Opponents preview: Temple offense

Part two of BadgerNation.com's glance at the Owls 2005 prospects

2004 by the numbers

Total offense: 393.7 yards per game (No. 41 nationally)
Scoring offense: 21.6 points per game (89)
Passing offense: 220.7 (52)
Passing efficiency: 121.9 (64)
Rushing offense: 173.0 (37)
Touchdowns: 30 – 19 rushing, 11 passing
Third-down conversions: 37 percent, 64 of 172
Turnover margin: +2 (49) – lost six interceptions and 11 of 20 fumbles
Field goal kicking: 9 of 18
Kick returns: 19.3 (73)
Punt returns: 7.3 (86)

Quarterbacks analysis

Last season, Walter Washington was a star on a team that limped to a 2-9 finish. But after his breakout, record-setting season, he decided to forego his senior year.

Thus, after injuries took away part of his 2003 season and almost all of 2004, fifth-year senior Mike McGann again takes the reins of the Owls' offense. In 26 career starts, McGann has shown that he is capable, if somewhat turnover-prone, and at his direction Temple should be able to move the ball at a decent clip this year, though he is unlikely to match Washington's productivity.

McGann (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) first earned the starting job as a true freshman four years ago. He played in eight games that year, starting seven and completing 87 of 190 passes for 934 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. The following year he started all 12 games, when he went 173 of 353 for 1,994, 13 scores and 22 interceptions.

McGann was 123 of 235 for 1,405 yards, 5 scores and 6 interceptions through eight games and seven starts in 2003, before an injury sidelined him at the end of the season. He played in one game in reserve last year, going 7-for-12 for 165 yards and a touchdown before a season-ending injury forced him to take a medical redshirt.

McGann's 4,498 career passing yards ranks third on Temple's all-time list.

If McGann cannot stay healthy, the Owls' fortunes look considerably less pleasant. The backup coming out of spring practice is sophomore Phillip Sampson (6-2, 255), a high school quarterback who played defensive end last year and had seven tackles in eight games. Incoming freshmen Joe DeSanzo (6-2, 210) and Shane Kelly (6-4, 215) will fill out the depth chart.

Offensive line analysis

There is experience up front with three returning starters. Left tackle John Gross, a 6-6, 295-pound senior, has started 23 straight games at guard and tackle. The right side boasts a pair of veterans who started all 11 games last year in senior guard Stephen Bell (6-4, 310) and junior Elliot Seifert (6-7, 300).

Junior Sam McNaulty (6-3, 320) redshirted last season after arriving in Philadelphia as a junior-college transfer from the City College of San Francisco. But he left spring practices as the expected starter at left guard. The top reserves at guard are junior Leigh Denman (6-4, 315) and senior Stan Primus (6-4, 315), a converted defensive tackle.

The other new starter is redshirt freshman center Alex Derenthal (6-4, 280). Senior Joe Johnsonbaugh (6-0, 285) is expected to be his primary backup.

The Owls top reserve offensive lineman is junior left tackle Tariq Sanders (6-6, 310), who was limited this spring by an injury but started seven games at the position last year, with Gross suiting up at guard. Redshirt freshman tackle Jabari Ferguson (6-4, 290) also provides depth.

Receivers analysis

Temple is expected to play more of a two-back scheme this year, as opposed to the spread style Washington directed last year, so the team will have to rely less heavily on a breadth of receivers. Still, the Owls face the troubling task of replacing three starters at the position from a year ago. That trio — Phil Goodman, Buchie Ibeh and Ikey Chuku — combined for 100 receptions, 1,478 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago. That represented 61 percent of the team's receiving yards, 51 percent of its catches and all but two of its aerial touchdowns.

Temple returns two receivers who had double-digit reception totals a year ago, and a third, senior Mike Holley, who likely would have started at slot receiver in 2004 if he had not been ruled ineligible.

The Owls will still use their three wide sets, but Holley (5-10, 180), a converted cornerback with 23 games experience, will likely rotate with senior Brian Allbrooks (5-11, 180) and junior Jamel Harris (6-1, 185) when Temple uses two receivers. Harris has played in 20 games; he had 17 catches for 217 yards last year. Allbrooks, who transferred from Grossmont junior college before last season, was fifth on the team with 20 receptions and fourth with 220 receiving yards.

Travis Shelton (5-10, 185) may be one to watch. As a true freshman last year he caught just four passes, but he picked up 77 yards on those catches, including a 56-yard score. He is considered the team's fastest receiver.

Juniors Lester Shelton (5-10, 180), Michael Loveland (6-0, 185) and Bruce Gordon (5-11, 190), a Purdue transfer, will also likely see playing time.

Redshirt freshman Leyon Azubuike (6-3, 235) and senior Anthony Martinez (6-4, 250) will split up the duties at tight end.

Running backs analysis

Last year, the running game revolved around quarterback Washington, who had 222 attempts, 889 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. If not for yards lost to sacks, he likely would have had an 1,000-yard season.

But with Washington gone, and the less fleet footed McGann under center, senior running backs Tim Brown (5-8, 185) and Umar Ferguson (6-0, 215) will have an opportunity to share the running load, after combining for 925 yards and four touchdowns on 212 carries last season.

Brown was also second on the team in receptions with 33, albeit for just 199 yards and one score. Ferguson caught 15 passes for 119 yards.

Senior Michael Billops (5-8, 184), who had 11 carries for 58 yards last year, will also be in the mix.

Kicker Ryan Lux (6-3, 200) returns to the fray this season. A senior, he made just 9 of 17 field goal attempts last year, including just 8 of 13 from inside 40 yards. Lux, however, was a first-team junior-college All-American before coming to Temple last season.

Coming out of spring ball, Tim Brown is listed as the No. 1 at kick and punt returner, replacing a pair of departed seniors at those positions.

Matching up with Wisconsin

In order to have any chance, Temple's veteran-laden offensive line would have to absolutely dominate the Badgers' young defensive line. If the Owls can establish a running game and give McGann time to throw, they can keep their own hazardous defense off the field and stay in the game. But unfortunately for Temple, it is not going to work out that way.

Temple's line is respectable, but it will have a tough time winning it competition with UW's talented, if largely inexperienced, defensive line. And it is important to note that the Owls gave up 29 sacks last season. McGann is a competent quarterback, but expect the Badgers to put a lot of pressure on him.

Furthermore, Temple's receivers do not match up well with what should be a physical UW secondary. In an uncommon twist, the Badgers corners should have a size advantage on the Temple receiving corps. UW's increased tendency to play press coverage also does not play into the Owls' favor.

The Badgers have to like their matchup in this one.

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