Scouting Report: the Temple Owls

The Temple Owls, we've heard about the terrible losses they've suffered. Can this team surprise Vanderbilt? Howell Peiser breaks down the 0-4 Owls in this exclusive scouting report.

Let's take a look at some of their statistics. 
Scoring:  2.5 points per game ranks 118 of 119 (only Utah State ranks lower)
Rushing Average: 41.5 yards per game ranks 118
Passing Average: 138.2 yards per game ranks 102
Passing Efficiency: 86.77 ranks 113
Total Yardage: 179.8 yards per game ranks 118
QB Sacks allowed: 14 in four games ranks 107
Turnover Margin: -6 in four games ranks 110
The Louisville Cardinals, they are not.  They don't even compare with the Ball State Cardinals.
First year coach Al Golden (right) took over this moribund program after Temple went 0-11 in 2005.  This year's offense is weaker than last year's eleven, as Golden has made numerous changes.  The new, balanced offense is difficult to master, and to make matters worse, Temple is playing more true freshman than any other team in Division I-A.  In two or three years, this offense should be quite good, but for now, your looking at an offense on par with junior varsity teams in BCS conferences.
Wide Receiver
Sophomore Bruce Francis and seniors Jamel Harris and Nick Santa Cruz have split time at the "X" (split end)receiver position (usually the left-side receiver).  Francis is the Owls' leading receiver so far with 10 receptions for 136 yards.  He came to Temple as a walk-on and earned a scholarship.  He doesn't have the size or the blinding speed like your typical SEC receiver, so Vanderbilt might be able to reduce their cushion on this side of the secondary and prevent him from getting free with bump and run coverage.
Z-receiver (flanker, usually lining up on the right side) Mike Holley is small but more muscular than Francis.  The former cornerback is a decent downfield blocker and is more of a possession receiver.  He will not burn anybody with a deep route.
Tight End
This is one of those positions where freshmen dominate the roster.  True freshmen Marcus Brown and Steve Maneri occupy the two-deep.  Brown is the starter.  He is strictly a blocker with little pass receiving skills.  So far, he has two receptions for three yards.  Maneri is more of a receiver than a blocker.   He has grabbed four passes for 29 yards.
Offensive Line
The right side of the Temple line has the experienced players, while the left side is full of underclassmen.  Right tackle Elliott Seifert, a fifth-year senior, is the leader of this unit and best offensive player on the team.  He is an Eagle Scout and highly intelligent player who will give Chris Booker a tough opponent Saturday night.
Right guard Neil Dickson is another fifth-year senior, but most of his past experience has been on the defensive side of the ball.  He is not as strong as most SEC guards, so Vandy's defensive linemen might find some success breaking through the line and controlling the gaps on either side of him.
Center Alex Derenthal is an experienced sophomore and the second best player on the line.  He should give Jonathan Goff some stiff competition, but Goff should get the better of him more times than not.
Left guard Brison Manor has started all four games this year, and that represents the sophomore's career total as well.  Like Dickson, Manor is not as strong as your typical SEC guard.  Vanderbilt should be able to bunch up inside runs and succeed with an inside pass rush.
Left tackle Devin Tyler is a redshirt freshman who has started all four games this year.  He is much undersized at the D1-A level, and Curtis Gatewood should be able to control this area Saturday night.
True freshman Vaughn Charlton started his first game last week against Western Michigan.  He completed four of eight passes with one interception for 46 yards before giving way to sophomore Adam DiMichelle.  DiMichelle, a former Penn State signee, started the first three games without much success.  In the WMU game, he was 8 for 18 with two interceptions for 94 yards.  Charlton and DiMichelle have combined for a 6.4% interception rate, mostly due to having little pass protection.  A strong pass rush by Vandy should give the secondary more opportunities for interceptions.  One thing the Commodores' stop troops need to watch for is for either quarterback to take off and run.  It has been Temple's most successful maneuver.
