In a game where Temple needed to make a statement against an 0-3 UMass Minutemen team, the Owls started slow but eventually found a groove en route to 29-21 win. Standout performers Quincy Roche, Isaiah Wright and Sam Franklin left no doubt the Owls would reign victorious on Friday night.
Prior to the final minute of the first half, Temple’s offense managed just 118 yards on 29 plays, continuing their woes from the first two games. Even further, 58 of those yards came on one carry from Ryquell Armstead. It wasn’t until 1:04 left in the first half when Logan Marchi connected with Adonis Jennings for a 30 yard score that put the Owls up 10-7. On the opening play of UMass’ ensuing possession, Quincy Roche stripped Minutemen QB Andrew Ford and landed on the football to secure an Owls possession inside the red zone.
With 10 seconds left in the second quarter Marchi delivered again, this time to Keith Kirkwood for an 11 yard strike. Aaron Boumerhi missed the PAT and the Owls headed into halftime leading 16-7. 13 points in 54 seconds gave the Owls breathing room for the first time in the game.
The first half also featured the debut of true freshman QB Todd Centeio, who played 7 snaps, amassing 30 total yards. Logan Marchi had been missing throws leading up to the final minute, which likely had to do with the change up.
The Owls defense stayed poised for the second straight week, although Minutemen tallied 438 total yards. More than 100 of those came in the final 6 minutes of play when Temple had a lead secured. Leading tacklers Delvon Randall, Quincy Roche, and Sam Franklin all came to play in their respective positions. On the other end Temple’s offense racked up 387 yards.
Something to be excited about as an Owl fan was the resurgence of Ryquell Armstead. Even if the Owls run game
wasn’t necessarily dominant, big bursts for the junior halfback resulted in a favorable stat line of 17 carries for 91 yards. The Owls 119 rush yards were the highest so far this season.
The Minutemen continued to stick around, as an 0-4 start to the season is something no one on the UMass staff had in mind. QB Andrew Ford finished the game 23/37 for 377 yards and his leading receiver Sadiq Palmer caught 7 of them for 117 yards. The Minutemen kept it within one possession for a large portion of the 4th quarter trailing 22-14, and weren’t able to capitalize. The Owls drove down on the ensuing possession where Isaiah Wright’s highlight reel catch in the end zone extended the Owl’s lead to 29-14. A UMass score in garbage time resulted in the 29-21 final.
Conference play opens next Thursday in another short week at No. 22 South Florida. Keep with @TU_Sportsdesk throughout the week for analysis on the Owls opening AAC matchup.
In a 49-16 blowout loss, Temple football started the Geoff Collins era on the wrong foot, and Collins after the game admitted to reporters he “coached like a rookie at times” in the season opener. Notre Dame proved to be heavily overbearing for the Owls, and the matchup discussed in the SportsDesk pregame report of Temple’s young linebackers against the Irish’s stout offensive line, was the story on Saturday.
Just 33 seconds into the game HB Josh Adams crossed the pylons on Notre Dame’s second play from scrimmage. Brandon Wimbush connected with Equanimeous St. Brown for 37 yards on the play before, and the 70-yard drive set the tone for an afternoon where the Irish outgained Temple 606 to 330 in total yards.
In the season’s first look at Temple’s offense, Logan Marchi took the reigns as starting quarterback and played like a quarterback with potential, in their first game as starter. The offense responded on the opening play as Marchi rolled out on a bootleg to hit Adonis Jennings for a 17 yard-reception to set up the Owls on their 40 yard line. The catch and run quieted a sold out crowd of 77,622 at the newly renovated Notre Dame stadium. The Owls gained 34 yards on the opening drive that ended in an Alex Starzyk punt, giving the ball back to a hot Notre Dame offense.
The first 12 minutes of action for Temple’s offense featured a sack, three penalties, and no points. A large reason why the Owls trailed 21-3 at the end of the first quarter (Austin Jones 36-yd FG 2:23 1Q) came as a result of the inexperience on both sides of the ball, a new coaching staff, and an exceptional rushing attack from the Irish. Josh Adams broke the 100-yard mark before the second quarter even started. Temple’s inexperienced linebacking corp featuring all first year starters Sam Franklin (so.), Shaun Bradley (so.), and Isaiah Graham Mobley (fr.) had all types of trouble shedding blocks, allowing Irish runners to reach the secondary before getting touched on most occasions. It’s never a good sign when both starting safeties, Delvon Randall and Sean Chandler, lead the team in total tackles.
Temple played a better second quarter which saw the first touchdown of the Owls’ season, a 12 yard, well-defended connection between Logan Marchi and Keith Kirkwood. The play capped an 11-play, 70 yard drive that featured 5 first downs and offered a sign of life for the Owls. They went into halftime trailing 28-10.
