Temple coach Matt Rhule is looking to build on his Owl’s success last season in his fourth season at the helm,
Last season Temple went 10-4 (7-1 conference), claiming the East half of the American Athletic Conference. Like just about every other team in the American, Temple has had some turnover from last season, but the Owls have enough heavy hitters coming back this season to make them serious contenders for another run at the conference championship.
Temple lost a big key to their offense success with center Kyle Friend graduating. However with Dion Dawkins and Leon Johnson anchoring the offensive line at either tackle position, Phillip (formerly P.J.) Walker should have plenty of protection behind the line in 2016.
Walker threw for 2,972 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Temple also returns running back Jahad Thomas who led the Owls with 1,385 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns on 276 carries. Thomas was also Temple’s fourth best receiver last season, pulling down 22 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas slowed down in the tail end of the season, so Temple will look to lighten his workload some with Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead.
Walker will likely be connecting to Ventell Bryant a ton this year. Robby Anderson was Temples leading receiver last season, but graduated in the spring, leaving Bryant as his presumed successor at the No. 1.
Bryant caught 39 passes in 2016 for 579 yards and three touchdowns.
Still perhaps the most important factor for the Temple offense is the new voice talking to Walker before plays. Glenn Thomas is the new offensive coordinator, replacing Marcus Satterfield who is now the head coach at Tennessee Tech.
The Owls lost their leading tackler in All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich and their defensive front was also weakened some by the departures of defensive end Nate Smith and tackle Matt Ioannidis.
But for the past two seasons, Temple’s defense has been about as stingy as they come. The Owls had the AAC’s top defense in 2015, holding teams to 336.8 yards a game and with defensive coordinator Phil Snow still calling the shots, Temple’s defense is still a safe bet in 2016.
Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike will attack the edge and rush the quarterback for Temple afre combining for nine sacks last season.
Sean Chandler will continue to lock down on opposing wide outs after leading the Owls with 10 passes defended in 2016 to go with his four interceptions and four sacks.
Chandler was used at safety some during the spring, which allowed for Nate Harrison and Derrek Thomas, a converted receiver, to get some reps in. Harrison and Thomas progressed enough this summer, Chandler can move to safety and prowl the secondary.
Senior linebacker Jarred Alwan is tasked with taking over for Matakevich in the middle. While it is a fairly tall order, Alwan did finish second on the team in tackles last season (behind Matakevich’s 138) with 74. If Alwan can step up and adequately fill that role—not necessarily duplicate Matakevich’s production—than Temple’s defense should be just fine.
Temple was hit pretty hard by graduation, particularly on the defensive end. However, the Owls boast enough returning star power to remain a power in the American.
With the trio of Walker, Thomas and Bryant on offense the Owls should be able to, at least, replicate last year’s success moving the football.
And with a stud like Chandler patrolling the secondary and a solid front seven, the Owls should also be able to neutralize most offenses.
Temple has established itself as a team to beat in the American and if SMU is hoping for a dub on October 1…well in the words of the great Michael K. Williams as Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire, “you come at the king, you best not miss.”