How does Steve Addazio know that Temple is on its way to becoming a big-time football program?
Well, for one, the Temple head coach is now being recognized in the mall, which he says is surprising for a guy whos overweight, bald and not that good-looking.
One more reason was on full display Wednesday when, in front of a room filled with media, fans and boosters, Addazio excitedly revealed a recruiting class he called the best in Temple history.
The 27-member incoming class, headlined by premier prospects Jamie Gilmore, Nate Smith and Bret Niederreither, was ranked No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference by Rivals.com.
Thats incredible because its only going to grow from here, Addazio said from the Fox-Gittis Room of the Liacouras Center. When we talk to recruits, its unbelievable. All eyes are focused on Temple right now.
For Addazio, the big haul on National Signing Day was another step in the evolution of the program. In an animated press conference that at times almost felt like a motivational pep talk, the high-energy coach said the teams success last season capped by a 37-15 victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl has made Temple a hot destination for even the most elite high school players.
We got so much national attention from that bowl game, Addazio said. When millions of people watch Temple, how do you put a dollar figure on that? The national buzz about this university is incredible right now.
While Addazio admitted its often hard to predict which players will become the head of the class, he has high hopes for Gilmore, a 5-foot-8 all-purpose running back from Florida who is modeled in the mold of Matt Brown, a rising senior and one of the anchors of the 2012 team.
Gilmore is one of two recruits from Florida, where Addazio previously coached. The rest of the class almost entirely hails from the Northeast, and one the biggest prospects Smith hails from right here in Philadelphia.
A 6-foot-1 defensive back out of Archbishop Wood, Smith is considered a BCS-caliber player and, according to Addazio, is a tremendous deal for us. Both he and Niederreither, a 6-foot-3 defensive lineman out of Red Land High, originally committed to West Virginia before changing their mind and signing with Temple.
We are a big-time Division I football program in the Northeast, so were gonna go compete with the big guys, Addazio said. As we grow, well go toe-to-toe with them more.
One of the most exciting incoming players announced Wednesday wasnt a high school player but a transfer former Penn State QB Kevin Newsome. Addazio called the QB, who will have two remaining years of eligibility, a big, strong, fast guy who has great character and someone that fits well into the Temple offense.
But the Owls coach also noted that Chris Coyer, who led Temples end-of-the-year resurgence last season, is the No. 1 quarterback heading into training camp until proven otherwise.
No one should ever be complacent, Addazio said. You get the opportunity to be a starter, you better fight like crazy to keep that position. The more competition you have, the better football team you have. If someones afraid of competition, move on.
While the recruiting class has some big names on it, Addazio also has a lot of faith in those players who may not be ranked as highly. The head coach noted that when he goes out on the recruiting trail, he looks for integrity, toughness and passion, and sometimes things like that can't be measured by a ranking system.
You cant be seduced by talent alone, Addazio said. Give me that kid whos an overachiever, the captain of the team, the guy when you walk into the high school everyone cant stop talking about what kind of person he is.
Temple, after all, has done well with those kind of players in the past. Addazio said that some of the key members of last years bowl-winning squad Stephen Johnson, Tahir Whitehead and Brown, to name a few werent recruited by anyone. Even TU alumnus Jaiquawn Jarrett, whos now on the Eagles, was hardly looked at coming out of high school.
I dont think Rivals has a heart-meter, Addazio said. For some reason, they didnt think Jaiquawn could make it but now hes a starter for the Eagles. Temple gave him his platform and his chance.
Following the press conference, Addazio brushed off rumors that linked him to the open job at Rutgers, saying how well he fits at Temple Im like a round peg in a round hole, he said and that he has a smile on his face when he drives into campus.
He also said those rumors didnt effect the recruiting process or the strides the Temple program continues to make under his guidance.
Adding BCS-level kids is just another layer, Addazio said. Its just gonna keep building and building.
Email Dave Zeitlin at email@example.com.