Big East Preview - Part 7

This is the last in a seven part preseason tour of the Big East. I'll finish my pre-season tour of the Big East with a look at struggling Temple. I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits.



The 2001 season was a crucial year for the Temple football program.  The Big East had already announced the revocation of Temple's membership.  In fighting to reverse the decision, Temple needed a big year not only on the field but also in the stands because the economic contributions of Temple to the conference were at the root of the membership issue.  Head Coach Bobby Wallace had his team poised for a breakout year as the senior-laden team contained 20 returning starters but the Owls repeated a 4-7 (2-5) season that demonstrated little progress.  Attendance was still abysmal.  Television ratings were terrible.  The Big East postponed Temple's eviction but confirmed its inevitability. 

The rising expectations were based upon a tough, physical 4-2 defense that employed two of its three safeties as OLBs, ala Virginia Tech.  The anticipated breakthrough never materialized as an impotent offense and weak kicking game compromised a solid defense.  Wallace has struggled to find a successful offense at Temple.  He hired former Hofstra Offensive Coordinator David Brock to install a no-huddle, spread offense, the fourth offensive system in Wallace's five years in Philadelphia.  Despite fielding a veteran team last season, Wallace returns 17 starters, implying substantial in-season upheaval of the starting lineup last year.  Suspensions (SILB Taylor Suman), injuries (WR Terrence Stubbs and WR Zamir Cobb), and non-performance (QB Devin Scott and WR Greg Muckerson) contributed to the roster turnover.  Here's a look at the struggling Owls of Temple.  Wallace now faces the challenge of steering Temple through the fog as the Owls seek a new conference affiliation.  Recruiting is compromised.  As is scheduling.   



Temple lost only one starter from an impotent unit: 

  • 18 points per game (#7 in the Big East and #105 of 115 in Division 1A)
  • 285 yards per game (#7 in the Big East and #111 in Division 1A)
  • 118 rushing yards per game (#7 in the Big East and #90 in Division 1A)
  • 167 passing yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #94 in Division 1A)

Injuries decimated the Owl receiving corps last season and production suffered as a result.  Temple lost only backup WR Greg Muckerson (12 receptions for 129 yards and 2 TDs) and two-way player CB/WR and team MVP Chonn Lacey (13 receptions for 191 yards and 2 TDs).  2nd Team All-Big East and leading receiver Sr WR Sean Dillard (51 receptions for 747 yards and 3 TDs) returns as the leader of the receiving corps.  Sr WR Zamir Cobb (19 receptions for 190 yards and one TD) will likely reclaim his starting job after a hernia cut short a promising season after five games.  The new spread offense has added a 3WR position to the starting lineup.  RS Jr WR Terrence Stubbs, who missed last season with a broken kneecap, emerged during spring camp as the likely starter at 3WR.  RS Sr WR Krishnan Lewis (14 receptions for 181 yards), RS Jr WR Donnie Coleman, and RS Jr WR Ikey Chuku – who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener – are the likely backups.  True Fr WR Jamel Harris, a spring 2002 enrollee, could break the two-deep.  Starting TE So Eric Carpenter (8 receptions for 71 yards and one TD) also returns.  Fellow So TE Dan Bosnic is the backup.  The new spread offense has placed increased emphasis on a weak unit.  Dillard's supporting cast is mostly unproven but must increase its production less the Owl offense struggle again.  

Temple's backfield effectively returns intact.  The Owls lost starting FB Jason McKie (41 carries for 227 yards and 2 TDs plus 10 receptions for 57 yards) and backup FB Harold Jackson (22 carries for 138 yards).  However, the new spread offense has eliminated the FB position.  Temple returns three-year starter Sr RB Tanardo Sharps (150 carries for 771 yards and one TD) and backup RB Sr Lester Trammer (81 carries for 207 yards and 4 TDs).  The new spread offense has also added a slotback (i.e., hybrid RB/WR) position to the starting lineup.  RS Jr Makonnen Fenton – the Big East's leading KOR – will start and RS So Lawrence Wade will be the backup. Sharps and Fenton are quick, elusive runners and the spread offense will endeavor to get the ball to them with room to maneuver. 

