Coach Bobby Wallace wasn’t over-the-top in his assessment of the football team’s new recruiting class Wednesday. Twenty-nine student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent with the Owls, and Wallace said he was pleased because, admittedly, the day could have been a lot worse.
“I’ll be honest. About a month to six weeks ago, I was a little nervous that we might be talking about just 10 kids [signing],” Wallace said, “and that didn’t happen. I give my coaches a lot of credit for hard work, staying on the road, staying positive, and believing good things were going to happen. They did a good job of that and I think it resulted in a good group of guys.”
The Owls’ additions on National Letter of Intent Day included a former Virginia Tech recruit, the son of an ex-NFL player, and two much-needed quarterbacks to back up senior Mike McGann.
The class consisted of seven junior college transfers, significantly fewer than in recent years. Wallace said the Owls could afford to pursue less-refined high school athletes with greater upsides because the team did not have many glaring holes that needed to be immediately filled.
“We like these kids, and we see some tremendous potential, but that’s what it is,” he said. “It’s potential, and we’ll see how they come in and play.”
At the end of last season, Wallace conceded that the program’s uncertain future might make recruiting problematic. But Wednesday he said the pluses and minuses of not having a conference probably evened out.
“We never had the things to gear up to the Big East,” he said. “So we might have gotten in with a kid against Rutgers, but we didn’t win many battles with Syracuse, Boston College and people like that. So I’d say this recruiting class is not a whole lot different.”
Now, the Owls have their own privately-funded practice facility and play their home games at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. There are over 8,000 students living on campus, a staggering increase from the start of Wallace’s tenure.
The most notable recruits included wide receiver Fred Lee, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound wide receiver from Harrisburg. Lee originally signed with the Hokies out of high school before transferring to Pasadena City College in California.
The Owls also signed defensive back Evan Cooper, Jr., son of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Evan Cooper, Sr. They added two quarterbacks from the area, Joe DeSanzo of Ellwood City, Pa., and Shane Kelly from Basking Ridge, N.J.
Defensive end Kevin Armstrong was a late signing out of Baltimore Polytechnic High School.
Defensive lineman Doug Morris accompanies brother Billy Ray, from Dixie State College in Utah.
The football program still does not officially have a conference affiliation for 2006. A university task force announced last week that the Owls would remain in Division I-A, but more specific decisions have yet to be made.
Still, Wallace said the simple fact of Temple being a I-A program eased the recruiting process.
“The [recruits] I talked to in December I told straight-out, they needed to wait until January when I knew more, but to keep us in mind,” Wallace said.
“We got [the announcement] kind of late in the game,” he added, “but I think it happened in time for us to pull through a decent recruiting year and maybe a great year. For us, it might be outstanding.”
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.