Twelve days and counting

Every year something happens at Temple football camp that makes fans take a step back or at least raise an eyebrow or two.

Twelve days and counting to Penn State and these developments fall into that category:

  • Frank Nutile has supplanted Logan Marchi as the No. 2 quarterback. This is interesting only in that Marchi’s game has been compared to “Johnny Manziel Lite.” Nutile appears to be the better play-action quarterback and that is why he is moving up. P.J. Walker appears to have his mojo back and is the clear No. 1.
  • Play-action will go through the tight ends, not the fullbacks. The Owls probably will not have a fullback, so their additional blocker at the point of attack will be an extra tight end. The plan, a sound one in concept, is to establish the run with that extra blocker on the OL, then fake into the belly of a tailback to bring the LBs and safeties up to the line. Hopefully, that creates separation for big-play receivers like Robby Anderson and Adonis Jennings.
  • Averee Robinson is running with the ones. With Matt Ioannidis, Nate D. Smith, Jacob Martin and Michael Dogbe on the line, Robinson has worked his way into the top unit. Wearing No. 43, I look for Robinson—who had five sacks in the 2014 spring game—to have a big season. It’s vitally important that the Owls put Christian Hackenberg on his ass early and often and I expect Robinson to play a big part in that  game plan.
  • There is one and only one question I’d like to ask Matt Rhule in one of those pressers: What is wrong with putting the very elusive duo of Nate L. Smith and Kareem Ali Jr. back there to handle punts over exposing your No. 1 offensive threat to extra unnecessary hits? Love the toughness and reliable hands John Christopher brings, but his 2.0-yards-per-punt-return was a wasted year on what has been traditionally a very positive play at Temple . Smith averaged 21 yards per return a year ago, but only got one chance. That’s extremely puzzling.
  • Matt Rhule does not appear to trust the freshman RBs. The fact that Jahad Thomas is running with the ones as the tailback has to be OK from the standpoint that putting the ball on the ground is going to be unacceptable. Thomas has a lower ceiling than T.J. Simmons or Jager Gardner, but he is more dependable with the football and P.J. Walker trusts him. If the Owls need explosiveness later on, expect Gardner to be the go-to guy.

It’s less than two weeks and the Owls appear to be ready. Hopefully, Penn State will not know what hits them.


11 thoughts on “Twelve days and counting

  1. Spoke to someone who saw the scrimmage and he said the defense is very good, Jager Gardner is a beast but fumbled on the goal line, and kicking is still shaky. He also said PJ looked real good. Mike, can’t you attend the press conferences? Aren’t you a member of the media or at least know someone who could ask Rhule why he’s risking Anderson on the punt team?

    • heard pretty much the same thing…, Gardner is physically gifted has moved ahead of Armstead.., the offense will move the ball if the line holds.., FGs and deep kick-offs still an issue…, last year Temple hired an architectural firm from Atlanta to do a concept drawing for a new stadium, they have had the drawing for over six months now.., open end stadium, sub terrain, with mostly bleacher type seats…,

      • That’s awesome A Robinson and Dogbe are running with the starters. I love when younger guys get a chance to play with the seniors. I’m surprised Gardner is a possible starter as a true freshman. he must be really good. I have outdated depth charts and have started getting into TU football again so I dont know who’s who at all the positions yet.

    • I will ask Marc Narducci to ask.(Err, that’s in response to John … don’t know why it was posted under KJ. As far as K.J’s comment, great news because an open-end 30K stadium means it is expandable to 40K. Temple Stadium was also open-ended and I remember a few games where a whole bunch of people were lying on the grass in the end zone. That must’ve been before Lyme disease. 🙂 )

  2. Maybe the plan isn’t to use him as the primary punt return man but kind of use him the way the Eagles used Westerbrook after he had become the featured back, used on punt returns in critical games / situations.

    • yes, eagles also did that with DeSean. Still, it’s not like we have a whole lot of possession receiver types. I’d rather use Kareem Ali, Nate L. Smith, heck, even Tavon Young on punt returns than the guy who opens the can of beans on our whole offense.

  3. Couldn’t find Khalief Herbin’s name on the roster. Did he leave the team?

    • khalif never got clearance from the temple medical staff after suffering multiple concussions (uconn and ucf games). rhode island, which ironically had a paralyzed player in a game against temple, cleared him and he will play there this year. that is the latest i’ve heard, although could have changed from a month ago.

  4. From BlueWhite Illustrated

    MOST RECENT MEETING The Nittany Lions topped the Owls, 30-13, on Nov. 15, 2014. Akeel Lynch accounted for 130 of Penn State’s 254 rushing yards.