True freshman Alex DiMichelle is Adam's brother.  He will split time with another true freshman, Jarrett Dunston, and senior Nate Schiccatano.  None of the three is likely to see the ball much, as Temple uses this position as a third guard.  Of course, that's not to say that they won't spring a fullback quick trap against Vandy.
True freshman Jason Harper is the starter, and senior Tim Brown is the chief backup.  These two have combined for 268 yards rushing.  Harper has been given a majority of the rushing attempts the last two weeks, and he has responded with some decent numbers.  Against the Broncos last week, he scored the Owls' only touchdown of the season and led Temple with a season-high 84 yards rushing on just 14 carries (with a long of 35 yards).  Harper is also the team's best threat to get a breakaway on a pass play.  He has the season-high pass reception when he took a short pass and broke away for a 67-yard reception against Louisville.
Coach Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio switched the Owls from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense when they took over the program.  They were hoping it would allow more flexibility and better pursuit with the ability to disguise the number of players rushing.  While the results haven't been any better this year, you must consider that Temple lost eight of their top nine tacklers and nine starters to graduation after last season.  Additionally, the offense is not helping out, forcing the stop troops to stay on the field too long.  Temple's opposition is running 10 more plays per game than the Owl offense is this year.  Considering the circumstances, the Owls have performed above expectations so far.
Temple's defensive statistics are only marginally better than their offensive statistics.  The numbers include the opening game against a Buffalo team that went 1-10 last year.  Against Minnesota, the Owls gave up four, first-quarter touchdowns.  Louisville topped 300 yards in both rushing and passing against the Owls. 
Here is a look at Temple's defensive statistics for the season:
Scoring Defense: 43.5 points per game ranks 118 out of 119 (just ahead of those other Owls at Florida Atlantic)
Vs. The Run: 228.2 yards per game ranks 116
Vs. The Pass: 214.0 yards per game ranks 85
Quarterback Sacks: five in four games ranks 92nd (tie)
Opp. Passing Efficiency: 146.08 ranks 101
Opp. Total Offense: 442.2 yards per game ranks 114
Tackles For Loss: 19 in four games ranks 88
Turnover Margin: -6 in four games ranks 110
Defensive Line
The Owls have good size up front, but the players have not been all that mobile so far.  Opponents are running the ball off-tackle and inside tackle with equal success so far.
Nose tackle Terrance Knighton is the king of this unit.  The 6-4, 305-pound sophomore made a name for himself last year with an 11-tackle game against Navy.  Knighton leads the defensive line this year with 19 tackles, two for losses, and one quarterback sack.  He has also batted away three passes.  He is deceivingly quick for his size.
Defensive tackle Andre Neblett is another true freshman starter.  He has recorded just five tackles in four games with none of the tackles going for losses.  His backup, Alston Smith is small for a tackle at 5-11.
Defensive end Doug Morris has registered 10 tackles this year.  He has a quarterback sack in that total.  The senior is seeing his first action at this level after failing to play as a JUCO transfer last season.  David Fatherly started two games here before being moved to backup at the rush linebacker spot.
With most 3-4 defenses, the linebackers usually accumulate most of the tackles on running plays, a good deal of the sacks, and a chunk of the tackles on completed passes.  Temple's leading tackler (actually a tie for first) is inside linebacker Walter Mebane.  He has made 24 tackles and has been credited with 3.5 tackles for loss. 
Fellow inside linebacker Junior Galette has added 23 tackles.  The true freshman is small but quick and pursues quite ably.  Vandy's offensive line needs to take special care in watching him, as he has the best skills at getting into the backfield and busting up a play.
Outside linebacker John Haley is, you guessed it, a true freshman.  He is even smaller than Galette, as he is more like a strong safety than a college linebacker.  Haley has made eight tackles, although he just started for the first time last week.  He can use his above-average speed to get by an offensive linemen and blind-side a quarterback.  His cousin is former NFL All-Pro Charles Haley.
