Boca Raton Bowl: Jason Candle's coaching style has Temple's attention
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- As Temple headed into the 2015 season, Owls coach Matt Rhule had two openings on his offensive staff and another for an offensive graduate assistant.
Before Rhule made any hires, he immersed himself in game tape of other successful offenses. The Owls had just finished 6-6 and been left out in the cold during bowl season, so Rhule studied how other college teams used personnel within their scheme.
One of the offenses Rhule liked the most happened to be a Group of Five school in Ohio. Its play-caller was a 35-year-old coach named Jason Candle.
"Last year, we had a couple openings, so I was just trying to see the top, young offensive minds in the country and see what they were doing," Rhule said. "And I think no one's done it better than Jason."
Lo and behold, Rhule has had to study Candle's offense in a different capacity after this regular season. Candle's first game as the University of Toledo's head coach will come against Rhule's 24th-ranked Owls in Tuesday night's Boca Raton Bowl.
Toledo's success and Temple's success have different roots, though both schools ended up in the same place to end the 2015 season.
Five of Temple's 10 full-time coaches have NFL ties, including Rhule, who was an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants in 2012.
Toledo's current success was forged by coaches who came of age in Division III football. Candle, a former player and coach at Mount Union, took over for Matt Campbell and coached alongside former UT offensive line coach Tom Manning, both fellow Purple Raiders.
Candle's first two hires after Campbell accepted the Iowa State job and took Manning with him were Mike Hallett and Ricky Ciccone -- Mount Union alumni.
Division III is college football at its most pure. There are no scholarships and very little publicity, and Candle respects success in D-III as a result.
"You learn at that level that you don't take very many things for granted," Candle said. "There are no scholarships. Everybody's going to work for the right reasons, to work for one common goal. We have a lot guys who where like that and cut their teeth in that."
During an era in which many college football offenses look the same, Temple is an outlier. The Owls' NFL connections have a lot to do with their makeup.
Defensive coordinator Phil Snow formerly coached the linebackers for the Detroit Lions; quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas held the same position for the Atlanta Falcons. Offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan had stops in both the NFL and CFL, and receivers coach Frisman Jackson played for five years as an NFL receiver, most of them with the Cleveland Browns.
Temple asks its players to learn schemes that aren't far away from the next level, especially in its passing game. The relative simplicity of the popular spread option often works in college, but Rhule's staff had different aspirations.
"I think everyone's sort of spread football, college spread stuff -- which is awesome," Rhule said. "We probably, at the end of the day, always go back to the NFL type system in terms of the things we're doing.
"Our offensive line play is extremely advanced. Our quarterback play, with what we ask the quarterback to do, is advanced."
Though Toledo became successful in a different way, Rhule appreciates the Rockets heavy use of one-back, one-tight-end formations and how Candle uses them. Rhule marveled that UT can switch from power football to spread offense and not change any players, calling them "one of the best coached programs I've ever seen."
Both programs spent seven weeks in the Associated Press Top 25 this year, and both have chances to attain historical relevance Tuesday night. A Toledo win will made the Rockets the first UT team since 2001 to win 10 games; a Temple win would make the Owls the first 11-win team in program history.
Both sides have a mutual appreciation for different methods, yet similar conclusions.
"Some teams we play are one dimensional, so you can attack them one dimensionally," Rhule said. "[Toledo] can run, they can throw, they can run everything. ... You have to defend everything.
"They're just really well thought-out. That's why they've been winning for a long time."
This article was written by Nicholas Piotrowicz from The Blade and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.