Temple Dancing: A Chat With Juan Fernandez

Temple Dancing: A Chat With Juan Fernandez

It's been a long four days. The stretch of time between the selection show and the beginning of the tournament always seems to go way slower than it should. I'm chomping at the bit for 12:30 tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, so is Juan Fernandez. The A-10 MVP and local heartthrob was kind enough to grant us an interview after arriving in Jacksonville yesterday with the rest of the Owls. Q&A below.

Nick: I remember reading last year that you were a bit confused by the seeding process and the selection show, and that [former Temple center and fellow Spanish-speaker] Sergio Olmos was kind of explaining it to you as it was happening. Is this true, or just a story? Likewise, how much different is your second go around compared to your first experience last year?

Juan: That's actually true and I can realize now how different it is compared to last year. Last year, I only knew the team we were playing against and that was it. This year, I know the whole bracket. I know how the teams play. I'm even aware that we probably deserved a higher seed, but in the end it only matters that we are again in the NCAA tournament with a really good chance of winning a couple games.

What did it mean to you to be voted the Most Valuable Player in the Atlantic-10 tournament?

I really enjoyed it, especially because I could share it with my family who were there; but, sometimes when they give a recognition like that it kind of feels that its not fair in a way since this is a team sport. I couldn't have done anything without my teammates so its really a recognition of the team effort.

Has the success of this season surpassed your initial expectations for the year or were you always confident that you could perform at this level?

Actually, I didn't know how everything was going to work out when I first got here. Everyone that knows me tells me now that they didn't expect all this to be happening to me in only my second year. Personally, I just try to go out and play without thinking that I should do this or that, because it is only my second year. It's a good thing that everything is happening so fast if you learn how to handle it and stay focused on keeping your feet on the ground. 

How have you found the adjustment to the American game given the difference in officiating as compared to international play?

The hardest part was to adjust to the rules. The style of basketball is probably faster, but I adjusted fast enough, I think. What took me more time was the 35-second shot clock, since i was used to playing with 24-seconds. Some other rules, like being able to call timeout as a player, don't even exist in South America.

How far do you think this team can go in the tournament and were you at all disappointed by your seeding?

I'm hoping we can go really far. Every game is going to be tough, but if we stay prepared for every challenge, we could make a big run. About the seeding, it really matters more who you play against than what seed you got in my opinion, but, if you ask me, I would say that, yeah, we probably deserved maybe a four seed, at least.

How anxious are you to get on the floor against Cornell, Friday?

I'm really anxious. I can't wait to start the game and see how everything works out. Hopefully we'll be able to get that win and advance to that second round.

Finally, any funny stories from this year you care to share?

[Laughing] I have a bunch of stories but I don't want to kill any of my teammates. And by telling you, I'd definitely have to.

Thanks Juan. Give em' hell.

Assorted Links:

John Gonzalez has a great article in the Inquirer discussing why Temple's outrage over their seeding is largely unjustified. It basically flies in the face of everything I wrote a few days ago. I like it anyway.

The Inqy also has a nice piece on Juan Fernandez success this season. Somebody must be making the media rounds.

One rib still damaged, Carson Wentz probably won’t play Thursday

One rib still damaged, Carson Wentz probably won’t play Thursday

It looks like Carson Wentz’s preseason is over.
 
Because one of his ribs isn’t completely healed Wentz probably won’t play in the Eagles’ preseason finale on Thursday, head coach Doug Pederson said.
 
According to Pederson, a CT scan revealed that Wentz’s 10th rib on his right side is completely healed but the 11th is just at 60 percent.
 
When asked if that means Wentz won’t play, Pederson said, “If he’s 60 percent with that rib, probably not.”
 
The No. 2 overall pick hurt his ribs when he took a shot late in the first preseason game against the Bucs back on Aug. 11. He hasn’t practiced in full since then, but has worked out and went through a lengthy pregame workout on Saturday. Pederson said Wentz is still sore from Saturday’s workout.
 
For now, the plan is to continue to rehab Wentz by giving him more and more over time.
 
“Obviously, where we are this late in the process as far as training camp goes, it definitely hurts from a young quarterback standpoint, his position to fully grasp and understand the offense,” Pederson said. “But again, I just go back to what I see in the classroom, what I see off the field. His work habit here, his work ethic here, and just what he knows and what he understands.”
 
Pederson also said he’s a little less concerned because of where Wentz is on the depth chart. The plan all along was to have Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel ahead of Wentz.
 
Still, Wentz missed a ton of reps. And it’s not really feasible to replace them.
 
“It’s hard in the regular season to replace those types of reps,” Pederson said, “because our focus is with the ones and the starters, getting them ready to go offensively and defensively.”

Player standing outside NovaCare Complex hoping for shot with Eagles

Player standing outside NovaCare Complex hoping for shot with Eagles

Twenty-four-year-old Troy Beckett found a scrap piece of cardboard in his Willingboro, N.J. home, took a marker to it, and headed across the bridge. 

The former Willingboro High School and Bemidji State defensive back arrived to the NovaCare Complex at around 7:30 on Monday morning with a sign that reads: “Not homeless … But starving for that shot!!!” 

Beckett hopes he’ll get the Eagles’ attention and the team will offer to work him out. 

“I’m nothing special,” Beckett said. “I’m not a big story. I’m just trying to make a living playing the game that I love. I’ve been playing it since I was 5 years old.”

In 2009, Beckett graduated from Willingboro High School, where he played wide receiver and defensive back for the Chimeras. He went to little-known Division II Bemidji State in Minnesota to play football, but has been out of school for two years. 