Temple returns intact a starting OLine whose poor performance was "surpassed" only by that of a truly horrid Rutgers OLine – Sr LT Dave Yovanovitis, RS Jr LG Joe Laudano, Sr C Donny Klein, Sr RG Anthony Bolden, and Sr RT Damian Hendricks.  Backup C/OG RS Jr Jose Portillo and backup OG/OT Sr Anthony Nembhard provide experience and flexibility as reserves.  RS Fr LT John Gross and RS Fr RT Yohance Perry are inexperienced.  Injuries hampered the performance of this veteran but suspect unit.  The Temple OLine must stay healthy and improve its performance if the Owl offense will improve.  All while learning yet another new offensive system. 

The QB position was a metaphor for the Temple team last season.  The Owls entered the season with three experienced QBs yet a true freshman started more games.  QB Mac DeVito (50 of 105 for 615 yards, 7 TDs, and 3 INTs) and QB Devin Scott (18 of 28 for 217 yards, one TD, and 2 INTs) have departed.  So QB Mike McGann (87 of 190 for 934 yards, 3 TDs, and 9 INTs) returns as the starter.  RS Sr QB Mike Frost, who redshirted last season in a crowded backfield, will backup McGann.  Weak QB play has hampered Temple for years.  McGann was no different last season.  He must build significantly upon the experience of his freshman season if he is to successfully lead the Temple offense.   



Temple lost 4 starters from a squad who allowed points disproportionately to the yardage that it yielded: 

  • 28 points per game (#7 in the Big East and #77 in Division 1A)
  • 313 yards per game (#4 in the Big East and #19 in Division 1A)
  • 130 rushing yards per game (#3 in the Big East and #38 in Division 1A)
  • 183 passing yards per game (#6 in the Big East and #23 in Division 1A)

Contrasting Virginia Tech, which lost its top five DTs, Temple lost its top five DEs – including starters Raheem Brock (51 tackles and 4 sacks) and Jason Davis (44 tackles and one sack).  Co-starter DT Russell Newman (40 tackles and 2.5 sacks also departed.  The Owls return 1st Team All-Big East DT Dan Klecko (62 tackles and 6.5 sacks) and co-starter RS Sr DT Rob Sack (48 tackles).  Wallace will move Klecko to DE so that he can put more experience on the field.  Jr DT Taso Apostolidis (6 tackles), whose emergence during spring camp compelled Wallace to move Klecko, will likely start next to Sack.  RS Jr DE J.D. Stanley (3 tackles) will likely start opposite Klecko.  The backups are inexperienced.  Wallace will move Klecko around on the DLine to create mismatches but opponents will scheme around Klecko unless his linemates can produce. 

Like Virginia Tech, Temple's LB corps suffered heavy losses inside.  WILB Akeiff Staples (48 tackles and 1.5 sacks) departed and potential all-conference SILB Taylor Suman (54 tackles) was actually dismissed from the team 6 games into the season.  Sr SILB J.D. Nichols (32 tackles), who replaced Suman last season, returns as the starter.  Jr WILB Troy Bennett (29 tackles) will start alongside of Nichols.  As mentioned previously, Temple deploys safeties as OLBs.  RS Sr WS Jairo Almonte (57 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one INT) and Sr SS Lafton Thompson (48 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 INTs) – who was an academic non-qualifier as a freshmen but has regained a fourth year of eligibility – return.  The backups, inside and outside, are all inexperienced.  As with Virginia Tech, the strength of the Owl LB unit will be the safeties playing OLB, the middle is suspect, and the depth is questionable. 

