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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 75: Temple

It was just a matter of time. Temple was a launching pad, not a destination for Al Golden, and the question wasn’t whether he’d leave for greener pastures, wasn’t whether when he’d leave for greener pastures, but rather which program would be the lucky beneficiary of his coaching talents. He was sought after as early as in 2007, after Temple posted its first four-win mark since 2002. U.C.L.A. made an inquiry, though it never moved beyond mere fascination. After last season, after winning 17 games over two years, Golden’s stock was probably as high as it was going to get at Temple. So Miami (Fla.) called, as did a few others, and Golden struck while the iron was hot. Temple moves on, replacing the architect behind its revival with the architect behind Florida’s rapid offensive demise over the last two seasons.

Conference
MAC, East

Location
Philadelphia

Nickname
Owls

Returning starters
13 (8 offense, 5 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 44

2010 record
(8-4, 5-3)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 51

2011 schedule

  • Sept. 1
    Villanova
  • Sept. 10
    at Akron
  • Sept. 17
    Penn St.
  • Sept. 24
    at Maryland
  • Oct. 1
    Toledo
  • Oct. 8
    at Ball St.
  • Oct. 15
    Buffalo
  • Oct. 22
    at Bowling Green
  • Nov. 2
    at Ohio
  • Nov. 9
    Miami (Ohio)
  • Nov. 19
    Army
  • Nov. 25
    Kent St.

Last year’s prediction

The Owls are the clear favorites in the MAC; an overwhelming choice to reach bowl play for the second consecutive season; and, in my mind, a very realistic contender for a Top 25 finish. It will take some help to get there: a win over Connecticut, for instance, as well as a perfect conference mark. Certainly doable. Let’s temper our expectations a bit, however. If Temple does win 10 games, it won’t be the prettiest 10-win team — in terms of its resume — we’ve ever seen. For all its talent, Temple still doesn’t match up with Connecticut or Penn State, the two B.C.S. conference programs on the schedule. Not that it matters much. When it comes to the MAC, Temple is in a class by itself. If you saw this coming, raise your hand.

2010 recap

In a nutshell On the resume: eight wins, five in conference play; one win against an eventual B.C.S. bowl participant; four losses, one to a nationally-ranked power, one to an eight-win team, two against teams that combined for 21 wins. Yet Temple remained home during bowl play while teams like Middle Tennessee State, UTEP and E.C.U. continued their season, which speaks to the fact that sponsors and tie-ins dictate our bowl matchups far more than actual results. The lack of a bowl trip prevented Temple from matching 2009’s nine-win finish, though the 17 wins over two years was a program-high since 1978-79. It had been that long since T.U. posted back-to-back winning seasons, in fact. But the sting of being passed over for less-worthy options for a second bowl trip is the final memory we take from an otherwise fine 2010 campaign, even if it’s somewhat disappointing to think about the fact that Golden was never able to get the Owls to the top of the MAC.

High point A 30-16 win over Connecticut capped a 3-0 start to the year. No, Temple didn’t deserve a Fiesta Bowl bid, but it deserved something. A fourth quarter Connecticut lead evaporated over the final nine minutes, as the Owls closed with a 16-0 run. A week later, Temple held a second half lead at Penn State but couldn’t hold on. Penn State fans certainly noticed the job their former tight end was doing in Philadelphia.

Low point Two losses to end the year. Then 8-2, Temple really needed to win just one to guarantee a bowl berth; I thought the bowl bid was guaranteed anyway, actually. The Owls had a shot at Ohio but never seemed the same after an early touchdown was called back due to holding. A week later, Miami (Ohio) dominated in a 23-3 win.

Tidbit As noted earlier, Temple’s 17 wins from 2009-10 tied the program record for wins over back-to-back seasons. The 22 wins from 2008-10 was Temple’s most over a three-year span since winning 23 from 1973-75 under Wayne Hardin – Hardin, by the way, is a College Football Hall of Fame nominee for 2011. The Owls also outscored the opposition for the third straight year for the first time since 1984-86; amazingly, the 1986 team outscored its opponents by 37 points despite going 0-11. How did that happen? Because in 1988, Heisman runner-up Paul Palmer acknowledged accepting a $5,000 loan from an agent prior to the start of his memorable season. That forced Temple to forfeit its six wins over Western Michigan, Florida A&M, Pittsburgh, East Carolina, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. So the Owls join U.S.C., Florida State, Alabama and others among teams who outscored the opposition but later finished winless due to N.C.A.A. violations.

