Big East Preview -- Part 6

This is the last in a six part preseason preview of the Big East. I'll continue my tour with a look at the outcast Temple Owls. I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits.


Last year, the off-the-field distractions that have plagued Temple (1-11, 0-7 Big East) football for three years finally overwhelmed Head Coach Bobby Wallace's program.  A recruiting class loaded with 18 JUCO players (15 of whom arrived in August) – recruited to refill a badly depleted lineup – inevitably disrupted the chemistry of the team.  As a result, the Owls got off to a slow start.  Temple lost three close road games with an offense that couldn't get untracked and also imploded against Division I-AA Villanova in the premier game at the Owl's new roost – Lincoln Financial Field (The Linc).  Temple won its only game – against Middle Tennessee State – in late September, the same week that Boston College announced it was leaving the Big East to join the ACC.  The rebuilding of the Big East was Temple's last chance to stave off ejection from the league.  But the resulting reaction from the Big East – targeting Conference USA schools Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida – further confirmed that the Big East, no matter how depleted or desperate, simply did not want Temple.  The realization demoralized a Temple team that was already struggling.  The dispirited Owls staggered through October and, though playing competitive again, extended their losing streak to seven games in November. 

Temple is moving forward in the 2004 season.  The Owls are prepared to play as an independent in 2005 while the search continues for a new conference affiliation, with Conference USA appearing to most likely destination.  Wallace has had a year to integrate his 2003 JUCO class into his roster.  Although Wallace again recruited the JUCO ranks heavily last year, signing 17 JUCO transfers, he returns 12 starters – plus one kicker – and, therefore, won't have the chemistry issues he had last year when replacing 14 departed starters.  Seven of these incoming JUCOs also enrolled in the spring and have had six moths to acclimate to themselves to their teammates and the program.  The Owls still have a chip on their shoulder over their ejection from the Big East but generally lack the talent to do anything about it.  Here's a look at the outcast Owls of Temple. 


Temple lost six starters from an offense that couldn't run or pass very well. The Owls feature a spread offense that alternates either a TE or a second SB (the A Back, or AB).  The Owls do not run effectively from the spread but generally lack the depth of talent at receiver to operate a strong passing game.  Temple returns the same offense and same offensive coordinator for the only the second time in Wallace's seven seasons in North Philly, which may catalyze some improvement upon the woeful 2003 unit.  Temple's 2003 offensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 120 rushing yards per game (#6 in the current Big East and #92 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 225 passing yards per game (#4 in the Big East and #50 in Division 1A)
  • 345 total yards per game (#7 in the Big East and #84 in Division 1A)
  • 20 points per game (#7 in the Big East and #97 in Division 1A)

Last year, the Owl QB derby resumed, as predicted.  RS Jr Walter Washington (110 of 207 for 1,265 yards, 8 TDs, and 6 INTs plus 156 carries for 579 yards and 6 TDs) displaced the incumbent and started the final four games of the season, sparking Temple to a competitive November after a moribund October.  Former starter Sr QB Mike McGann (123 of 235 for 1,405 yards, 5 TDs, and 6 INTs) lost his job to Washington and enters his final season as the backup. Washington gives Wallace a dual threat option to run his spread offense.  The Owls will need to rely heavily upon Washington's playmaking ability to cover a myriad of problems. 

The Owl receiving corps has been the only unit on the Owl team to exhibit any depth but Temple's receivers suffered unexpectedly heavy attrition.  Four-year starter, two-time leading receiver, and First Team All-Big East WR Zamir Cobb (74 receptions for 866 yards and 5 TDs) as well as two-year starter WR Terrence Stubbs (17 receptions for 272 yards), who missed the final seven games with a shoulder injury, departed.  Former backup SB Sean Szarka (7 receptions for 37 yards) and former starting TE Collin Hannigan (4 receptions for 22 yards) quit the team during the summer while former backup AB Bill Monan (4 receptions for 63 yards) transferred to Northeastern last winter.  A unit that had nine contributors last seasons suddenly lacks depth.  Second leading receiver Sr WR Phil Goodman (47 receptions for 678 yards and 5 TDs) is the sole returning starter.  Former AB RS Sr Ikey Chuku (20 receptions for 224 yards) will move from the part time AB role to the full time starting SB. Former backup WR Sr Buchie Ibeh (5 receptions for 73 yards) will replace Cobb in the starting lineup.  Former starting CB Jr Mike Holley, who lost his job after seven games last year, switched to AB in spring camp.  Former starting DE Sr Christian Dunbar switched to TE in spring camp and will replace Hannigan as the starter.  RS So SB Jamel Harris (7 receptions for 77 yards) is the only experienced backup as Wallace lists five players for eight positions on his two deep at WR/SB.  RS Jr WR Andre Mixon-Toland, who redshirted as a JUCO transfer, will likely fill one backup slot.  Of two incoming freshman and four incoming JUCOs, JUCO Jr WR Rony Saintil will likely fill the remaining hole on the receiver two-deep (4 WRs, 2 SBs, AB, and TE).  With only one proven receiver in Goodman, the Owl spread may be forced to run more with Washington since the passing game likely won't be prolific on its own merits. 