He said he’s worked out for a few arena teams, including the Philadelphia Soul about a year ago. Nothing came from that workout. 

Beckett’s idea to stand outside the NovaCare Complex wasn’t his own. He said Joe Anderson, a wide receiver who stood outside of Houston’s NRG Stadium with a similar sign last year, inspired him. Anderson was actually signed to the Jets’ practice squad six weeks later. 

Beckett said he had a conversation with a friend last week, when the friend asked him why he never got a shot. So Beckett decided to head over the bridge on Monday. 

For now, Beckett has a job loading trucks. 

“I’m just looking for an opportunity to show this organization what I can do,” Beckett said. “I never got the big shot coming out of college, coming out of high school at the big name school or whatever.”

Beckett said it’s been tough to try to keep his dream alive. 

“It really is, man. It really is,” he said. “I’m 24 years old. I’ve been out of school now for about two years. I’m just looking for a fair shot. I’d be OK with myself if they said no. As long as they give me the chance to workout and showcase my talent, I’ll be OK.”

As of around 9:30 a.m. on Monday – two hours in – Beckett said he hadn’t yet talked to anyone from the organization. 

With temperatures expected to peak in the 90s on Monday, just how long does Beckett plan to stand by the NovaCare gate? 

“As long as it takes,” he said. “Until the parking lot is empty.”

And if nothing happens on Monday? 

“I’ll be out here tomorrow,” he answered. “I’ll be out here every day.” 

Dave Zangaro predicts Eagles' 53-man roster 3.0

Dave Zangaro predicts Eagles' 53-man roster 3.0

The Eagles are down to one final preseason game before they’ll have to figure out their final 53-man roster. 

But no need to wait, I have it right here. Or at least what I think it will look like after watching all of OTAs, training camp and the most important preseason games. The team made it a little easier with several key cuts on Sunday (see story)

Let’s jump right in: 

Quarterback (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz 
With apologies to the law firm of McLeod Bethel-Thompson, this was pretty easy. 

Running back (4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
I toyed with the idea of taking Smallwood off the roster. I thought perhaps the team will try to stash him on IR — that quad could always act up again — and instead take Byron Marshall on the 53. But I just couldn’t pull the trigger. For now, the team will have to hope Mathews and Barner can carry the load while Smallwood gets caught up. 

Wide receiver (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner
I’m taking only five because the unit hasn’t been very strong. The team’s decision to cut Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday wasn’t very surprising to me. They were on prove-it deals and had only proven what the Eagles probably feared. Instead, the rookie Turner is on the roster, which is an important message for the team: Effort matters. Still, expect the Eagles to keep a watchful eye on the waiver wire here.  

Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale
Pantale isn’t nearly as good a tight end as the other three, but Doug Pederson seems determined to have him on the roster as a fullback and special teamer. Four tight ends and four running backs is tough to swallow in terms of roster spots available, but I think that’s the way it’s going. Look for Burton to have an increased role in the offense this year too. 

Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Allen Barbre, Stefen Wisniewski, Matt Tobin, Halapoulavaati Vaitai, Josh Andrews
I left Lane Johnson off this list because he’ll probably be suspended by the season opener and won’t count against the 53-man roster. Wisniewski will be the backup at all three interior line positions. After cutting Andrew Gardner on Sunday, the Eagles will keep Tobin and Andrews as reserve linemen. Andrews played guard on Saturday — likely a chance for him to prove he’s not just a center. Keep an eye on tight end-turned-tackle Dillon Gordon too. He has an outside chance to make the roster and a very good shot to stick on the practice squad; very athletic and versatile player. 

Defensive end (6): Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Steven Means, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman
Six defensive ends is a lot, but at this point, Braman isn’t really a defensive end. He’s just a special teams ace. And with the rotation at DE, I think it’s more important to have ends than it is to have extra players in the secondary. If the team is able to trade either Means or Smith, then this number could be down to five. 

Defensive tackle (4): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen, Taylor Hart
During training camp, Jim Schwartz said to not count out Allen and Hart just because they didn’t seem to be scheme fits. Both have proven him right this preseason. Sure, undrafted rookies Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu have looked good, but they won’t be able to contribute as much this season as the veterans. At least one of those rookies should hold down a practice squad spot. Mike Martin was the third defensive tackle for a long time but was released on Sunday, after a few weeks of a knee injury. 

Linebacker (6): Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Stephen Tulloch, Najee Goode, Quintin Gause
Tulloch will be the primary backup at the MIKE, while Goode and Gause, the undrafted rookie from Rutgers, get the nods at the backup outside 'backer positions for now. But expect the Eagles to take a good look at the waiver wire for linebackers. 

Cornerback (5): Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills, Eric Rowe
If the Eagles keep five, I think these will be the five. Rookie C.J. Smith has been impressive but could use a year on the practice squad. I thought Denzel Rice, thanks to his special teams contributions, had an outside shot, but he was cut on Sunday. 

Safety (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Jaylen Watkins
A little light at safety, but Mills or Rowe could probably move back there if needed. Really, Jenkins and McLeod aren’t going to come off the field much as long as they’re healthy; there won’t be a rotation. If five safeties were to make the team, sixth-rounder Blake Countess would be the next one up. I think Ed Reynolds is a longer shot at this point.  

Specialists (3): Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos, Caleb Sturgis
After an impressive training camp, Sturgis takes down Cody Parkey for the kicker job. 

Practice squad: DT Destiney Vaeao, CB C.J. Smith, G Dillon Gordon, WR David Watford, WR Marcus Johnson, G Darrell Greene, LB Myke Tavarres, S Blake Countess, CB Aaron Grymes, RB Byron Marshall