PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Geoff Collins flips through the pages in a three-ring binder, and then grabs another and does the same.
He finds the pages he wants and puts them side-by-side. Two travel itineraries, one from his time as Florida defensive coordinator and one that was used by his predecessor at Temple.
The logos at the top of the page, the fonts, the layout of the schedule - it all looks about the same. That’s not a coincidence.
Collins, the new Temple coach, and Matt Rhule, the former one, are friends who have been sharing ideas and best practices for years - including that travel itinerary used by Collins’ old Gators boss, Jim McElwain.
“I had intimate knowledge of how the Temple program for the last 10 years has been developed,” Collins said. “I walk into things that, hey, I had a say in that or I helped come up with that.”
Now Collins, as Rhule once was, is the first-time head coach in charge of the Owls. Collins’ plan is to be true to the core values instilled in the program by his buddy, while infusing Temple Tough with Saban-style structure, a “Moneyball” mindset and his own swagger - swag for short.
“My big thing, too, is being tough, being physical, being disciplined, having attention to detail and having fun, having swag, having energy, having juice; I don’t think those are mutually exclusive. You can have all those things and have them be working together,” Collins said.
Collins’ new office - Rhule’s old office - is still in move-in mode. In a glass trophy case there are a just a few framed photos, including team pictures from Collins’ time at Division III Albright College.
Collins was defensive coordinator at Albright in 1998 when he hired Rhule as linebackers coach for “$1,800 a year and a meal card,” Rhule said. They spent a year together in Reading, Pennsylvania, then were reunited at FBS Western Carolina, where again Collins was defensive coordinator and hired Rhule.
After four seasons with Western Carolina, Collins and Rhule went separate ways but remained close.
Collins, 46, bounced around the south, including a year as director of player personnel for Nick Saban at Alabama, before becoming one of the most respected defensive coordinators in college football.
Rhule became head coach at Temple in 2013, leading the program to unprecedented success. The last two seasons, the Owls have won 20 games, appeared in the American Athletic Conference title game twice and won the AAC last year. He left to take the Baylor job and his one hope for a replacement was someone who would respect what was already in place.
“We won because of our process and our system and the way that we did things. And the kids that we had. And I love those kids. I didn’t want anybody to come in and tear down everything that they had built. Not what I had built, but that they had built,” Rhule said.
Kraft said Rhule’s relationship with Collins put him on the AD’s radar. Rhule said he never stumped for his friend. There was no need.
“He knew how to speak our language,” Kraft said. “His interview was as good an interview as I have ever been in.”
In Collins’ first meeting with Temple players, he was quick to make clear that what they had built would be preserved. He pulled aside the seniors, players he would never coach, and assured them Temple would still be their home.
“We created a legends row in the locker room so when those guys come back from the NFL and they’re home working out, they’ve got a place in our building they feel welcome,” Collins said.
Haason Reddick, the Temple defensive end who was drafted in the first round by Arizona in April, said Collins has delivered on his promise.
“I interact with him on Twitter, things of that sort,” Reddick said. “There’s a great connection. He’s a cool guy. What I’ll say is he’s come in there with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Rhule’s version of Temple Tough was no-frills and understated. Collins takes a more bold approach. He hired a S.W.A.G. coordinator (specialist with advanced graphics) to handle multimedia and social media.
He changed the way the Owls practice to mimic how Alabama has done it under Saban.
“A lot of places you go to there’s 22 kids practicing, 88, however many other kids watching the practice,” Collins said. “That doesn’t happen at one of our practices. Everyone’s engaged. Everyone is developing, going through the practice. Rotation. Movement. Going from one drill to another drill. Everybody’s moving all the time. Reduce the practice time, but exponentially get more reps.”
He also brought a DJ to practice to play music, mixing Saban and swag.
In June, Collins made another unique hire, naming former Temple offensive lineman Pat Boyle strategic specialist in charge of enhancing the analytics department. Collins said reading Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball” about how the Oakland Athletics of the early 1990s revolutionized data-driven analysis and decision-making in baseball helped crystalize his vision for running an organization. He wants to use analytics in every aspect of Temple football from recruiting to conditioning to game planning.
“Geoff is able to come in and still stay true to Temple Tough. Hardnose, physical, disciplined team, but he’s going to do it in a completely different way,” Rhule said. “With really, really cool ideas and a new outlook. Because now’s the time to bring Temple to the next step.”
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