Wallace unsuccessfully platooned three RBs last season; Washington, who only started five games, outrushed each.  Starting RB Makonnen Fenton (81 carries for 342 yards and 2 TDs plus 21 receptions for 111 yards) departed but won't be missed.  Former backup TB Sr Jamil Porter (45 carries for 172 yards and 3 TDs plus 11 receptions for 77 yards) switched to FS in spring camp.  Former backup RB Jr Umar Ferguson (69 carries for 319 yards and 4 TDs plus 17 receptions for 174 yards) is the sole returning experienced RB.  California JUCO Offensive Player of the Year Jr RB Tim Brown will challenge Ferguson for the starting job. 

Temple lost two starters off a starting OLine that took most of the snaps last season – three-year starter C Joe Laudano and RG Jose Portillo.  Former starting LT RS So John Gross will slide inside to LG while former starting LG Sr CJ Blomvall will replace Laudano at center.  Sr RT Chris Harris, who replaced the injured starter last year, will retain his starting job.  Former starting RT RS So Elliot Seifert, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the opener, will fill Harris' slot at starting LT.  RS Jr RG Steven Bell, who redshirted as a JUCO transfer, will replace Portillo.  The returning backups – RS Jr RT Yohance Perry, RS Jr RG Stan Primus (who redshirted as a JUCO transfer), RS So LT Tariq Sanders – played in a combined six games last season.  JUCO Jr LG Sam McNaulty will fill one void on the depth chart.  Former walk-on RS Sr C Frank McAndrew, pressed into service after JUCO Jr C Elijah Darby quit  the program, will complete the two deep.  The Owl OLine has more experience than it did last year but the depth situation just as bad. 


Temple lost four starters from a squad that slipped tremendously from the prior two years when it finished in the Top 20 in total defense.  Although the Owls employ a 4-2 defensive scheme, Temple uses three safeties rather than 3 CBs as in a nickel defense.  Two safeties align as hybrid OLBs in a 4-4 look very similar to that Virginia Tech uses.  Only Temple lacks the Hokie's athletes.  The eight-man front was atypically soft against the run last year while still leaving the secondary vulnerable against the pass.  Temple's 2003 defensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 202 rushing yards per game (#7 in the current Big East and #101 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 227 passing yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #70 in Division 1A)
  • 429 total yards per game (#7 in the Big East and #95 in Division 1A)
  • 33 points per game (#7 in the Big East and #95 in Division 1A)

The foundation of the Owl defense are the LBs.  Temple uses its safeties as OLBs in its 4-2 alignment.  Only backup WS Shawn Bullard (11 tackles and 2.5 TFLs), who replaced the injured backup, departed.  Temple returns both starting ILBs – 1.5-year starter, leading tackler, and Second Team All-Big East RS Jr WILB Rian Wallace (148 tackles, 19.5 TFLs, and 2 FR) and 1.5-year starter and third leading tackler Sr SILB Troy Bennett (84 tackles and 6 TFLs).  RS So SILB Ryan Gore (16 tackles) and RS Jr WILB Manuel Tapia, who barely played behind Wallace, return as the backups.  Starting SS RS Sr Lawrence Wade (73 tackles, 6 TFLs, 2 sacks, and 2 FF) and starting WS Sr Sadeke Konte (51 tackles 5 TFLs, 4 sacks, 2 FF, and 2 FR) return on the outside.  Backup SS RS Sr Joel Gray (5 tackles) also returns while backup WS RS Jr Justin Johnson, who missed most of last season with an ankle injury, will reclaim his job behind Konte.  Along with QB, LB is the deepest and most talented unit on the Owl team.  If the Owl defense is to bounce back to its 2001 and 2002 form, the LB corps will lead the way. 

Continuity was a problem on the Temple DLine last year as eight different players started, comprising seven different combinations.  Only three combinations played twice.  Two-year starter DT Taso Apostolidis (47 tackles and 11 TFLs), backup DE JD Stanley (36 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and 2 sacks), and backup DT Anthony Nembhard (19 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, and 3 sacks) departed.  Former starting DE Sr Christian Dunbar (38 tackles, 7 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, and 2 FF) was switched to TE in spring camp.  Jr DE Mike Mendenhall (27 tackles and 3 TFLs) and Sr NT Antwon Burton (30 tackles) return as starters.  Former starter RS Jr DE Rodney Wormley, who missed the season with a knee injury, will reclaim his job in place of Dunbar.  Formber backup NT RS Jr Adam Fichter (18 tackles and 2 TFLs) will likely replace Apostolidis at DT.  RS Jr DE Jason Johnson (13 tackles and 3 TFLs) is the only experienced backup.  Former backup TE Sr Eric Carpenter was switched to backup DT in spring camp.  JUCO Jr NT Neil Dickson and Fr DE Leyon Azubuike will join the rotation as backups.  The DLine, which played a crucial role in the success of the 2001 and 2002 Owl defenses, simply lacks the playmakers to make a comparable impact. 

