Today, we’re 96 days away from the kickoff of the 2012 college football season. As such, we’ll review the No. 96 team in our Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football previews, the Temple Owls.
2012 will be a season of challenged for Steve Addazio‘s team as they return a limited number of starters on both sides of the ball and re-enter the Big East Conference. There’s no doubt, however, that Addazio has Temple alumni and fans in Philadelphia firmly in his corner regardless of how the Owls finish this fall.
Dual-threat quarterback Chris Coyer will lead the offense for the Owls in 2012. Coyer’s elusiveness and ability to throw on the run are both vital to his continued success in igniting a Temple offense that will be looking for playmakers this fall to maintain momentum. Throwing on the run and escaping the pocket will be something Coyer will certainly be forced to do given the loss of four offensive linemen from 2011’s 9-4 squad.
Coyer will be surrounded by a solid strength and speed duo of running backs in Matt Brown and Kenny Harper. At 5’5′, Brown is a shifty and fleet speed back with great ability to hit holes and pick up a solid yards per carry average. Harper, on the other hand, is the bruiser who made a strong impression during spring practice and could in fact turn out to be a workhorse for the Owls this fall.
There also remains a slight possibility that Boston College transfer Montel Harris could get eligibility issues worked out in time to be able to suit up this fall, but there doesn’t really appear to be a consensus among Temple media that this is a certainty.
Coyer will look toward junior Deon Miller as his primary target in the passing game, but only by default, given that Miller is the leading receiver with 18 catches from 2011.
Temple’s offensive line concerns, however, outweigh all others that Steve Addazio will be forced to deal with as fall practice rolls around. Young, inexperienced players will be forced to step up and play serious minutes at a high level for any facet of the Owls’ potentially powerful offense to be successful.
The Temple defense will be looking for plenty of new faces to step in and fill holes left by multiple players who are no longer a part of the program. Up front, the Owls lose five players who made a major impact not only in terms of their percentage of the overall number of tackles, but also in unquestioned leadership.
Several young men will have the chance to step up into much more extensive roles this season and make a mark on the defensive side of the football. Linebackers Ahkeem Smith and Nate D. Smith will be depended upon to be the second line of defense behind the inexperienced defensive line. The “Smiths” have the type of impact ability to change a game, and their collective ability to get pressure in the backfield and disrupt opposing offenses will go a long way towards Temple’s defensive success in 2012.
Safeties Nate Smith and Justin Gildea will anchor a secondary which will be challenged consistently unless the new defensive front can beat opposing offensive lines off the snap.
In general, young players will need to step up for the Owls to have a substantial defensive presence and allow their clock-control, run-focused offense to stay on the field as long as possible to control possession and the flow of games.
The first five games of the Owls’ season will certainly set the tone for the team’s finish in 2012. Home contests to start the season against the Villanova Wildcats and Maryland Terrapins are both winnable, but could be more of a test than they appear to be on paper. Weeks 3 and 4, however, are the true test. Games against Penn State in Happy Valley and at home against the deceptive South Florida Bulls could show how prepared Addazio’s young troops are to take on 2012 and return to another first-tier bowl game.
In short, the young Temple Owls certainly will not be the 9-4 team of 2011 in terms of experience, but talent is not lacking. How well this talent translates to execution will tell the tale at Lincoln Financial this fall.