Former players in the N.F.L.

10 DE Raheem Brock (Seattle), S Dominique Harris (Tampa Bay), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (Philadelphia), LB Alex Joseph (San Francisco), DT Terrance Knighton (Jacksonville), OT Steve Maneri (New England), FB Jason McKie (Baltimore), DT Andre Neblett (Carolina), DE Brian Sanford (Cleveland

Arbitrary top five list

Movies featuring Tom Sizemore
1. “Saving Private Ryan,” 1998.
2. “Heat,” 1995.
3. ”True Romance,” 1993.
4. “Black Hawk Down,” 2001.
5. “Bringing Out the Dead,” 1999.

Coaching

Steve Addazio (Central Connecticut State ’81), entering his first season. This is a homecoming of sorts for the former Florida assistant, who was born and educated in Connecticut and whose college coaching career begin in the Northeast. In terms of his resume, Addazio is extremely qualified – prior to the Golden-led resurgence, one would have said Addazio was overqualified for this position. He spent the last six years at Florida, helping the Gators to national titles in 2006 and 2008. Those championships came when Addazio was leading the U.F. offensive line; even when he came under fire for his play-calling as coordinator, Addazio remained one of the most well-regarded line coaches in the country. About his time as coordinator: Florida suffered a pretty significant slide offensively under Addazio’s watch over the last two years, particularly a year ago as the Gators attempted to replace Tim Tebow and at least partly implement a system better suited for a first-year starting quarterback. Of course, the slide was met with massive criticism from the Florida fan base, which was not torn up over Addazio’s move to the MAC. Temple marks his first non-B.C.S. conference coaching position: stints at Indiana, Notre Dame and Syracuse join his six-year tenure in Gainesville. His players at Florida have raved about Addazio’s ability to motivate – on Saturdays or otherwise – which makes him an intriguing head coach prospect. He’s a nice fit, thanks to his experience in the region and his recruiting ability. Whether he can continue Golden’s success, let alone build upon it, remains to be seen.

Tidbit (coaching edition) Addazio retained two former Golden assistants, both on the offensive side of the ball. One is co-coordinator Matt Rhule, who was one of the two in-house candidates to replace Golden last December. Rhule will share coordinator duties with former Florida quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has also coached at Michigan, among other stops. The second retained assistant is running backs Tyree Foreman, who’s done an outstanding job with Temple’s young back over the last two years. Among the key new faces: former U.F. co-defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, who has worked at almost every school in the F.B.S.; former Marshall assistant Zach Smith as wide receivers coach; and another former Marshall assistant, Sean Cronin, as defensive line coach.

Players to watch

The offense won’t change much, though Addazio will want to incorporate some of the tricks he learned at Florida into a pro-style attack. That didn’t go all that well in Gainesville last fall, of course. But the message sent by retaining Rhule and hiring Loeffler is that Temple won’t do things all that differently, which is a pretty wise move considering T.U. has put together back-to-back 300-point seasons. Another wise move? As first-year coaches typically do, Addazio has opened the depth chart up completely.

You know the running game is going hum along, thanks to the return of two of the MAC’s best backs. But the offensive line does need to be retooled a bit, especially on the right side, where the Owls lost a pair of all-conference picks in Colin Madison and Darius Morris. While that type of experience and talent is hard to duplicate, Temple can tout as many as eight linemen with starting experience. Case in point: each of the two players jockeying for the starting nod at right tackle, junior Martin Wallace and sophomore Darryl Pringle, played in 12 games at left tackle last fall, starting a pair. This side of the line also welcomes back junior Sean Boyle, who was a fixture in the rotation in 2009 but missed last season due to injury.

Boyle’s older brother, Pat, should retain his role at left guard. There’s some healthy competition at left tackle, where the lineman who began last season as the starter, Steve Caputo, battles the lineman who ended last year as the starter, Derek Dennis. Caputo did lose his job to injury, not ineffectiveness, so he’d normally be entitled to return to his starting role. The new coaching staff likely changes that. Senior John Palumbo is at center, where he made nine starts a year ago.

