After a 1-11 season, there's pretty much one way to go for Temple. And the Owls are feeling pretty good about themselves, with 16 returning starters back for coach
Bobby Wallace. Last season, the Owls had 18 players on their roster who were in their first year with the program after transferring from junior colleges. Those players now have a year of experience and had a chance to compete in spring drills for the first time. The offense was explosive in 2003, setting school records for passing first downs and total plays, and there's no reason to think it won't be the same way in 2004. QB Walter Washington has a firm grip on the starting spot, but there are still questions to be answered around him. The loss of Zamir Cobb, the school's all-time reception leader, means there will be more balls to go around for a very deep receiving corps.
Defensively, the Owls struggled mightily in 2003, ranking 95th in the country after giving up 429.8 yards per game. Last year's defense was extremely inexperienced, though, so there should be a lot of improvement in 2004.
The Owls won't contend for a Big East crown in 2004 -- their final year in the league -- but they'll definitely be a much tougher team, especially on the defense.
Wallace felt like the team made strides in the spring, which should lead to better play in the fall.
NOTES AND QUOTES
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: LB Rian Wallace, third-team All-American by Street & Smith's and Athlon.
KEY GAME: The schedule is tough from the get-go, with two straight ACC opponents to open the season. A visit from Virginia on Sept. 4 will give the Owls a good idea of what to expect the rest of the season. Can the defense improve on last year's dreadful showing? And can the offense put points on the board as easily as last year behind QB Walter Washington? Many questions to be answered, and they start getting answered in this contest.
THE MINDSET: After ranking in the nation's top 20 in defense in 2001 and 2002, the Owls feel like the bad showing in 2003 is merely a hiccup and they'll return to being a dominant defense in 2004. If the offense can get it rolling early and the defense can improve, 1-11 will be a distant memory. That's the hope of coach Bobby Wallace and his squad.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: The Owls pass the ball a lot so a lot of players get a chance to catch the ball, but losing WR Zamir Cobb is going to be tough to swallow if someone isn't able to step up. Cobb was a reliable receiver who snagged 74 balls in 2003. Getting another player to step up in big situations is near the top of coach Wallace's to-do list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Offensively, we have a chance to be very explosive. The key is engineering our offense so that our playmakers fit together. I thought we did a good job last season of improving our turnovers and penalties and we have to continue to work on those areas." -- Head coach Bobby Wallace on his team's offensive goals.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PROJECTED OFFENSIVE STARS: QB Walter Washington averaged 315 yards of total offense in the Owls' final three games of 2003, all against nationally ranked opponents.
He has the capability to be a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Phil Goodman could be one of Washington's favorite targets this year, helping to pick up the slack of the departed Zamir Cobb.
PROJECTED DEFENSIVE STARS: LB Rian "Goo" Wallace is a player who can get all over the field, as shown by his 148 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2003. He has a nose for the ball and he's going to need to make his presence felt this season. Senior S Lawrence Wade is another player who likes to get to the ball in a hurry and deliver a blow.
INJURY IMPACT: DE Rodney Wormley was able to get back into action in the spring after missing 2003 due to a knee injury.