The secondary must replace the tremendous loss of team MVP and leading tackler CB Chonn Lacey (84 tackles and 4 INTs).  Sr FS Jamal Wallace (77 tackles and one INT) – who also was an academic non-qualifier as a freshmen but has regained a fourth year of eligibility – returns as the second-leading tackler.  Sr CB Terrance Leftwich (56 tackles and 3 INTs) also returns.  Former backup CB Jr Yazid Jackson (28 tackles) will likely replace Lacey and start opposite Leftwich. As seemingly everywhere on the Owl depth chart, the backups are inexperienced.  True Fr CB David Reese, a spring 2002 enrollee, could see action.  The Temple secondary is experienced but unimpressive.  How will they hold up behind a weakened front eight?   



The Owls special teams feature a strong return game but a weak kicking game.  Jr KOR Makonnen Fenton (26 yards per return) led the conference last season.  Sr WR Sean Dillard (9 yards per return) or Sr WR Zamir Cobb (12 yards per return before a hernia ended his season) will be fielding punts.  Sr PK Cap Poklemba (9 of 16 FGAs and 15 of 15 XPAs) returns.  Starting P So Jace Amore (38 yards per punt) will battle RS Jr P Garvin Ringwelski for punting duties.  Temple needs improved kicking to better complement its defense, which can't win games by itself.   



Temple has a full 12 game schedule with 7 home games, the most since 1942.  The Owls open the season with consecutive Thursday night games against Richmond and Oregon State.  Temple has only one bye week – in early October – because their regular season ends before Thanksgiving.  Temple will face a very challenging non-conference schedule that includes Oregon State (two years removed from a BCS Fiesta Bowl win), South Carolina (coming off an Outback Bowl win), and Cincinnati (coming off a Motor City Bowl appearance).  The non-conference games were probably shrewd choices when the games were originally scheduled as South Carolina, Oregon State, and Cincinnati were each likely down at the time.  But Lou Holtz and Dennis Erickson have elevated their respective programs into national powers.  And Rick Minter has earned three bowl bids in the past five seasons at Cincinnati. 

The home schedule has three key games – Oregon State, Cincinnati, and West Virginia.  The road schedule offers two promising opportunities – at Connecticut and at Rutgers.  The key stretch occurs in November when Temple sandwiches games against West Virginia and at Rutgers around a game at Pittsburgh.  


August 29


September 5

Oregon State

September 14


September 21

@ South Carolina

September 28


October 12


October 19

@ Connecticut

October 26

@ Virginia Tech

November 2

West Virginia

November 9

@ Pittsburgh

November 16

@ Rutgers

November 23

Boston College



I predict the Owls will finish 3-9 (1-7).  I'm not buying the "returning starters" nonsense this year.  Not after so many returning starters were displaced on the depth chart last season.  That simply tells me there isn't much talent in the program.  Temple has peaked with back-to-back 4-7 seasons.  If Temple is to improve upon last season's 4-7 record, most of the wins will have to come from the non-conference schedule.  Oregon State stumbled last year after a BCS Fiesta Bowl win but their talent level is far superior to that of Temple.  South Carolina is shooting for an SEC championship.  As is Cincinnati in Conference USA.  At least the Owls will beat Richmond and Connecticut. 

Games against West Virginia and Rutgers are the key conference games.  Temple is stronger and tougher than West Virginia at the line of scrimmage.  The Mountaineer passing attack isn't strong enough to fully exploit Temple's weak secondary.  The Owls will win a low scoring game.  Rutgers will be stronger on both sides of the line of scrimmage this season while Temple will be weaker on the DLine.  Rutgers also has outrecruited Temple the past two years.  Two years wouldn't be enough against most programs but Temple has no depth and plays many of its true freshmen, too.  Temple will lose a low scoring game on the road.  The kicking game will be the difference. 


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 Division IAA power Villanova.  I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits. 

Please send any comments to  I welcome and appreciate your feedback.

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