Leyon Azubuike mans the rush linebacker position.  The sophomore has yet to successfully terminate his pass rush with a sack.  The former tight end and defensive end is having to learn his third position in three years.  Former Kentucky basketball player Kelanna Azubuike is his cousin.
The defensive backs have had to make too many tackles, and that's bad news for any defense.  The starting four players have failed to intercept a pass, and only one of the quartet has broken up a pass.  Enemy quarterbacks are gaining 8.4 yards per pass attempt against Temple, so that means that not only are they completing a healthy percentage of their passes, they are getting a sizable chunk of yardage as well.
Sophomore left cornerback Evan Cooper is tied for the lead with Mebane in tackles with 24.  Nine of those tackles have been assists.   His dad played for the Philadelphia Eagles after a fine career at Michigan.  George Smith and Sean Walker should be able to get open in his zone.
David Reese occupies the opposite corner position.  The senior has seen little action over the course of his career prior to gaining a starting berth this year.  He has made 16 tackles.  He will definitely need help against Earl Bennett, as he doesn't have the skills necessary to be isolated one-on-one with him.
Strong Safety Chris Page is the only returning starter from last season who is starting this year.  He has the lone defended pass by the starters, and he has made 15 tackles.  He hits hard and can force fumbles.
What's one more true freshman starter when you have so many already?  Free Safety Wilbert Brinson is also backed up by a true freshman, Anthony Ferla.  Unlike the other true freshmen starters on the team, Brinson graduated high school early and enrolled in Temple in January of this year.  He was able to participate in spring drills.  Brinson has 13 tackles in four games.  Ferla has broken up one pass in his reserve role.
Special Teams
With all the woes they have had on offense and defense, you would hope Temple could have one bright spot and possess an outstanding special teams.  Alas, that is not the case.  The Owls don't have enough quality players to excel in this part of the game. 
Field goal kicker Danny Murphy has made just one of three attempts.  The made field goal came from just 20 yards.  One of the other two attempts was blocked.
Punter Jake Brownell has averaged a respectable 39.9 yards per punt, but opponents have averaged 12.2 yards per punt return against the Owls.  Taking out the one breakaway 47 yard return they allowed last week, they are still giving up 10.2 yards per return on the others.
Brownell also kicks off and gets most of his kicks inside the opponents' five yard line.  Again, the coverage has been weak, and opponents have averaged about 25 yards per kick return against them.  This could be the week that Alex Washington breaks off a long return, but let's hope Temple only kicks off one time against Vanderbilt.
Tim Brown has been replaced as punt returner after Temple occupies the 119th and last spot in punt return average.  For the season, the Owls are averaging a loss of 1.4 yards every time they attempt a punt return.  Of course, opponents have only needed to punt 14 times, and the Owls have attempted a return just five of those times.
Temple ranks near the bottom in kick return average at 16.1 yards per return.  Harper, who owns the only big running and receiving plays this year, owns the only decent kick return.  He took one back 30 yards earlier this season.  Take that one out, and the Owls have averaged just 15.1 yards per return.  Considering Vanderbilt is among the nation's leaders in kickoff coverage (yielding just 14.6 yards per opponent kick return), Temple doesn't expect to start in good field position every time Vanderbilt kicks off.
When a team goes 0-11, being outscored 45-10, loses most of their better players, and brings in a new coach with sweeping changes in strategy, it doesn't bode well for them.  Temple is on the verge of going 0-12 this year, unless they can pull off a humongous upset.  After Vanderbilt, the Owls must host an all-of-a sudden dominating Kent State team, face Clemson in Charlotte, NC, venture to Dekalb, IL to face Northern Illinois, host Bowling Green and Central Michigan, and then close at Penn State and at Navy.  In their minds, the Vanderbilt game might be the most winnable left on their slate.
Tune in tomorrow for my preview of the game.  My PiRate ratings were released earlier this morning and show Vandy to be a five-touchdown favorite.

Commodores Daily Top Stories