It’s a new beginning for Temple, with former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins taking over as head coach for the departed Matt Rhule. But the changes go beyond the coaching staff, as only eight total starters return, resulting in plenty of question marks throughout the roster. The offense has some playmakers, but the quarterback position is completely up in the air. The secondary is basically intact, but the defense lost a first-round NFL Draft pick and several other key contributors. Rhule took the Owls to new heights and no one is expecting Collins to match last season’s 10 wins. But don’t expect Temple to simply return to the bottom of the American Athletic Conference East Division because of a coaching change and a lot of roster turnover either.
Previewing Temple Football’s Offense for 2017
Phillip Walker was the quarterback the last three-plus seasons. Now, there are a handful of promising yet unproven players trying to be next in line, a competition that in a worst-case scenario might take a while to sort out. There’s also a new coordinator, Dave Patenaude, who spent the last five years at Coastal Carolina. Expect to see more up-tempo and possibly some option, even if that means utilizing more than one quarterback.
Whoever emerges will have plenty of experienced targets to lean on. Wide receiver looks to be one of the team’s strengths. Ventell Bryant, Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings combined for 123 catches, 2,017 yards and 12 touchdowns (four apiece) for a team that had 31 rushing scores. Running back Ryquell Armstead ran for 919 yards (5.9 per carry) and 14 TDs as the No. 2 back. And as is the case at wideout, there’s capable depth.
The line suffered some big losses but still returns three starters plus several others who got playing time as backups. There’s a good chance Temple will be going with more three-WR sets instead of employing a tight end.
Previewing Temple Football’s Defense for 2017
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The Owls had one of the nation’s top-ranked units a year ago. In their last five wins, they allowed 33 points, which included back-to-back shutouts. New coordinator Taver Johnson (defensive backs coach the last three years at Purdue) has only four starters back. And edge rusher Haason Reddick went from walk-on to high NFL Draft pick.
The line is strong on the inside but lost five players who combined for 27 of the Owls’ 41 sacks. The linebackers are young, although the position is deep and promising. As many as seven guys are likely to get on the field.
The secondary returns almost intact, with safety Sean Chandler leading the way. Mike Jones, a graduate transfer from North Carolina Central, is projected to take over the one open cornerback spot.
Previewing Temple Football’s Specialists for 2017
Austin Jones, who set school records in 2015 for field goals (23) and points by a kicker (113), went down in October with a knee injury. Walk-on freshman Aaron Boumerhi took over and made 15-of-17 attempts, including four in the Military Bowl loss to Wake Forest, to make second-team all-conference. It just remains to be seen who wins out.
Temple is coming off its best two-year run in program history. Previously, the Owls had won as many as 10 games in a season only once. Now they’ve done it three times. So what’s next? Matt Rhule left for Baylor and was succeeded by his good friend Geoff Collins, who ran Florida’s defense the last two seasons. He’s the school’s fourth straight first-time head coach.
About the only thing the Owls haven’t done is finish a season strong. They lost their last two in 2015 and their bowl last year (without Rhule), although they did win a conference title for the first time since 1967.
The Owls aren’t going to become irrelevant because Rhule is gone. But some things will be different. The schedule appears more difficult now that Houston, Navy and Tulsa are the cross-division games. And they have to visit East favorite South Florida in their AAC opener. There could be a few growing pains, particularly if the quarterback situation isn’t adequately resolved in a timely manner. The non-league slate starts at Notre Dame and later takes the Owls to Army, which won last year’s opener in South Philly.
While another double-digit win total is probably asking too much, another bowl game is well within the Owls’ reach.
National Ranking: 81
AAC East Prediction: 3
(Ryquell Armstead photo courtesy of Getty Images)