The Temple Owls will be transitioning to a pro-style of offense under new head coach Matt Rhule in 2013 and that will force some uncomfortable transitions next fall. Connor Reilly is going to take his first meaningful snaps under center after leap-frogging the returning starters at quarterback thanks his arm fitting more naturally into what Rhule would like to do on offense. But those snaps won’t mean much for Reilly if he doesn’t have a reliable target to throw to. Can Jalen Fitzpatrick step up as a true No. 1 receiver?
If 2012 was any indication, Temple may not have much choice. Fitzpatrick led the team last season with 30 catches for 363 yards and two touchdowns. He was the only player to catch more than 17 passes on the year or surpass 137 yards receiving. Fitzpatrick was also one of just two players, including tight end Cody Booth, to have multiple receiving touchdowns. He’s the only proven commodity in the Temple receiving corps heading into 2013 and he will need to prove he has a lot more to offer if the Owls have any shot.
Temple might get some help for Fitzpatrick from some previously unknown playmakers. Sophomore John Christopher and seniors Deon Miller and Ryan Alderman all return in 2013, but the three combined for just 21 catches last year in Steve Addazio’s run-heavy offensive attack. The Owls will also get some young talent into the mix in 2013, but it is impossible to tell just how much they will be able to contribute next season.
That puts the pressure on Fitzpatrick to take his game to the next level and become a true No. 1 receiver in a more pass-oriented Temple offense in 2013. If he can do that, the Owls reclamation project under Rhule will get a huge boost and Temple could possibly be a factor in the American Athletic Conference sooner than expected.