The second half featured a 21-6 Irish outscoring of the Owls, and there wasn’t much positives to take away on Temple’s end. The final 30 minutes saw even more of a rush attack from Notre Dame, as well as the emergence of Brandon Wimbush as a reliable option at signal caller for years to come. Josh Adams finished the game with 19 carries for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns; an eye-popping 8.5 yards per carry. Brandon Wimbush got it done in the air (17/30 184 yards 2 TDs) and on the ground with 106 yards on 12 carries and a score. Dexter Williams also broke onto the scene as a rushing compliment to Josh Adams, finishing with 124 yards on just 6 carries which included a 66-yard scamper to Temple’s 3 yard line in the final quarter.
Notre Dame outrushed Temple 422-85.
-According to Owlscoop.com’s Kyle Gauss, Logan Marchi was the first QB not named Phillip Walker to throw for at least 245 yards and 2 TDs without an INT since Adam DiMichele 2008.
-Mike Jones made his debut for the Owls starting at cornerback and recorded the first INT of the year for Temple’s defense. He returned the ball 43 yards and showed his playmaking ability in the secondary.
-Ryquell Armstead reminded fans why he has been talked about so highly by the coaching staff this season and showed flashes of big time playmaking ability. Although 19 carries for 67 yards is underwhelming, Amstead was running with purpose and made the most of his holes.
-Temple’s front 7 was embarrassed. Coming into the game there were doubts, but to allow 422 yards rushing on
any day is unacceptable. Defensive minded Geoff Collins will likely focus on suring that up moving forward.
-The Owls’ offensive line didn’t make it easy on the new starter at QB, and were not able to control the line of scrimmage against a Notre Dame defenseive line that was said to be one of the team’s weakest units.
-Red zone defense was very tough for Temple as they allowed the Irish to score all 6 times they were inside the 20 yard line.
-Missed tackles caused big plays, as if the Irish weren’t already controlling the line of scrimmage. There is no official count, but multiple big gains of 30+ yards for the Irish had a lot to do with their 606 total yards. It was the most yards allowed by Temple since 2013.
Temple will need to sure up problems they faced in week 1, and in a 12-game season it may be a benefit the Owls played Notre Dame in the first week. When conference play starts on Sept. 21st at South Florida, how Temple plays will dictate the outcome of the season more so than this loss to the Irish will. In between, Villanova and UMass should be games Geoff Collins takes advantage of to gain confidence back in the team.
Temple travels to South Bend Saturday to take on the fighting Irish for the first time since its four point loss in Philadelphia on Halloween in 2015. Although college gameday won’t be making the trip to Indiana for the game, the September 2nd showdown is still an important game for both teams. Here’s look at both teams, position by position, with an evaluation of which team has the edge going into the opening game.
Quarterbacks- Notre Dame
Starting off with the most important position for any football team, the quarterback. Both teams enter the season with some uncertainty under center, as both saw their starting quarterback of a year ago leave for the NFL; ex-Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer is now with the Cleveland Browns, and former Owl Phillip Walker is currently a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
Starting with the visiting Owls, all four quarterbacks have been battling it out for the starting position since spring ball began. The candidates for the spot are freshman Todd Centeio, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt junior Frank Nutile, and redshirt freshman Anthony Russo.
Centeio is the dual threat that can come in and pick up where Walker left off. Like Walker, Centeio can get it done with his legs, as well as his arm, which will keep the defense honest, and open the door for the read option, as well as run pass options. Centeio was ranked as the 12th best starting quarterback in the American Athletic Conference in a usatoday article by Paul Myerberg. “There are four contenders for the starting job,” wrote Myerberg “But Centeio has the legs and mentality to separate himself from the pack.”
Next on the list of potential candidates is Logan Marchi. Marchi battled with Nutile to become the backup to Phillip Walker for his redshirt freshman season. He saw brief game action early in the season against Stony Brook, and Charlotte, when he picked up his first, and only completions of the season, and his career to this point. Marchi threw a total of 112 touchdown passes, and rushed for 12 more in his high school career according to Owl Sports, showing he can also get it done with his feet if he needs too.
Nutile backed up Phillip Walker in the 2015 season, and threw his only touchdown pass against Charlotte. He also saw action against Stony Brook, and Charlotte in 2016, along with Marchi. A three star prospect coming out of high school, Nutile was ranked as the 28th best player in New Jersey, according to Owl Sports. He had offers from other AAC schools in Cincinnati, and UCF, before choosing Temple.
