After winning just two games in their freshman season, the 19 departing seniors following the 2016 season have come a long way since the 2013 campaign.
Back to back 10 win seasons, back to back American Athletic Conference East division champions, and 2016 American Conference Champions are accomplishments the seniors that tied for third in Temple history in wins over a four year span, with 28, can carry with them as they continue their careers.
Losing to Fordham in their freshman season, turned into hosting nationally ranked Notre Dame on Halloween, under the lights, on national television, along with a visit from College Gameday just two years later.
High school teammates at Elizabeth High School Jahad Thomas and Phillip Walker have been the feature stars of the Temple offense for the last three plus seasons.
Walker, a letter winner in each of his four seasons at Temple, holds the all-time Temple record in pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and total offense. In his senior season, Walker broke his own record for passing yards in a season, that he set his junior season. This season, Walker became the first quarterback in Temple history to throw for over 10,000 yards in a season, and became the first quarterback in Temple history to lead a team to multiple bowl games
As for Thomas, who was named First Team All-AAC last season, followed up by being named Second Team All-AAC for his senior season. After missing the first two games of the season, Thomas proceeded to rush for over 900 yards, and scored two touchdowns in six consecutive games, an NCAA best, and school record. Thomas was awarded a single digit number prior to his junior season, and proceeded to rush for over 1,200 yards, and account for 1,677 all purpose yards.
The duo have combined for over 15,000 total yards in their careers, and 121 touchdowns. Thomas has received an invite to the NFL combine.
As for the big guys up front, offensive line starters Dion Dawkins and Brendan McGowan have finished their careers at Temple after the AAC championship trophy.
Dawkins, who was one of only four freshman who started at left tackle in the nation in 2013, has protected Walker’s blind side for the past four seasons. Dawkins, a three year letter winner, has also received an invite to the Senior Bowl, and the NFL combine, and was named First Team All-AAC this season. ESPN’s draft insider Mel Kiper named Dawkins as one of the best offensive tackles in all of college football.
After starting his career as a right guard, Brendan McGowan stepped in at center this year after the departure of Kyle Friend. McGowan started every game this season after being the backup to Friend a year ago.
Defensively, much like a year ago following the departure of Tyler Matakevich, the Owls will have to replace three starting linebackers in Jarred Alwan, Stephaun Marshall, and Avery Williams. The outstanding linebacking corps helped lead the number one defense in the AAC, and the fourth ranked defense in the country.
The trio combined for 181 total tackles this season, led by Williams with 66, followed closely by Marshall with 64. All three recorded over 150 tackles in their respective careers. Williams, a native of Maryland, returned home and helped the Owls win their first conference championship since 1967 in Annapolis against the Navy Midshipmen.
Perhaps the most talented player on the defense, Haason Reddick leaves Temple after a stellar season. The former walk-on from Camden, New Jersey led the nation in tackles for lost for most of the season. Reddick was awarded a single digit number (7) prior to the season, and proceeded to record 65 tackles, along with 10.5 sacks, and 22.2 tackles for loss. Along with Dawkins and Thomas, Reddick received an invite to the senior bowl, as well as the combine.
Reddick had a key interception of Navy quarterback Zac Abey late in the fourth quarter of the AAC championship to help secure the win. He recorded two sacks in three consecutive games this season, including two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery against SMU. He is second all-time in Temple history in tackles for loss with 46.0, trailing only Dan Klecko. He tied Klecko’s record of 22.5 tackles for loss in a season in his senior campaign.
Senior cornerback Nate Hairston is another key defensive starter moving on after the 2016 season. Hairston totaled 27 tackles on the season, along with two interceptions, the first two of his career. Hairston began his career as a wide receiver, before converting to defensive back in his junior season, and becoming a starting cornerback prior to the 2016 season.
After losing this talented 2016 senior class, new head coach Geoff Collins still inherits a talented team with returning starters. With the talent still remaining on both sides of the football, and talented recruits coming in, the Owls will look to continue their dominance in the AAC East, and to compete for a second consecutive AAC title.