Schedule Preview: Temple


by - Correspondent -
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Offense


Walter Washington decided to leave Temple a year early and declare for the NFL draft. Washington was a solid dual-threat quarterback, who quickly jumped to fourth in all purpose yardage in Temple history. He actually passed Mike McGann, who will be the starter this year at quarterback. McGann is third on Temple's career passing list with 4,498 yards. McGann decided to redshirt last season. Apparently, he knew Washington would not be returning. McGann gives the Owls solid play at quarterback. There is not another quarterback on the roster that has thrown a pass in college.


The Owls are counting on junior college transfer Tim Brown at running back. Brown rushed for 432 yards last season. The Owls are hoping he can breakout this year. He is a capable receiver out of the backfield, and he has good agility in the open field. Umar Ferguson will play behind Brown. Ferguson is 215 pound bruiser. He bench presses 405 pounds.


Temple is returning to a more conventional offensive set this year. They used three wide receivers frequently in 2004, but they lost their top three receivers to graduation. Senior Mike Holley is the top target, and he will combine with junior Jamel Harris. Holley missed last season because of academics, but he has rededicated himself. He showcased an unselfish attitude by taking snaps at quarterback in the spring. Harris played well in the spring game catching eight passes for 95 yards. Senior Brian Allbrooks gives the Owls a dependable third receiver after catching 20 passes last season. Anthony Martinez and Leyon Azubuike will compete at tight end. Martinez is the more powerful and bigger tight end. Azubuike is the faster and better receiver.


The strength of the Owls may be the offensive line. They have a big and experienced group returning to protect McGann. 6-6 295 pound John Gross will start at left tackle to protect McGann’s blind side. 6-7 300 pound Elliot Seifert will start at right tackle, and he is a player that NFL scouts will keep an eye on. Seifert has an attractive wing span that garners attention. Tariq Sanders has starting experience at tackle, but he will likely move inside to add beef on the interior. Senior Stephen Bell and junior Sam McNaulty are slated to start at left and right guard respectively. The center position belongs to redshirt freshman Alex Derenthal. After a good showing of smarts and quick feet in the spring, Derenthal was named one of the most improved players of the spring.


Defense


Head coach Bobby Wallace feels very confident in the returning defensive line. The Owls will start four seniors up front if Adam Fichter can return from a stress fracture. 2004 All-Big East second team selection Mike Mendenhall returns to team with Rodney Wormley at the end positions. Antwon Burton returns to plug running lanes in the middle. If Fichter is healthy, this will be a solid group. Burton’s 315 pound frame allows him to occupy multiple blockers to free up the ends. Sophomore Phillip Simpson and senior JC Braker are the top backups at defensive end. Senior Randy Johnson and Neil Dickson will work their way into the rotation at tackle.


The Owls defense will greatly miss Rian Wallace. Wallace posted 101 tackles last season, and he was force for the Owls on defense. The Owls run a 4-2-5 on defense, and look for redshirt freshman Rick Costa to be one of the starters. Costa had an impressive spring to give himself the inside track. Senior Manuel Tapia will battle Costa after spending much of his career on special teams. Costa will likely get the nod as the staff would like a player with more eligibility remaining to learn on the job. Junior Ryan Gore will likely start at strongside linebacker after spending his first 29 games primarily as a nickel back. Senior Christian Dunbar will play behind Gore. Gore has 27 career tackles, but the coaches liked what they saw from him in the spring at linebacker.


Temple returns two seniors at the cornerback position, Ray Lamb and Andrew Turner. Lamb is a very hard worker. He tore his ACL in the spring of 2004 and rehabilitated in time to start six games. Turner started seven games in 2004, and he made 41 tackles and two interceptions. The Owls utilize a strong safety, a free safety, and an owl safety. Junior Durrell Davis will be the starter at free safety. Davis will have to hold off JUCO transfer Garrett Schulz. Bobby Fulmore and Justin Johnson are expected to start at strong and owl safety respectively. The Owls signed seven defensive backs to add depth to the secondary. JUCO transfers Schulz and Chris Page are expected to contribute right away.


Special Teams


Placekicking has been a painful adventure recently for Temple. The Owls will have three kickers to choose from. Seniors Ryan Lux and Johnny Wilaikul are the experienced players. Lux connected on 9 of 17 with a long of 41, while Wilaikul missed his only attempt. Coach Wallace brought in Danny Murphy from JUCO, but he is an unknown.


The Owls have a pair of senior punters, but neither has been impressive. Mike McLaughlin averaged 37.9 yards per punt, and Jake Hendy averaged 37.1. The two will battle for the starting job.


The Owl lost both of their primary return specialists. Mike Holley, Travis Shelton, and Tim Brown are expected to be the first options in the return game.


Overview


To be honest, this is the first break Clemson gets in the schedule. Coach Wallace has tried to patch a group of JUCO players together, and the results have not been positive. McGann is solid, and he will have a solid line to throw behind, but the positives end there. The Owls must find away stop people as they gave up 437 yards per game last season. There is a reason the Big East asked Temple to leave despite losing Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Miami.

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