The final candidate for the starting job is highly touted prospect Anthony Russo, out of Archbishop Wood. The redshirt freshman originally committed to play at Rutgers, and received looks from LSU and Les Miles before finally choosing Temple. The 6-4 228 lb. quarterback was first team all-state at Archbishop Wood, where he helped lead the Vikings to back-to-back state championships in 2013, and 2014. Russo has the best arm of the four, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top, and leads the Owls against Notre Dame.
As for the Irish, the job of starting quarterback has been taken by junior Brandon Wimbush. The 6-2 228 lb. quarterback has little game experience, like the candidates for Temple, but has been on the team since 2015. Wimbush was a first team pick by MaxPreps his senior year of high school, and was ranked as the number two dual threat quarterback in the nation by rivals. He threw for over 3,100 yards in his senior season at St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey, where he completed the most passes of anyone in the state. Wimbush will look to take the Irish back to a bowl game after missing out a year ago.
Running Backs- Temple
The running back position is where the Owls should have an edge against the Fighting Irish. After the graduation of Jahad Thomas, the newest member of the New York Jets after his brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys, the Temple running back corps is as still as strong as ever- led by junior running back Ryquell Armstead. The 5-11 205 lb back is coming off a sophomore season in which he rushed for 919 yards and 14 touchdowns while sharing the starting position with Thomas. He averaged almost six yards a carry as a sophomore, and rushed for over 70 yards per game. Armstead is the newest single digit tough guy for the Owls, as he will wear the number seven of former standout, and first round pick of the Arizona Cardinals Haason Reddick.
The Owls also have good depth behind Armstead in running backs David Hood, and Jager Gardner. Both running backs have seen game action in the last two seasons behind Thomas and Armstead.
The Irish return their leading rusher from a year ago in Junior Running back Josh Adams. Adams rushed for 835 yards in 2015, and 933 yards in 2016, to go along with 11 touchdowns in that span. Adams will be the feature back again in 2017, behind an offensive line that returns four starters from a year ago. The Irish rushed for almost 2,000 yards as a team a season ago, and will look for the same productivity, if not more, to take the pressure off of a first year starting quarterback in Wimbush.
Wide Receivers- Temple
Wide receiver should be another position of strength heading into next week for the Owls, with a handful of returning starters, and impact receivers returning for this season. Leading the group is redshirt junior Ventell Bryant, who was a dominant force in the second half of the season after missing the first couple games with injury. Bryant posted 895 yards receiving on the season on 54 receptions, and four touchdowns on the season, according to Owl Sports. He posted an impressive 81.4 receiving yards per game, and 16.6 yards per catch. Bryant will look to remain the team’s number one receiver once again in 2017.
Following closely behind Bryant is redshirt senior Keith Kirkwood, who became a high value target for Phillip Walker as the season went on. The 6-3 220lb wide-out had 648 receiving yards on the season, to go along with four touchdowns. Kirkwood became the first player to be awarded a single digit number under new head coach Geoff Collins, and he will dawn the number five, formerly of Jahad Thomas. Other returning impact receivers include Adonis Jennings, Brodrick Yancy, Marshall Elllick, and Isiah Wright, who all were involved in the offense a year ago, and will look to continue to make an impact.
Notre Dame also brings back their leading receiver from 2016 in Equanimeous St. Brown. The junior receiver had just under 1,000 receiving yards on the season, with 961 yards on 58 receptions, to go along with nine touchdowns, tops on the team. The Irish also return tight end Durham Smythe, who caught four touchdowns out of the tight end spot a season ago.
Offensive Line- Notre Dame
The offensive line of Notre Dame will be one of the major strengths of the team heading into the 2017 season. A unit that led the way for Josh Adams, and the running game for the Irish that rushed for 1,960 yards as a team, will return four starting offensive lineman from a season ago. Leading the way is Philadelphia native, and William Penn Charter grad Mike McGlinchey, who started every game at right tackle for the Irish a year ago. The 6-8 315 lb tackle led the way for an offensive line that was a finalist for the first Joe Moore award, given to the nation’s top offensive line unit.
Another key member of the offensive line for the Irish from 2016, and heading into 2017 is left guard Quenton Nelson. Nelson started all but one game a year ago at the left guard position, helped the rushing attack average over five yards a carry collectively, which ranked eighth best in the nation. The Irish also averaged 207.6 rushing yards per game, ranking top 30 in the nation in that category, thanks in no small part to the offensive line, and Josh Adams. Along with McGlinchey and Nelson, Notre Dame also brings back senior offensive lineman in Sam Mustipher, and Alex Bars. The Irish will look for the running game to take pressure off of Wimbush, and lead the offense in 2017.