The Owls secondary, expected to be solid, is suddenly a mess.  Two-year starter and second-leading tackler FS Yazid Jackson (104 tackles, 2 FF, and 2 FR) departed.  Former starting CB Donnie Coleman (28 tackles 3 TFLs, and 2 INTs), who was replaced midway through last season, is also gone.  Then, former starting CB Jr Mike Holley (57 tackles), who also was replaced midway through last season, was switched to SB in spring camp.  Next, CB Ray Lamb (49 tackles), who displaced Coleman, suffered a knee injury in the Cherry-White Spring Game and will miss much, if not all, of the season.  Plus, CB Pete McBride (35 tackles and 4 INTs), who displaced Holley, became academically ineligible after the spring semester.  Finally, former backup FS Jr Jonathan McPhee (13 tackles) and JUCO Jr CB Jermaine Hargraves, slated to replace McBride and Lamb, have left the team for personal reasons though both could return.  RS Jr Matt Douglass, who redshirted as a JUCO transfer, and former backup RB Sr Jamil Porter will compete for the starting FS job.  Former backup RS Jr CB Delonne Wilbourn, who suffered a season ending injury in Game 2, and JUCO Jr CB Andrew Turner are now listed as the starters.  Fr Willie Hardeman  and backup FS So Durrel Davis (11 tackles) are potential backups if Hargraves and McPhee don't return.  Wallace could also switch Holley back to CB.  The merry-go-round in the secondary has not stopped and the amazing attrition will likely compromise the Owl defense. 


Special teams killed Temple last season as missed kicks cost the Owls three losses – Villanova, Cincinnati, and Virginia Tech.  As such, the loss of PK Jared Davis (10 of 22 FGAs and 23 of 26 XPAs) is not disconcerting.  JUCO Jr Ryan Lux will likely replace Davis.  The loss of PR Zamir Cobb (11 yards per return) is more painful.  Jr AB Mike Holley or JUCO Jr RB Tim Brown will replace Cobb as the PR.  Departed RB Makonnen Fenton (20 yards per return) and Sr FS Jamil Porter (26 yards per return) split KOR duties last season. RS Sr SS Lawrence Wade will join Porter as a KOR.  Returning P RS Jr Mike McLaughlin (40 yards per punt) will battle JUCO Jr P Jake Hendy to keep his job.  The Owls have had a strong return game in recent years but must fix their kicking woes if they are to make any noise.  With a questionable offense, the PK can't leave too many points on the field. 


Temple has an 11 game schedule with six home games.  Temple has only one bye week in late October and ends the season early.  Temple will face a brutal non-conference schedule that includes three 2003 bowl teams in Bowling Green, Maryland and Virginia as well as MAC contender Toledo.  The Big East schedule isn't much better as Temple plays its closest competitors (Rutgers and Connecticut) on the road while hosting Pittsburgh and Syracuse.  The home schedule provides one gimmie (Florida A&M) and three challenging tests – Bowling Green, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse.  The road contest offer equally challenging opportunities against Connecticut and Rutgers.  The Owls will be hard pressed to improve upon last year's 1-11 record.  October will be a crucial month as the Owls play winnable games against Bowling Green, against Pittsburgh, at Rutgers, and at Connecticut.  The season will be a success if the Owls can split these four games. 


September 4


September 11

@ Maryland

September 18

Florida A&M

September 25

@ Toledo

October 2

Bowling Green

October 9


October 16

@ Rutgers

October 23

@ Connecticut

November 6

@ West Virginia

November 13


November 20

Boston College



I predict the Owls will finish 1-11 (0-6).  The constant uncertainty has taken its toll on Wallace's troops.  While more experienced and cohesive than the 2003 Owls, Temple still lacks talent and depth.  It adds up to an ignominious departure from the Big East.  Only Florida A&M will spare Temple from a winless season.  Virginia and Maryland are simply out of Temple's league and Toledo has too much firepower for the impotent Owls.  Bowling Green, who Temple crushed only a few years ago, is better on both offense and defense.  The Owl's only hope against Pittsburgh is Walt Harris' annual implosion.  Rutgers passed Temple last year and isn't looking back.  While the vengeful Owls thumped Connecticut two and three years ago, the Huskies have improved while the Owls have plummeted.  Temple could beat an Orange team playing out the string for a lame duck coach but instead will face a Syracuse team fighting for a bowl bid.  Boston College will smack Temple in the Goodbye Bowl that will be the final regular season Big East game for both programs.  Good riddance to Boston College; good luck to Temple. 

Coming Next:  Non-Conference Preview, Part 1.  With the preview of the conference potion of the schedule complete, I'll embark on a pre-season tour of Rutgers' non-conference opponents with a look at season opener Michigan State.  I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits. 

Please send any comments to  I welcome and appreciate your feedback.  And please put "Rutgers" in the message header because I wouldn't want to miss your email in a sea of spam.  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the spring camp with other Rutgers fans, please visit our message board.

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