Tunnel Vision

It has been 252 days since Steve Addazio took over as the new head coach of the Temple football program. Tonight, all the preparation leads to Addazio running out of the tunnel for the first time as head coach as Temple takes on Villanova in the 3rd Annual Mayor's Cup.

It has been 252 days since Steve Addazio took over as the new head coach of the Temple football program.

He hired a staff, finished off one recruiting class and compiled most of another. He ran a spring practice and a full training camp and dealt with some sensitive situations like Matt Brown's suspension and James Nixon's departure.

Tonight, all the preparation leads to Addazio running out of the tunnel for the first time as head coach as Temple takes on Villanova in the 3rd Annual Mayor's Cup. The former Florida offensive coordinator isn't putting any emphasis on the moment.

"I am as excited as I was for my first game as a high school coach in 1989," said Addazio. "I feel the same way all the time getting ready for the season,. The same competitive juices starting to flow, same anxiety edge, that's the way it is.

"As a head coach, I have the same feelings, just on a larger level. It's not more feelings, just more management. I'm pretty comfortable with it and pretty fired up about it."

Senior defensive end Morkeith Brown said the change from Al Golden, who led the Owls to 17 wins over the last two years, to Addazio has reaped benefits.

"It's been a very smooth transition, he brought in what we needed to work on and got better," said Brown. "Our strength program changed, and what we were good at he didn't change. I feel a lot better, smoother, faster. There's been a lot of things for the better, no negative, all positives. We look very, very good, up-tempo beat, everybody's ready to play."

The game will be the third installment of the Mayor's Cup – a four-year series between Temple and Villanova. The first two have come down to kicks in the final seconds with the Wildcats' Nick Yako putting through the game-winner in 2009 and the Owls' Brandon McManus returning the favor in 2010.

"Some places are opening up with teams they feel they are going to run through," said Addazio. " I've been there, I know what that's like. Our guys' mindset is we're going to be in a complete street fight. You don't have to play mind games to get ready to play this game.

"We want to keep playing the game, we wish we could keep playing it year in and year out. For both teams, the object is to win. They have a great program, great team and great coach and staff. The games have clearly come down to wire. It's great for Philadelphia, great for college football, let's keep it going."

Villanova won the Football Championship Subdivision national title two years ago and reached the Final Four last year. But the Wildcats could be starting as many as six true freshmen, according to coach Andy Talley, and quarterback Dustin Thomas is a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a college snap.

Talley admitted to having serious concerns about an offensive line which will be dealing with defensive end Adrian Robinson and the Owls' new attacking style. The Wildcats' biggest offensive weapon, receiver Norman White, is questionable.

"We're in a complete rebuilding phase because of so many outstanding players graduating," said Talley. "I see a lot of familiar faces, but it's when I'm watching preseason NFL games, so it's very disconcerting. You don't know what you're going to get. Playing against a I-A team, most of your flaws are brought to light quickly."

In addition to Addazio's debut and the look of his spread offense, the intrigue will surround the quarterback position. Addazio did not name a starter for the game, though it is expected to be redshirt junior Mike Gerardi.

Will redshirt sophomore Chris Coyer see time, and how much will Clinton Granger play in a wildcat role? Redshirt senior Chester Stewart is suspended for the game.

"(The quarterbacks) have had a great camp, all the players have strengths and things they need to work on," said Addazio. "But they're starting to develop their command. (Gerardi and Coyer) are both talented, gifted guys in their ability to throw and run. It's the ability to accelerate that I'm still looking for. I'm still watching that development.

"Competition brings out the best in everybody and I see that in a positive light. If a guy's not getting a job done, give another guy a chance to get the job done. (The quarterback competition) is a byproduct of having a new staff coming into a situation where three different guys played, but right now I see it as a positive. If things go well, you will too."

There will be questions on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett were selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, while defensive tackle Eli Joseph, linebacker Peanut Joseph, cornerback Marquise Liverpool and linebacker Amara Kamara also found their way into NFL camps. Senior cornerback Kee-ayre Griffin is suspended for this game, so there will be a large turnover from the defense that ended last season.

New defensive coordinator Chuck Heater is expected to be more aggressive philosophically than his predecessor, Mark D'Onofrio. He has building blocks like Robinson, Brown, linebacker Tahir Whitehead and safeties Kevin Kroboth and Justin Gildea.

"I really like it, it's a little different style," said Kroboth of the new scheme. "We've played some pretty good defense in the past, We lost Jaiquawn, Peanut, but we have players who have played or started at every position. We're prepared well to execute this new style of defense."

The Mayor's Cup has drawn almost 60,000 fans the last two years and the largest crowd in the series is expected Thursday night, most who hope to see Addazio win his first game as Temple coach.

A win over the Wildcats would start the Owls on the path towards some long-term goals like returning to a bowl game after being shut out last year. But the first-year coach is only focused on the opener.

"It's all about Thursday night," said Addazio. "Put me in the corner and let me come out fighting. It's all about this fight."

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