The Owls also return key pieces along the offensive line from a season ago. Redshirt senior right tackle Leon Johnson leads the way for a unit that rushed for 2,466 yards in 2016, according to ESPN. Johnson started all fourteen games last season, including the AAC championship, and military bowl. Lining up to the left of Johnson will be another redshirt senior in right guard Adrian Sullivan. Like Johnson, Sullivan started all fourteen games at the right guard position in 2016, after only seeing action in two games his sophomore season. Rounding out the returning starters from 2016 is redshirt sophomore Jovahn Fair. He started all but one game at left guard, helping to lead the Owls to 31 rushing touchdowns on the season. Temple will also count on two newcomers to the offensive line in Matt Hennessey at center, and Cole Boozer at left tackle. Redshirt junior Jaelin Robinson should also see some time on the offensive line, after partly sharing some offensive line duties with Leon Johnson a season ago.
Defensive Line- Even
Temple will bring back a strong defensive line unit again in 2017, which will have to play well against Notre Dame’s offensive line on Saturday. Leading the way entering the 2017 season for the Owls is redshirt junior Michael Dogbe. The 6-3 280 lb tackle totaled 43 tackles a year ago after becoming the starter in week five. He totaled 5.0 tackles for loss in 2016, along with a forced fumble against UCONN.
Another impact player making a return is redshirt senior defensive end Sharif Finch. Finch was granted a medical redshirt after playing in just four games a season ago. He blocked a punt week one against army, adding to his already impressive total of five blocked punts in his career. For his career, Finch has scored two defensive touchdown, and nearly had a third in 2015, returning an interception to the one yard line against Penn State. He has totaled 89 tackles in his career, along with 13.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. He recently was awarded the number six, formerly of Stephaun Marshall, and will look to continue his knack of forcing turnovers, and getting to the quarterback.
Other key members of the defensive line entering 2017 for the Owls are Jacob Martin, Greg Webb, and Freddie Booth-Lloyd.
Adding to the theme of returning starters, Notre Dame will bring back two starting defensive lineman in Jerry Tillery, and Andrew Trumbetti. Tillery started twelve games a season ago, and Trumbetti started seven. Other players to watch along the defensive line for Notre Dame are seniors Jay Hayes, and Jonathan Bonner, alongside sophomore Julian Okwara.
Linebackers- Notre Dame
The Owls will enter 2017 with a young, but fast group of linebackers. After losing starters Avery Bradley, Stephaun Marshall, and Jared Alwan, Temple will look to have the young linebacking corps pickup where they left off, helping lead a top 10 nationally ranked defense from a year ago.
One of the major pieces for the defense will be sophomore William Kwenkeu. The 6-1 225 lb linebacker played in all fourteen games a year ago, mostly on special teams. The maryland native registered fourteen total tackles on the season, one tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. The Owls will look to Kwenkeu, who has experience in important games, to help lead a tough, run stopping defense.
Lining up next to Kwenkeu will be fellow sophomores Shaun Bradley, and Sam Franklin. Franklin also played all fourteen games alongside Kwenkeu as a key member of the special teams unit. The Owls will look for his success to translate from special teams to success as a starting linebacker. Bradley has some experience at linebacker, as he received reps last season. The 6-1 225 lb linebacker totaled six tackles in eleven games in 2016, along with one forced fumble. Other players to watch at linebacker are Jared Folks, and Chapelle Russell.
The Irish bring back a couple of seasoned started in the linebacking group that will take the field on September 2nd. Senior Nyles Morgan will look to lead a strong defense entering the season, as he totaled 88 tackles a season ago, along with 6.0 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks. Coming out of high school Morgan was ranked as the 34th best player in the nation by scout.com, and has lived up to the expectations. For his career, Morgan has totaled 152 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. The senior will look to continue his dominance on the field in his final year for Notre Dame.
Returning alongside Morgan is junior linebacker Te’von Coney, who started eight games a WLB a season ago. Coney totaled 61 tackles in 2016, including 10 total tackles against Virginia Tech. He also picked up 1.5 tackles for loss on the season. Notre Dame will look to these two returning starters to lead the defense in 2017.
The Temple secondary is arguable the best unit on the team, and most likely the American Conference. It boasts a dominant safety duo in Sean Chandler and Delvon Randall, two single digits poised to lead the secondary in 2017. Beginning with Chandler, who made the transition from cornerback to safety in 2016, did not skip a beat in the defense. In a season where he missed four games early in the season, Chandler 51 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 pasess defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Lining up beside Chandler will be Delvon Randall, the newest player to wear the number two in cherry and white. The junior safety emerged as the starter coming out of camp, and did not look back. He registered 65 tackles out of the strong safety position, to go along with 6.0 tackles for loss, and nine passes defended. He was also a turnover machine in 2016, with 4 interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. The Owls will look to the safety tandem to force turnovers, and make plays in the run game throughout the season.