Back to those two backs. One is Bernard Pierce, who has proven he can play at a high level but has yet to prove he can play at a high level over the span of a season. As in his breakout 2009 campaign, last fall found Pierce derailed by injuries: slightly dinged up to start the year, Pierce tweaked his ankle in September and then suffered a season-ending injury in the painful loss to Ohio. He continued to produce when on the field, posting 728 yards on the ground with a team-best 10 scores, but his battle with injuries is becoming a trend. Despite being about 5’5 and 170 pounds, fellow junior Matt Brown remains Temple’s steadiest back. He led the Owls with 830 yards rushing last fall, adding seven touchdowns, and is a terrific second option. He missed the spring for a violation of team rules but will be back in the fall.

There’s a quarterback competition brewing, one fueled by the coaching change. If Golden had returned, I think that former walk-on Mike Gerardi (1,290 yards passing, 10 scores) would be the clear starter. He replaced an inconsistent Chester Stewart roughly midway through the year, granting some much-needed balance to the offense. While he didn’t close strong, Gerardi probably did enough to retain his role. Stewart bounced back and had a strong spring, however, and the fresh slate provided by Addazio’s hire improves his chances. Sophomore Chris Coyer is also in the mix, as is JUCO transfer Clinton Granger,who might end up being the answer once he gets comfortable with this offense.

Four all-MAC picks must be replaced on defense. That’s a tall task for any program, whether SEC, MAC or otherwise, and how the Owls fare in finding new starters will say much about how well Golden recruited over his last three years with the program. This is especially so up front, where the Owls lost both starting tackles. At least there’s senior end Adrian Robinson, a former MAC Defensive Player of the Year who ranks among the conference’s best.

With Robinson (38 tackles, 3.5 sacks) back in the fold, all is right at end. Add talents like sophomore Shahid Paulhill and junior Kadeem Custis into the mix and you have a very good top three at the position. Paulhill is massive: big enough to play inside yet athletic enough to play end, he has a bright future. Add in sophomore Sean Daniels (four sacks), who flashed terrific pass rush ability as a freshman, and you have a great corps of ends. But the interior of the line is an issue, as you’d expect.

How do you replace a Muhammad Wilkerson and Elisha Joseph? You really don’t, unfortunately. At least not right away: the linemen coming up the pipeline are talented, but they need time to develop. Such is the case with sophomore Kamal Johnson, who can play inside or out, like Paulhill. Another sophomore, Levi Brown, played in 10 games as a reserve in 2010. This second-year pairing is talented, just not game-tested. It’s logical to expect the rush defense to suffer because of that fact.

Two starters are gone at linebacker; the biggest is four-year starter Amara Kamara, who as much as any one player was able to taste Temple football at its lowest and highest points in recent memory. Senior Tahir Whitehead (56 tackles, 7.5 for loss) is the one full-time returning starter, though the Owls brings back a pair of part-timers in middle linebacker Stephen Johnson (31 tackles) and outside linebacker Quentin White, Jr. So that’s your starting trio, more than likely. All told, this is not quite the same front seven as a year ago.

More is lost in the secondary: Temple needs to find a new free safety to replace first-team all-MAC pick Jaiquawn Jarrett. I’m not sure if either Justin Gildea or Kevin Kroboth can make the transition over from strong safety, but the Owls should find a way to get their two experienced strong safeties on the field at the same time.

If T.U. goes elsewhere in its quest to replace Jarrett, it seems like senior Deonte Parker is the leading option. But he hasn’t played much thus far, participating in only four games last fall. Another option is junior Vaughn Carraway, who has bounced between offense and defense over the last two years.

Speaking of bouncing around: senior Kee-ayre Griffin (51 tackles, 1 interception) has found a home at cornerback after being squeezed out of the mix at running back by Pierce and Brown. We always knew he had the athleticism to excel on defense; it was really only a matter of getting things down in terms of technique, which has come with added snaps. His counterpart will be Maurice Jones, who has seven career starts under his belt. As elsewhere, experienced depth is a concern.

Position battle(s) to watch

Wide receiver Temple must be worried about the lack of experience at receiver. There’s dangerously little experience, in fact, so little that simple mathematics states that at least one, as many as three receivers without any game experience whatsoever will be thrust into key roles. One thing is sure: Rod Streater (30 catches for 481 yards) will lead the team in receptions. He took to the offense pretty quickly in his first season as a JUCO transfer, and should be stronger with another year under his belt. The Owls still need to find a second option; Streater becomes Temple’s top target, replacing Michael Campbell. Joe Jones should be that guy, should he reappear after what seemed like a one-year absence in 2010: the team’s leading receiver in 2009, Jones made only 11 grabs last fall thanks to injuries and inconsistent play. Is there anyone else? Well, there’s 6’5-inch sophomore Deon Miller, who has the size to create mismatches, and much, much smaller sophomore Ryan Alderman, who can do some work in the slot. But the Owls need more, which means an even rawer, younger receiver will need to step up to fill a role.

