits to have a chance to play, he added that he expects each of them to be academically eligible. Golden stipulated that he recruited players who were well balanced, on the field and in the classroom.
“It’s safe to say that this is the strongest class academically in a long time here, and we’re real proud of that,” he said.
As expected, two quarterbacks committed to Temple. Vaughn Charlton, an incoming freshman, and Jarrett Dunston, who is already enrolled at Temple, have created a logjam at the signal-caller spot. Charlton and Dunston will compete with three sophomore quarterbacks for the starting job.
By looking at only the positions of Golden’s recruits, there are indications that the 36-year-old coach will employ a double-tight end set on offense. Having acquired two defensive ends, a defensive tackle and five linebackers, Golden might also try a 3-4 defense.
The Owls picked up three players who could help their offensive backfield. Jason Harper, of Hargrave Military Academy (Va.), is the seventh-best running back prospect in Virginia according to Scouts, Inc. Harper, who is from New Jersey, is joined in the backfield by another Garden State native, Kee-Ayre Griffin. Griffin scored 26 touchdowns at the tailback position in his senior year.
Though recruited to play defense, Anthony Ferla had a strong senior year at running back at St. Joseph’s Regional in Montvale, N.J.
Now that Golden has made his first footprints as the Owls’ coach, he said he will be looking to continue moving the team in the right direction.
“I think the biggest thing is that we have just set the standard,” Golden said. “I think that’s one of the big functions of the leader. From this day out, we’ll do with what we have and move forward.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.