The cornerbacks will also be a strength for the team entering the season. Artrel Foster, the newest single digit returns, and incoming transfer Mike Jones will look to make an impact in his first season with the Owls. The Temple secondary was ranked as the best secondary unit in the AAC by USAtoday’s Paul Myerberg. With the help of a good run defense, the group will look to once again be a top notch secondary unit in 2017.
The Irish also bring back two starting safeties in Drue Tranquill and Devin Studstill. Cornerback Julian Love also returns to South Bend as a sophomore starting at the cornerback position. A year ago the Irish secondary allowed under 200 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks, and will look for more of the same this season.
Special Teams- Temple
The Owls will have an advantage in the special teams game whether they start kicker Aaron Boumerhi, or Austin Jones. Jones, a senior, had a strong start to the season before injuring his knee against Memphis, knocking him out for the remainder of the season. Enter Boumerhi, who subsequently hit 15 of 17 field goals on the season, with a long of 48 yards. The punt game should also be a strength for the Owls with the return of Alex Starzyk, who will compete with freshman Connor Bowler for the starting tight end position. DE Sharif Finch also leads the nation in career blocked punts
Notre Dame enters as a -17 favorite on September 2nd, and will look for the offensive and defensive lines to lead them in the opener of the 2017 season. Temple will rely on its secondary, and wide receivers to make plays and take pressure off whichever first year quarterback gets the start next Saturday.
Coming in at #2 on the SportsDesk impact player list, we look at the Quarterback position. A position so important to the success of a team, it was a borderline #1 selection on our list. With Temple coming off of back to back 10-win seasons, one of the most consistent performers was current Indianapolis Colt Phillip Walker.
Consistency at the signal caller position goes a long way in terms of projections, and it may be the sole reason why the Owls aren’t being selected outright in the East by news organizations previewing the AAC. The team selected by USA Today to edge out Temple in the division: South Florida. USA Today has South Florida QB Quinton Flowers ranked #1 QB in the conference. “If Flowers isn’t the best player in the AAC this season he won’t be far off.” You can see the correlation, and also how good the Owls’ roster is to be ranked second with the current quarterback situation.
Temple’s quarterback controversy has been well documented since the departure of Walker. Walker was the team’s starting QB for the past 3+ seasons and holds most Temple football records at that position. Now, the Owls need to find a new leader.
When camp started, Logan Marchi looked to be the incumbent starter. He had been Walker’s backup the previous season and received positive reviews on his leadership abilities. Obviously, when the spring game came around all eyes were on him. Sadly, Marchi struggled mightily completing just 4 of his 10 passes for 92 yards and 2 interceptions.
This opened the door for the QB’s (Frank Nutile, Anthony Russo, and Todd Centeio) to try and capture the starting spot. Since Russo and Nutile were older, and have better size than Centeio, it seemed that they would have a better chance of challenging Marchi. Oddly enough, that wasn’t true. Each quarterback was just, OK with little flashes here and there. Centeio on the other hand was impressive. He made good decisions and seemed comfortable in the pocket. On the day he racked up 110 yards and a touchdown, while completing 9 of his 13 passes.
Still, Marchi seems to have a good chance of starting come week 1. Marc Narducci of the Philly Inquirer said it best, “This job appeared in the spring to be Marchi’s to lose, and while he didn’t lose it, last year’s backup also wasn’t able to snag it.
Earlier in the spring Coach Collins went in front of the media and claimed he wanted to name a starting QB two weeks before the season started. The game is now nine days away and there has yet to be an announcement. Geoff Collins said after practice Thursday there’s a good chance more than one quarterback will play in the season opener. “I say two will play more than the others, and a third one could come in with a special package.”
Whoever starts next week behind center will have a lot on their plate, but will also have the luxury of a proven run game to fall back on. I wouldn’t count out the possibility of seeing two starting quarterbacks to shake things up for Notre Dame. With this much time to figure things out, you would like to assume the coaching staff will trot out a sufficient starter who can do a little learning but also maintain the flow of an offense.
For #1 on this list, Ryquell Amstead is a clear choice. Read our story on his newly awarded single digit, as the halfback will wear #7 for the Owls this season.
With 10 days until the Owls face off against the Fighting Irish in South Bend for their season opener, a new single digit was added to the team. Junior RB Ryquell Amstead will succeed Arizona Cardinals’ first-round draft choice Haason Reddick with the #7 jersey, before a season many believe the halfback will garner national attention.
