The Temple football program is at a crossroads. They are coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons and the first conference championship win in school history. Expectations on North Broad were raised after Phillip Walker and Matt Rhule brought the program to new heights.
Just days later, both Walker and Rhule were out of the picture. Rhule accepted the open position at Baylor - why anyone would want that dumpster fire is beyond me - and Walker's career came to an end.
Now it's up to former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to pick up where Rhule left off. The problem is he has too much on his plate as a first-year coach.
Whenever there is a coaching change, the new staff has a lot to do in too little time. First, Collins had to build a staff after retaining just three coaches from the previous regime. Former Coastal Carolina offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude will run the offense, while Taver Johnson, previously Purdue's defensive backs coach, is the new defensive coordinator. It took Collins a little more than a month to finalize his staff, and then they could begin the recruiting process.
Collins made news when he used a university donor's helicopter for recruiting visits on the first day of the NCAA contact period. It was thought to be a great move to land some of the local prospects and make a scene nationally. It worked as Collins said all six recruits he visited in the chopper committed to Temple.
That was not enough time to bring in a significant class, however. Temple's class finished last in the American Athletic Conference and 118th in the nation, according to 247 Sports. In all, the 2017 class fielded 17 players, with their top addition being quarterback Todd Centeio, who was ranked 899th nationally. No other player was ranked in the top 1,000 recruits.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Collins' top objective of the offseason will be deciding who takes over the reigns now that Walker is gone. It will be a competition between redshirt-junior Frank Nutile, redshirt-sophomore Logan Marchi and redshirt-freshman Anthony Russo. None have received extensive playing time while at Temple, with Nutile and Marchi splitting backup duties last season. New coaching staffs bring different evaluations so it's a wide open race as to who takes the job in Collins' first year.
The new era of Temple football should not face plant to last place in just one season as Rhule departed with a solid foundation in place. Outside the quarterback situation, the offense remains largely intact. Junior running back Ryquell Armstead scored 14 times, splitting carries with Jahad Thomas. Also returning are their top two pass catchers in redshirt-senior Keith Kirkwood and redshirt-junior Ventell Bryant. None of that matters if the quarterback cannot get them the ball.
There is a lot of unknown as the program goes through another coaching change. Temple should remain competitive during the 2017 season, but another 10-win season would be a shock to the Cherry Crusade and the AAC. The years after are more worrisome as the incoming class doesn't look to offer much hope.
Al Golden and Rhule brought the program out of the dark days of being a national laughingstock. Now, it's up to Collins to keep the winning attitude alive at Temple.