In his second year at the helm, Doug Pederson guided the Philadelphia Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory. Therefore, what should we expect in year two for the coach of the other birds who play at Lincoln Financial Field?
That would be the Temple Owls and Geoff Collins, of course, who started slow, then finished strong to go 7-6 and win the ever popular Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg.
Now that everyone knows the staff and the man in charge has a better idea of what to expect, he’s confident things will be even better.
“Everybody in the organization understands how we do our process,” explained the 47-year-old Collins, who’d spent the previous six seasons as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State and Florida, before taking the reins from Matt Rhule.
“There’s a high level of trust that’s been built over the last 20 months. The kids know what to expect. They know the playbook. Now they know they can just play and have fun.”
One player, who is now more comfortable with the coaching staff is senior running back Ryquell Armstead. Armstead spent his first two years at Temple under the tutelage of Rhule, who went to Baylor to become their head coach.
“We’re a lot more relaxed and comfortable with the coaches,” conceded Armstead, who slipped from 919 yards rushing in 2016 to 604 last year. “Having two years with the staff is helping us bond.”
“Tempo and practice were completely different. Now we’re doing a lot more reps and we’re more efficient getting plays in,” he added.
However, the main thing is it’s becoming more instinctive for Temple, who open the season on Sept. 1 vs. neighborhood rival Villanova at the Linc.
“I know last year I made a lot of minute mistakes,” admitted versatile junior wide receiver Isaiah Wright, who caught 46 passes for 668 yards and 4 touchdowns and rushed for 188 yards.
“This year it’s going to be easier for me to play more freely. I’m just excited to be out there and not have to think about much because I know my assignments.”
Wright also knows who’ll be getting him the ball this season. Graduate student quarterback Frank Nutile will be the starter, after taking over for a struggling Logan Marchi around mid-season.
While the 6-foot-4 Nutile insists his approach won’t be any different than when he was the backup, the coach is eager to see what the kid from Wayne, NJ can do.
“Frank did a great job leading the teams and the offense,” said Collins of Nutile, who threw for 1600 yards and 12 touchdowns while connecting at a 61.1 percent clip. “He’s unselfish and he makes everybody around him better. That’s the big reason he’s so good.”
Nutile prefers to spread the credit to his offensive line, receivers, and backs but does say there is more of a comfort level in year two.
“Last year was different because we’d never gone through a training camp and weren’t sure how it was going to work,” said Nutile, who’ll have a healthy Ventell Bryant and Brodrick Yancy to go with Wright as his favorite targets.
“This year we’re a lot of more used to it,” he added. “There’s definitely a lot of familiarity on the offensive and defense sides. We’re a lot more comfortable with each other.”
Where that translates in the win column no one’s quite sure. While the Owls have recorded three straight winning seasons and even won the American Athletic Conference title in 2016, no one’s putting them in the same category as Central Florida, who went 12-0 and finished No. 6 in the AP Top 25 rankings.
“I don’t worry about UCF,” countered Armstead. “I worry about us getting better and we’re moving in the right direction.”
“They were a top 6 team. That’s fine. We’ve been ranked since I’ve been here and have gone to three bowl games.”
Still, there’s nothing like having the bar raised heading into a brand new season.
“I think it talks to the power of this conference,” said Collins. “Look at the great teams in this league the last five years and Temple been one of them.”
Will Temple do that again in year two of the Collins era? Who can say for sure?
After all, did anyone honestly expect year two of Doug Pederson’s time with those other birds to turn out the way it did?