When turning back to last year’s stats (156 car, 919 yds, 14 TDs), you see how productive he was while splitting carries with Jahad Thomas- who carried the ball 207 times for 953 yards. Expect Amstead’s carries to reach closer to 250 this season as new play-caller, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, will likely turn to a proven run game while figuring out a new starter at quarterback. Look for Jager Gardner and David Hood to also contribute to this year’s run game.
Here’s the current list of single digits:
#1. Ventell Bryant WR
#2. Delvon Randall SS
#3. Sean Chandler FS
#4. Nick Sharga FB
#5. Keith Kirkwood WR
#6. Sharif Finch DE
#7. Ryquell Armstead HB
#9. Jacob Martin DE
Another new addition to this list is DE Sharif Finch, meaning just one single digit jersey remains for 2017. Phillip Walker’s single digit #8 from last year’s championship season is still up for grabs, and the question becomes: what player will retain it?
There is plenty of proven talent on the list of double digits. Names like senior WR Adonis Jennings, DT Michael Dogbe, CB Artrel Foster all jump out with proven production. With single digits, more than just proven production goes into the decision. The last single digit could take people by surprise with my expectation, which will be who is named starting quarterback. Since none of the 4 quarterbacks can base anything on production (11 pass attempts amongst all 4), a single digit could provide the feel of a “#1 guy” coach Collins and offensive coordinator
Dave Patenaude have been looking for all camp. Other potential single digit players who come to mind that could shock include redshirt freshman TE Kenny Yeboah and sophomore LB William Kwenkeu as they have both been very good this offseason.
Stay tuned for more on the quarterback situation in the coming days from the SportsDesk.
Moving on to number three in our impact players list for Temple football in 2017- we look at strong safety Delvon Randall. There is definitely controversy on this pick- not from the position group, but which of the players in the secondary to choose. My take is, you can choose any of the four, probably starting with Sean Chandler, and you can’t go wrong. Corners Artrel Foster and new transfer Mike Jones is as strong of corner duo the Owls have had in the Rhule era, and that will make the jobs of the safeties even easier. Throw in the fact both safeties Randall and Chandler have another year starting under their belt; let’s just say quarterbacks will have problems against this unit.
The most popular pick of the group would probably be Sean Chandler. The guy who’s starting for his fourth straight season (despite a lagging knee injury last season), the guy who’s on four preseason award watch lists, and the same guy who was arguably second in MVP voting in the conference championship victory last season behind Phillip Walker. Not him.
Then, we examine the corners. Two fifth-year seniors with plenty of game experience. Look at returning senior Artrel Foster who started in 12 of his 13 contests last season alongside current Indianapolis Colt Nate Hairston. On the 2016 secondary that finished third in the country in opposing pass yards per game. Now see Mike Jones, a player who came to Temple with Geoff Collins this season looking to maximize his value on his fifth year of eligibility. Had Jones declared for this year’s draft in Philly, he was a likely 5-7 round pick at corner according to cbssports.com. It seems as though he’s shooting bigger. As havoc-wreaking as this duo will be come gamedays, they are still not the most impactful players on this secondary.
We finally turn to newly awarded single-digit tough, #2 Delvon Randall. A guy who skyrocketed up the depth chart in just his sophomore season last year, emerging early as the starting strong safety on Temple football’s conference champion defense for all 14 games. The guy who the SportsDesk decided will have the most impact on this season among the secondary.
Randall was the most consistent of Temple’s efficient pass defense last season, and he didn’t miss a college game in just his second year out of high school. Revisiting last years stats- he was 3rd in the AAC with 6 takeways (4 INT, 2 FF). Had crucial fumble recoveries at Penn State and Cincinnati, and also tied Haason Reddick for second most tackles on the team (65) for the season. You can watch Randall’s impact in both the pass and run game in this video made by Temple linebacker Jeremiah Atoki from the 2016 season:
Anyone can see from last year’s stats how involved Randall is on the football field, and he will be put to work this season. Ultimately, it seems as though he will be tested the most in the position he’s in- making him a safe pick in this year’s senior-laden secondary. All three of the seniors on this year’s group have their eyes on the NFL after the season ends and Randall looks to be headed on that same path. There’s an opportunity for the Temple secondary to have all future NFL defensive backs starting on one unit, which is pretty notable for a non power-5 program.
Side Note: Let’s not forget- a good pass rush is a forgotten part of a secondary’s success, and something the Owls have been blessed with in recent years. Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike are in the NFL, Avery Ellis is in the CFL, and this year’s defensive line will have to rely on some familiar program names to step up. Sharif Finch and Jacob Martin are both back looking healthy on the ends, and Michael Dogbe will be looking for some tenacious company at DT in order for the unit to keep producing this season.
