We don’t mention it in the story below, but it’s comforting to know that Temple returns an outstanding trio of holder Tom Bradway, kicker Austin Jones and punter Alex Starzyk (not pictured).
There are certain assumptions in life which are given, like water is wet and a fire is hot, and then there are others that just make you laugh.
One of those latter ones is making the rounds on just about every future opponent message board and some ex-rivals ones, like the know-it-alls at Rutgers. The prevailing one over there is that the Owls will fall off the grid next year because “they lose so many seniors.”
I call it the Fallacy of the Fall. There will be no fall, but there will be a lot of know-it-alls with egg on their faces, maybe as early as Temple’s second-straight win over Penn State.
Father forgive them because they know not they do, say or write. While it is true Temple loses a lot of valuable seniors, what is also true that Temple head coach Matt Rhule has done a sensational job assembling a line of succession that probably averts any kind of drop off. Due to a weaker schedule (no Notre Dame), the Owls just might have a chance for a better record. USF might be better and Houston will be good again, but the Owls do not play Houston in the regular season, have a decent chance to beat USF (the game is at the Linc) a better chance to win the others. After the Houston game 10 days ago, Rhule said: “I hope this game is at our place next year.” It was not an empty wish.
Once again, on defense, they could be just as good if not better.
While the Owls lose an All-American in linebacker Tyler Matakevich, they gain someone who can make enough plays from the linebacker position, Nick Sharga, to contend for all-conference honors. They have a number of linemen returning who made outstanding plays all season, like Averee Robinson, Haason Reddick, Jacob Martin, Michael Dogbe, Freddy Booth-Lloyd, Praise Martin-Oguike and Sharif Finch. That’s some good quality and quantity right there and defensive coordinator Phil Snow would be wise to at least think about a 5-2 with that personnel (both Robinson and Booth-Lloyd can play nose guard).
Linebackers returning who got plenty of playing time in addition to Sharga include Avery Williams (who made the play to beat Tulane at the end of the 2014 season), Stephaun Marshall and Jared Alwan. The depth is so good at LB and DL, the Owls might want to consider keeping Sharga at fullback. Or even go to a 5-2. When three of your projected linebackers already wear single digits (Sharga, Williams and Marshall) you know you’ve got tough guys at a tough guy position.
Where the Owls lose corner Tavon Young, they gain one in Kareem Ali Jr., who might even have a higher upside. Holding down the other spot will be Sean Chandler, who was the only player in the nation to return two interceptions for touchdowns. Artrel Foster and Nate Hairston are back to provide depth if not steal a job or two. Nate L. Smith, Jyquis Thomas and Delvon Randall are seasoned safeties.
The Owls will be just fine on defense and, on offense, every skill player of note returns with the exception of Robby Anderson, Brendan Shippen and John Christopher. Anderson made a number of big plays, while the two Christopher will be most remembered for are the throwback pass to P.J. Walker against PSU and the catch to set up the field goal at UMass. Shippen’s biggest play was the touchdown catch against Notre Dame. Still, there is reason to believe that Ventell Bryant, Sam Benjamin, Brodrik Yancy and Adonis Jennings will be able to more than replace the production. Rhule has already stated that Yancy is the closest player to a clone of Christopher that he has. Cortrelle Simpson gives them a chance to do what they have not done in two years—stretch the field with long bombs, opening up a lot of underneath stuff. Speaking of underneath stuff, both tight ends, Colin Thompson and Kip Patton, return.
There are a lot of guys who have not been mentioned, due to injuries and redshirts, but who can force their way into the picture with good springs.
Of course, P.J. Walker, potential Heisman Trophy candidate Jahad Thomas and the running backs are back and Brendan McGowan should do an admirable job replacing Kyle Friend. In addition, tackle Eric Lofton and guard Shahbaz Ahmed are leaving but the Owls should find capable replacements in Jaelin Robinson and Jovahn Fair.
Speaking of fair, it might be fair to make USF the AAC East favorite next season but to think the Owls do not have a chance to beat Penn State again or have a better record than a year ago is a big mistake. They have a chance to be better. It is up to them to make the most of it and make the know-it-alls look like the no-nothings again.
Get your season tickets and a 12-game supply of popcorn now, because it’s going to be a show.