COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2011 PRESEASON TOP 25
Big East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Steve Addazio, 9-4 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Ryan Day | DEF. COORDINATOR: Chuck Heater
Steve Adazio leads Temple into the BCS as the Owls return to the Big East after a seven-year absence.
Steve Addazio finally found someone to run the spread-option late last season in lefty dual-threat Chris Coyer, who was the Offensive MVP in Temple’s impressive New Mexico Bowl win over Wyoming. Coyer, who started the final four games, completed 60 percent of his passes and had a TD-to-INT ratio of 6-to-0. It was small sample size, but those are numbers the Owls would love to see repeated.
There’s a new offensive coordinator in former Boston College assistant Ryan Day, who takes over for Scot Loeffler (now at Auburn). Yet nothing much should change scheme-wise, other than Coyer probably being asked to throw a little more. Penn State transfer Kevin Newsome, who has similar skills, could provide some competition.
Running back Matt Brown, who’s much smaller than NFL-bound Bernard Pierce, has certainly been productive as the No. 2 guy. As a sophomore, Brown rushed for 916 yards and topped the 100-yard mark five times. Helping to replace Pierce will be Boston College transfer Montel Harris, who is eligible immediately after leaving Chestnut Hill after spring practice. Harris has 3,735 career rushing yards but battled knee injuries late in his career. Sophomore Kenny Harper will also contribute significantly to the rushing attack.
Deon Miller is the only returning player who caught more than three passes last year. Some playmakers will need to emerge at the wide receiver position.
The biggest holes are up front, where senior Martin Wallace is the only starter back. The offensive line will be a work in progress.
Last year the Owls had to replace a first- and second-round NFL Draft pick. Still, they finished third nationally in points allowed behind only LSU and Alabama. Now, four All-MAC players are gone, as well as the leading tackler.
The good news is that 25 letterwinners return. Many of them saw significant action. They obviously need to take on expanded roles. The linebacker position was particularly hard-hit, with junior Blaze Caponegro the lone starter still around.
The leaders on the line figure to be nose tackle Levi Brown, end Marcus Green and tackle John Youboty. The Owls could use some depth on the outside.
The secondary, long an area of concern, is actually in experienced hands with cornerbacks Maurice Jones and Zamel Johnson and strong safety Justin Gildea, who tied for the team lead with three picks. Coordinator Chuck Heater did a masterful job in his debut. His task won’t get any easier.
Brandon McManus made 16-of-22 field goals, with a long of 41 yards, but was 9-for-15 from 30 and out. He also had to punt last year by necessity and was among the nation’s best, averaging nearly 46 yards per attempt. He had 22 touchbacks on 78 kickoffs. Brown averaged 25 yards on 28 kickoff returns and 10 yards on 18 punt returns, but he might start relinquishing some of that load since he’s the main ball-carrier.
Temple never got over the hump in the MAC. But the conference provided a lifeline, allowing the Owls to become relevant. And now they’re back in the Big East after a seven-year absence. So, how much better could life on North Broad Street really be? “These kids, they all want to play at the BCS level,” Addazio says. “They understand the challenges. They came here hoping this would happen one day, and it has. Things are coming together.”
Given that they never made it to a MAC Championship Game, it might not happen right away. Yet there’s no reason to believe the Owls can’t at least be competitive almost from the start.