Game(s) to watch

Ohio is the MAC East favorite, so it hurts Temple to get the Bobcats on the road. If the Owls do win that game, however, they’ll get a huge leg up in the conference standings. The year begins with tough games mixed with road games, but T.U. could close strong with three straight games at home to end the season.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell Temple’s not going anywhere. Temple’s not going back to being the Temple of old, at least. I do think it’s going to be difficult for the Owls to maintain the two-year streak of eight wins or more, however. That’s due to a number of reasons, most notable of which is the coaching change. I think Addazio is a good coach, and will probably be a better head coach than he was a coordinator. This is the case with some, though not many, but I think how Addazio relates to and motives his players will be his primary asset. As will his ability to recruit, which means to me that T.U. will maintain its place as one of the MAC’s best on the recruiting trail. But there is bound to be some growing pains for this new staff, which might make for a slower start than we’ve seen over the last two years. There are issues with this roster as well. Temple has gotten by without a solid passing game but would really benefit from greater balance. Gerardi is a better passer than Stewart, so I’m thinking he should start: the Owls don’t need another runner, thanks to Pierce and Brown, though another receiver wouldn’t hurt. Then there’s the defense, which can’t possibly fare as well as it did a year ago. There are just several holes still unfilled at each stage of the defense, holes that Temple probably won’t be able to fill with commensurate talent in 2011. The schedule isn’t terrible, with Miami (Ohio), Army and Toledo coming at home, but I don’t think these Owls are good enough to win the MAC East. I’m not sure that the Owls were good enough to do so even if Golden had returned, to be honest. The Owls are bowl contenders but not much more. There are four better teams in the MAC, in my opinion.

Dream season A win at Ohio and, in a slight change, a strong finish. Temple tops last year’s record with a 9-3 regular season, complete with seven wins in MAC play and an East division championship.

Nightmare season We’re far removed from rock-bottom, but the Owls slide down to 4-8, 3-5 in the MAC.

In case you were wondering

Where do Temple fans congregate? You can find solid message board talk and recruiting coverage at Owl Scoop and Owls Daily. For a blog’s take, visit Temple Football Forever and The Owl’s Nest.

Word Count

Through 46 teams 129,583.

Up Next

Who is No. 74? Country and blues musician Monty Russell is scheduled to play a set every Tuesday for the foreseeable future at a local establishment in the city housing tomorrow’s university.

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Jeff says:

    Paul, nice job, but I think you’re severely underestimating this team and overestimating a few teams in the MAC. Re-rank for last year is 51, rank for the year is 75? We shouldn’t be anywhere near that much worse.

    Go Owls!

  2. batecher says:

    Louisiana Tech, located in Ruston, LA, is up next!

  3. Brandon says:

    Black Hawk Down as Sizemore’s 4th best? Has to be 1 or tied with Saving Private Ryan. BHD is the best depiction of modern warfare out there.

    Paul: No way it’s moving ahead of “Heat.” Third-best, maybe.

  4. Owlified says:

    Great stuff as always Paul! I’ll have a post about this ranking in a few minutes to spread the word. Excited for 2011.

  5. Burnt Orange says:

    Paul – really good of you to mention Wayne Hardin – the guy has never gotten enough credit for the job he did at Navy and Temple.

    Paul: He did a pretty good job at both stops. Not sure if he’s a Hall of Fame coach, but considering some of the guys that are in already, maybe he deserves the nod.

  6. BocaRocket says:

    Golden was 0-12 against MAC schools with winning records.The MAC as a Conference has been down for a few
    years. The Conference is moving up back to where it was in the early 2000′s with several teams just outside of the Top 25. Consequently it will be much harder to win let alone get a Division title or a MAC Championship in 2011.Ohio has a leg up in the MAC East because of its weak schedule.The MAC West is going to be a real dogfight between the top 3 or 4 teams.

  7. HW86 says:

    I think the Owlified site has changed hands or is broken. Just gobbledy gook now.

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