    Associated Press
    James Franklin has been very complimentary toward Temple coach Matt Rhule and the progress of the Owls’ program in recent years.

    OFFENSE Playing behind a shaky offensive line, P.J. Walker struggled as a sophomore, completing only 53 percent of his attempts for 2,317 yards, with 13 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. The line is expected to be better this fall, as four players with starting experience return, notably senior center Kyle Friend, a Rimington Trophy candidate. As for Walker, he’ll be looking to fulfill the promise he showed two years ago when he seized the starting position as a true freshman. He has some serious tools to work with on the outside.

    The program’s leading receiver two years ago with 44 receptions for 791 yards, Robby Anderson, was declared eligible academically earlier this month for the 2015 season after missing all last year. Maybe more significant than his yard and total receptions, Anderson pulled in nine touchdowns in the final five games of the 2013 season. According to Temple head coach Matt Rhule, Anderson’s return is significant in that he represents a “weapon outside that forces people to defend us differently.”

    The Owls are also happy to welcome the services of Pitt transfer Adonis Jennings, who was declared immediately eligible. Though Jennings’ career with the Panthers didn’t shake out, he was a Rivals four-star wideout from the Class of 2014, ranked No. 9 in New Jersey and No. 38 among all wideouts in the country.

    The backfield – a stronger spot for Temple the past few seasons – will be a little less stable this year for the Owls. Zaire Williams was expected to come back from a back injury, but he’s been moved to linebacker. Jahad Thomas appears to be the favorite to win the starting job, but frosh backs Ryquell Armstead and T.J. Simmons have Temple fans eager to see how they’ll perform when given an opportunity this season.

    One more potential wildcard for the Owls on the offensive side of the ball is Florida transfer Colin Thompson, who has made some strong impressions this preseason. He made his first appearance with the Owls last season and started to find his form toward the end of the season. A former four-star out of his school, he’ll be another weapon the Nittany Lions need to be aware of.

    DEFENSE The Owls return 10 starters from a defense that surrendered only 17.5 points per game last season, fourth-best in the nation. The marquee name is senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich. A three-year letter-winner, he’ll be making his 36th consecutive start when the Owls meet Penn State and he is looking to become the school’s all-time leading tackler. Matakevich’s 355 career stops are more than any other active player in college football, and he’ll be getting a lot of help this year from two standout linemen: end Praise Martin-Oguike and tackle Matt Ioannidis.

    For a Penn State offensive line looking to establish itself early, it’ll get a real test right out of the gates in pass-rusher Sharif Finch. He’s a junior with some experience under his belt and is looking to make a mark this season. In the secondary, the Owls are featuring a former top juco prospect in Alex Wells, while Army All-American corner Kareem Ali, a true freshman, will be in the mix at corner.

    SPECIAL TEAMS Austin Jones connected on 13 of 22 field goal attempts as a freshman, while punter Alex Starzyk averaged 38.4 yards per attempt. If Penn State fans are concerned about the Nittany Lions’ kicking specialists, Temple’s situation should provide some solace. It’s, at best, equally messy.

    OUTLOOK Temple faded in the second half of the 2014 season, dropping five of its last seven. But the Owls are focused on the big picture, and in that respect, they’ve bounced back nicely since losing coach Steve Addazio to Boston College following the 2012 season, improving from 2-10 in 2013 to 6-6 last year.

    With third-year coach (and former Penn State linebacker) Matt Rhule welcoming back 17 starters this fall, Temple has ample reason to believe that its upward trajectory will continue. It will have a chance to make a statement in its opener, although the fact that this game is taking place at the Linc may not provide much of an edge. Penn Staters have always flocked to Philly whenever the Lions have played there, and they’ve usually gone home happy. Penn State hasn’t lost a road game to Temple since 1941. That said, Penn State’s last trip to the Linc in 2011 was a bit of a tester, the Lions finally emerging at the end of the game to pull out the win.

    Really, this one likely will boil down to a pair of areas Penn State fans have been worried about all offseason: Can the offensive line hold on against a Temple defense that is going to throw the house at Hackenberg right out of the gates? And what type of impact will special teams play – for both sides – in a game that could be a little closer than Penn State fans might expect on reputation alone? Last year’s game in Happy Valley was a 6-3 contest at the half, and a 20-13 Penn State lead until Grant Haley’s interception return for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter. A cake walk? Hardly, and the feeling within Lasch reflects as much. It’ll be a game.


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