Continuing our top-5 count down, our 4th most influential Temple Owl of 2017 is redshirt senior right tackle Leon Johnson. Johnson recently represented the Owls in Newport, RI for the American Conference Media Day, and he’s poised to lead an offensive line unit who will have a major impact on the success of this team. Johnson has appeared in 32 games on the offensive line in his first three seasons, including 26 starts. He’s coming off of a 2016 season where he started all 14 games, producing the only pair of rushers with 800 yards and 12 TDs each (Jahad Thomas & Ryquell Amstead).
He’ll bring the most game experience to this offensive line, making him the most impactful of the group. In most cases, the left tackle is the overall best lineman on a given football team (take last year’s Dion Dawkins for example), but the reasoning in this case for most impactful relies on the expected boost in rushing offense, and slight drop off in passing. That of course has to do with the first year starter at quarterback, and with Johnson on the strong side of the line, he will be propelling the run game most often. Without a productive offensive line to help ease in a quarterback, the Owls will most certainly take a big step back from last year’s 7-1 conference record and AAC Championship. This unit however, seems on paper like they can handle the pressure.
If the season started today, the Offensive Line would look like this:
LT Cole Boozer, LG Johvann Fair, C Matt Hennessy, RG Adrian Sullivan, RT Leon Johnson.
The right side of the line will be a scary sight in Johnson and Sullivan, who have a combined 40 starts. Sullivan, another redshirt senior, also started all 14 games last season. On the other side redshirt senior Cole Boozer will be interesting to figure out this season, as he is a converted tight end who made the switch to offensive line last season. Boozer’s 6-5 275 lb frame is at his advantage, and he spent last season as the primary backup to all-conference LT Dion Dawkins. At center and left guard are two promising talents in redshirt freshman Matt Hennessy (Don Bosco Prep) and redshirt sophomore Jovahn Fair. Unlike Hennessy, Fair saw action in every game last season, starting in all but 1. Hennessy will get his first taste of college football after a redshirt season with loads of positive praise surrounding him.
(If you missed the honorable mentions to the countdown, click here for the list.)
LB William Kwenkeu, Sophomore
Counting down from 5 impact players for Temple football in 2017- we start with William Kwenkeu. The 6’1 205 lb. Maryland native is poised to keep the stingy, run-stopping tradition of recent Temple linebackers alive for 2017. When factoring in the impact of all players, Kwenkeu comes to mind immediately since he will likely be handling the middle linebacker duties for the defense. If we were to conduct this list at the end of last season, Avery Williams would have arguably made the cut. This year, just like Williams, Kwenkeu will be around the football on almost every play, and playing with such a strong secondary, puts more pressure on the interior front 7.
This year’s linebacker corp will feature a lot of inexperience, as three starters departed from last season. Names competing right now include Shaun Bradley and Chapelle Russell who have little game experience, but have been highly touted during this year’s offseason. Jarred Folks returns the most experience, compared finally to redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Atoki who was in last season’s mix at linebacker. There is plenty of bodies to fill the roles, but expect a noticeable dip in production early in the season compared to the last two seasons with the unit figuring things out. Along with Atoki, Kwenkeu is the most game-productive ready, and he will be leading a LB group with promise but little experience.
What’s interesting is Kwenkeu isn’t proven as an every down contributor. As a true sophomore, he just has all the tools to be a successful run-stopper at the collegiate level. This past season, he was a stand out on special teams, while logging valuable snaps on defense in place of an injured Stephaun Marshall. Kwenkeu finished the year with 14 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 fumble recovery on the kickoff coverage team which came against Memphis in a crucial point in the game. Even in Temple’s spring game, he was all over the field chasing down running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers. Expect William Kwenkeu’s game to step into the next level this season once he’s able to get comfortable in a starting role.
Stay tuned every Wednesday for your continued countdown of Temple Football’s Top-5 impact players for 2017. Look out for player profiles, projected depth charts, and extended Notre Dame preview reports leading up to the opening game on September 2nd.
Alas. We’ve made it. The start of a heaping helping of football coverage in coach Geoff Collins’ first season from the SportsDesk. Since we will be counting down the top-5 impact players for the season, it is only fair we include our honorable mention players who didn’t make the cut. Remember, these are the players we project to have the most impact, not the top-5 best.
Disclaimer: All of the players on this honorable mention list are NFL prospects. 3 are seniors. There are a bunch of pro prospects on this team (roughly 15 jr./sr.’s).
