Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: It's been seven years but Temple has made it back to the
Big East. The Owls were in the conference from 1991 to 2004 but were forced out
after accumulating a 30-126 record during that time. The rise back to
respectability was a quick one though as just five seasons later the Owls had
their first winning record since 1986 and first bowl appearance since 1979.
That season wasn't a fluke, as the Owls have a winning record in each of the
last three seasons, including another bowl appearance last year.
"We came from nothing," said senior defensive back Vaughn Carraway, "We came
from people walking by [the practice facility] and throwing rocks at us. Now
there's a lot of hype coming into the Big East this season. We're just ready
for the opportunity."
Temple didn't just win games on its way to a 8-4 regular season record in 2011.
The Owls won three of their first four games by an average of 34.7 points with
the lone loss in that stretch a 14-10 loss to Penn State. The Owls stumbled
against Toledo (36-13) and lost close games on the road against Bowling Green
(13-10) and Ohio (35-31), but took care of business in the rest of the
schedule, recording a pair of shutouts and rolling up big wins over Army
(42-14) and Kent State (34-16) in the final two games.
At 8-4, Temple again made it to a bowl game, and unlike 2009, finished the
season off with a win, blowing out Wyoming (37-15) in the New Mexico Bowl.
OFFENSE: Running the ball effectively has been the tried and true focal point
of Temple's offense during its resurgence. Last season's seventh ranked rushing
offense will be without workhorse Bernard Pierce, but the Owls running game
will again be a strength.
Montel Harris transferred from Boston College in July and will join Matt Brown
to create a dangerous backfield tandem. Harris was slowed by a knee injury last
season, but is the all-time leading rusher at Boston College with 3,735 yards
and 27 touchdowns in three plus season with the Eagles. Brown has been the
supplementary back behind Pierce and the undersized speedster has been
effective in that role, rushing for 916 yards last season.
The Owls have not been able to find any consistency at quarterback since the
departure of Adam DiMichele, but are hoping that dual-threat Chris Coyer can
finally fit the bill. Coyer was the third quarterback used last season and
impressed, completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing 6 touchdowns with
no interceptions. Coyer can also run, amassing 562 yards in 2011. If Coyer
struggles early on he could be pressed for time by Penn State transfer Kevin
A team so dependent on the run hasn't cultivated many effective receivers and
the 2011 corps won't have a lot of experience. Deon Miller (18 receptions, 253
yards) is the most seasoned pass catcher with the drop off behind him a steep
one. Tight end Cody Booth (two receptions in 2011) has the second most career
receptions on the squad.
The offensive line will also be filled with unproven players other than senior
Martin Wallace. Redshirt freshman Zach Hooks will fill in at left tackle among
a host of new linemen.
DEFENSE: While the running game has been impressive it is the defense that has
really led to Temple's rise. The Owls were the 12th ranked defense in the
country last season and third best in terms of scoring defense, allowing only
13.9 points per game.
This year the Owls will have to replace their top four tacklers and rebuild
around just five returning starters. Justin Gildea is the top returning tackler
(51) and will fill in again as the starting strong safety. The senior showed an
ability to be disruptive in the backfield last year with 3.0 sacks and 4.5
tackles for loss. Cornerback Zamel Johnson (28 total tackles in 2011) will also
return as a starter in the secondary.
The front seven is where Temple is taking the biggest hits. Blaze Caponegro
(35 total tackles, 4.0 TFL) and Ahkeem Smith (43 tackles, 3.0 sacks) will lead
the new-look linebacking corps, while Levi Brown and John Youboty are the most
experienced players returning on the defensive line. Although not as
battle-tested, Marcus Green and Kamal Johnson have seen action on the line as
SPECIAL TEAMS: Brandon McManus has been in control of the kicking
responsibilities for the majority of his three seasons at Temple. The senior
was a solid 16-for-22 on field goal attempts last season but his real strength
comes on punts, where he averaged 45.8 yards per attempt in 2011.
Like McManus, Brown is almost a one-man unit as a returner. The senior averaged
25.1 yards per kick return and brought one back for a score and also averaged
10.1 yards per punt return.
OUTLOOK: Even with the addition of Harris, this Temple squad is obviously
retooling and may be in for a tough first season in the elevated competition
of the Big East.
A budding rivalry will be renewed to start the 2012 season as the Owls take on
Villanova of the FCS to open the season. Temple then has a home game against
Maryland before taking the trip to Happy Valley to take on Penn State, a team
the Owls never beat during the Joe Paterno era.
The first Big East contest comes at home against South Florida before a road
trip against a familiar Connecticut team. After returning home to play Rutgers,
the Owls are on the road for three of their last five games, including a tough
back-to-back set against Pittsburgh and Louisville.
Temple has climbed its way back into the Big East and has the right mind set
to keep moving up. However with a largely inexperienced squad and the stronger
competition the Big East will send their way, the Owls are probably a year or
two away in terms of competing for conference crowns.
The Sports Network