No. 78 Temple
Temple football was supposed to return to national irrelevance following the departures of two coaches in 24 months — Al Golden to Miami in 2010 and Steve Addazio to Boston College in 2012. Instead, Matt Rhule rebuilt the roster, developed several walk-ons and low-rated recruits to deliver back-to-back 10-win campaigns.
Now Rhule and 16 starters are gone but new head coach Geoff Collins still has a talented roster headlined by two terrific running backs, an experienced receiving corps and an elite secondary.
2016 Record: 10-4 (7-1, AAC)
They rode an elite defense — top 25 nationally in most categories — that yielded 33 total points over a five-game winning streak and efficient offense to earn back-to-back bowl berths for the first time ever.
Head Coach: Geoff Collins (1st year)
For the third time in six years, a Temple head coach left for a Power Five job.
Matt Rhule departed for Baylor after back-to-back 10-win seasons — the first in program history — and was replaced by Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. And as Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated put it, Collins "is bringing swag to the surging Owls."
"I was at Florida, and Jim McElwain didn’t wear socks," Collins said about his Temple Tough mentality. "I started not wearing socks, so I got caught on campus in eight-degree weather on a local Philadelphia TV show, and I wasn’t wearing socks. They made a huge deal about it. So I have to be Temple Tough now. So if I go to wearing socks because it’s cold, then I’m soft, and I’m not going to be soft."
Key Returning Offensive Players
Sophomore Logan Marchi and junior Frank Nutile are battling to replace Phillip Walker at quarterback. They have 11 combined career passing attempts but the winner will work with a bunch of returning playmakers.
Though the Owls lost running back Jahad Thomas, they return Ryquell Armstead, who was outgained by Thomas by just 34 yards despite having 41 fewer carries. He's not as dynamic in the passing game but did average 5.9 yards per carry and will be key in new coordinator Dave Patenaude's up-tempo attack.
"It is a focal point to have these guys more involved [in the passing game]," running backs coach Tony Lucas said of Armstead and fellow junior Jager Gardner.
"The big thing for us offensively is that we want to be able to impose our will whenever we want to," Collins said after the spring game. "And that means being physical, being tough and really getting after people. … But Rock (Armstead) and Jags (Gardner), those are guys who create their own holes."
Their top three receivers return, led by seniors Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings, and while they lost All-AAC tackle Dion Dawkins to the NFL, three linemen are also back for an offense that averaged 32.6 points per game, 43rd nationally.
Key Returning Defensive Players
Temple lost eight starters from one of the nation's best defenses. The balanced unit — which didn't have a player record more than 66 tackles — allowed just 18.4 points per game, had back-to-back November shutouts and yielded four total touchdowns over the final five conference games.
Nonetheless, the interior line is strong, led by tackle Michael Dogbe, who had a breakout sophomore season with five tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Jacob Martin is in line for a bigger role.
The secondary remains in great shape with the return of three starters who helped suffocate opposing passing attacks. They gave up just 152 yards per game through the air, first in the AAC and third nationally. During the five-game, 33-point streak, they twice limited quarterbacks to less than 70 yards passing.
The leader is senior Sean Chandler, a 6-foot, 190-pounder from nearby Camden, N.J. A former corner, he switched to safety last year and earned all-conference honors after recording 51 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Notable Player Losses
The Owls' roster was gashed by departures, namely three key players on both sides of the ball. Phillip Walker was a three-year starter, and Jahad Thomas scored 38 touchdowns and had nearly 2,900 yards from scrimmage the last two years.
Dawkins, a second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, leaves a gigantic hole at left tackle.
Defensively, disruptive defensive end/outside linebacker Haason Reddick is also in the NFL. Reddick, Praise Martin-Oguike and Avery Williams combined for 41.5 tackles for loss, 19 sacks and eight forced fumbles last year.
Notable Player Additions
QB Anthony Russo, QB Todd Centeio, C Matt Hennessy, CB Mike Jones
If Logan Marchi or Frank Nutile don't perform well in fall camp or during the season, the Owls could turn to a freshman. Anthony Russo (redshirt) is a massive (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) former three-star recruit from Pennsylvania, while Centeio is a smaller (5-foot-11, 193 pounds) dual-threat quarterback from Florida and fellow three-star prospect.
Redshirt freshman Matt Hennessy was a tackle in high school, redshirted last year and is expected to take over at center.
The most notable addition is Mike Jones, a grad transfer from North Carolina Central, where he was a dynamic return man and lockdown corner. The Baltimore native has one year of eligibility remaining to impress NFL scouts.
Geoff Collins doesn't have to wait long for an opportunity to get a huge win. Temple opens the season at Notre Dame, whom they lost to by four points in Philadelphia two years ago.
After home games against Villanova and UMass, the Owls open AAC play with a trip to South Florida. Oddly, they don't have any back-to-back road or home games after Weeks 2 and 3, rotating games the rest of the season.
|Saturday, Sept. 2||at Notre Dame|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||vs. Villanova|
|Friday, Sept. 15||vs. UMass|
|Thursday, Sept. 21||at South Florida|
|Saturday, Sept. 30||vs. Houston|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||at East Carolina|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||vs. UConn|
|Saturday, Oct. 21||at Army|
|Thursday, Nov. 2||vs. Navy|
|Friday, No. 10||at Cincinnati|
|Saturday, Nov. 18||vs. Central Florida|
|Saturday, Nov. 25||at Tulsa|