FS Sean Chandler, Senior:
Champ is in my opinion the best player in the Owls secondary, and many NFL scouts would agree. The reason he isn’t featured in our top-5 most impactful is because we feel there is another defensive back who has his nose in more plays and usually sees more action in game situations. Chandler is coming off of a 2016 season where he missed 4 games with a knee injury (SMU, Memphis, UCF, USF). The Owls were 3-1 in that span, and in their one loss to Memphis, Tiger’s QB Riley Ferguson had a field day en route to a 34-27 victory. Moving forward Chandler comes into this season featured on several award watch lists, including the nation’s best defensive player (Bednarik Award) which current Pittsburgh Steeler and Temple faithful Tyler Matakevich brought home in 2015. Expect a lot of good to be said about Chandler throughout next season, as he’ll be anchoring one of the top secondaries in the nation.
WR Ventell Bryant, RS Junior:
I know what you’re thinking- let me explain. When choosing just 5 impact players, some position groups are left out, and it just so happens there are no wide receivers on this list. That has to do in part with the uncertainty at quarterback, and our predicted level of production from RB Ryquell Amstead. Not to mention, the receiving corp is very good (Adonis Jennings, Keith Kirkwood, Broderick Yancy), and whoever is targeted from one of the young quarterbacks will likely come down with it. I do project Bryant to be the leader of this group in terms of stats, as he did last season with 895 receiving yards on 54 receptions. He did that in just 11 games compared to Jenning’s and Kirkwood’s 14. In terms of predictions for this season, If he does, I don’t see him eclipsing last season’s receptions or yards by too much due to both a new arm behind center and a more even spread to the receivers. Good news- just last week it was announced Bryant is a nominee for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver.
CB Mike Jones, RS Senior:
Here’s a name that come March and April of 2018 you will be hearing a lot of. That is his plan anyway. Mike Jones is a graduate transfer from D1-AA North Carolina Central. His decision to come to Temple for his final eligible season was a risky one, but it comes with high reward. He was already a projected draft pick (5th-6th round) in the 2017 draft before he withdrew his name and decided to come back to school to join Geoff Collins. His logic is he can perform well and raise his draft stock which will help his professional career. He’s part of the reason it is no stretch to refer to Temple as one of the top secondaries in the country. For more on his bio, read my article from the day Temple signed the cornerback.
DE Sharif Finch, RS Senior:
Here’s someone I consider a huge sleeper on this Owls unit, and someone who will have their hands on a lot of stops for the Temple defense this season. Last year chronic knee injuries plagued Finch as he played in only Week 1 and Week 2- which led to a granted NCAA medical redshirt. In last year’s opener he blocked a punt vs. Army, which ups his total of blocked punts to a nation’s best 5 for his career. I can’t find records online but I would bet no other active player has more than 3. Rewind to 2015’s home opener where Finch returned an interception for a touchdown to swing the momentum vs. Penn State- some analysts were arguing he was one of the best players on the field for the Owls that afternoon. The word around the team is that he’s healthy and ready to be a force around the end for opposing quarterbacks.
With training camp starting on Monday July 31, Temple football and first year head coach Geoff Collins are set to defend their 2016 conference title with a revamped unit in 2017. Released last week were the AAC media poll rankings, and the league has Temple falling two spots in the Eastern conference behind UCF (2nd) and USF (1st).
The media hesitation with the Owls largely lies in the mystery at Quarterback. Not to mention a new offensive coordinator in Dave Patenaude, who actually is no stranger to an open QB battle. Last year, he trotted out five signal callers in Coastal Carolina’s impressive 10-2 season. Training camp will likely show more of the type of offense Patenaude will be running, and that will narrow the “two horse race” for Temple at QB in Logan Marchi and Anthony Russo. The returning leaders on last year’s AAC Championship
team will undoubtedly have winning on their minds, and starting September 2nd in South Bend, IN, they’ll have the chance to make it happen.
With that being said, myself along with SportsDesk writers/reporters Larry O’Connor and Adam Miller will be compiling a top-5 list in regards to each player’s impact on the team this season. Ryquell Armstead and Sean “Champ” Chandler are of course returning producers, but with three spots open it will be a tough race to the finish.
Disclaimer: expect a lofty “honorable mention” section.
Starting this Wednesday August 2nd, we will count down from 5 in counting the predicted most impactful Owls in the 2017 season. The fifth report, ranking the SportsDesk’s most impactful player of 2017 will be released August 30, just three days before kickoff against Notre Dame.
Make sure to follow @TU_SportsDesk for additional football insight before gameday including a deeper look at the quarterback battle, projected depth chart overview, a season schedule outlook and more.