By: Marc Narducci
PHILADELPHIA – When Temple opens its football season Saturday at Rutgers, it not only gives the Owls a chance to put last year’s 1-6 COVID-marred season into the rear-view mirror, but also allows the football program to look ahead.
This is more than just a basic opening non-league game against a Power 5 school. That’s because Temple and Rutgers often recruit the same players.
Rutgers, as a member of the Big 10, would insist that its’ program is at a much higher level, but until the Scarlet Knights show they can be competitive in college football’s second best conference, the Temple faithful will continue to compare their programs.
In the seven years Rutgers has been a Big 10 member, the Scarlet Knights are 24-58, with six straight losing seasons. So the Scarlet Knights have been a struggling program in a great conference.
Plus there is no doubt both schools recruit some of the same players.
Just this offseason, three Temple players – defensive linemen Ifeanyi Maijeh, offensive lineman David Nwaogwugwu and cornerback Christian Braswell, were recruited out of the transfer portal by Rutgers.
While there is a lot of optimism in the second year of the second stint of Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, the fact remains, that Rutgers isn’t considered head and shoulders over Temple, even if Las Vegas kind of eels that way.
According to Draftkings.com, Rutgers began the week as a 14-point favorite over the Owls.
The Scarlet Knights, feel that they have bigger opponents in the recruiting game than Temple, and that very well is true in many instances.
Yet locally, Temple doesn’t have a bigger opponent.
Both schools recruit heavily in Philadelphia, the suburbs, and the entire state of New Jersey. It’s a common theory that for Rutgers to rise in the Big 10, it has to win the major recruiting battles in the Garden State.
A lot of times those battles aren’t with Temple, but other Power 5 schools.
Temple meanwhile, would like to own Philadelphia in recruiting.
Before last season, Temple could offer recruits the chance to compete for a league championship in the American Athletic Conference, the best non-Power 5 conference in America. The Owls had gone to five straight bowls, appeared in two league championship games and won an American Athletic Conference title in 2016.
Now, that may not be such a selling point after last season, but Temple can tell recruits they can be part of the class that helped the program make a major rebound.
Temple R-Fr. running back, Edward Saydee was a top local recruit out of William Penn Charter - Photo by Zamani Feelings
Another selling point is the Owls produce NFL players. At the beginning of the week, 27 Temple players were on NFL rosters. Don’t think recruits aren’t reminded of that.
We get the fact that all games are important to win, but a good showing by Temple could reap benefits on the recruiting trail as well.
“I certainly think that is part of the recruiting process in this area, South Jersey, North Jersey, Philly, even down into Maryland, you run into Rutgers and then Maryland (while recruiting),” Temple coach Rod Carey said in his Monday press conference. “Those schools that are real close, any time you play those schools it does give a little juice in recruiting, certainly not the only thing in recruiting, but it certainly has a part of the conversation in recruiting.”
There is another Temple-Rutgers angle in this. Rutgers assistant coach Fran Brown spent two stints as a Temple assistant coach. He made it well known he was interested in the head coaching job that eventually went to Carey. Brown stayed one more season at Temple before departing after the 2019 season for Rutgers. He is considered among the best recruiters in the country.
So a big Rutgers win would give him added ammo to talk to recruits, while if Temple comes close in Saturday’s game, or pulls the upset, one can bet that the Owls’ assistant coaches will be on the phone with potential recruits as early as Sunday morning.
Penn Charter alum Edward Saydee (#6), who was a standout in football and track, is listed as the first-team running back for the Owls - Photo by Zamani Feelings
It’s also important that players recruited locally do well and for Temple, the first released depth chart showed that Edward Saydee, a graduate of Penn Charter, was listed as first-team running back.
Now things can change between now and Thursday, but Saydee has vaulted his way to the top of the depth chart, even though there were others who might have garnered more headlines out of high school.
“He’s just gone to work, really since last January and is probably one of the hardest workers on the team and the gains he has made in the weight room, and on the field just are starting to show,” Carey said of Saydee.
On its depth chart Temple has 10 new projected starters who began their college career at another school. It’s important to do well recruiting transfers, especially since the NCAA no longer makes them sit a year the first time they leave a school.
Yet the lifeblood of recruiting remains bringing in high school talent - being able to puff your chest in your own backyard while recruiting remains extremely important.
Both Temple and Rutgers will fight tooth and nail to win Saturday’s game, but there is much more at stake as both schools look to catch the eye of the best high school players this area has to offer.