2011 Temple Preview
Temple RB Bernard Pierce
Temple RB Bernard Pierce
Posted Jul 8, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Temple Owls

Temple Owls

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Steve Addazio
1st year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 21, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 14
Ten Best Temple Players
1. RB Bernard Pierce, Jr.
2. DE Adrian Robinson, Sr.
3. RB Matt Brown, Jr.
4. TE Evan Rodriguez, Sr.
5. DT Shahid Paulhill, Soph.
6. DT Kadeem Custis, Jr.
7. CB Kee-ayre Griffin, Sr.
8. OT Steve Caputo, Sr.
9. C John Palumbo, Sr.
10. LB Tahir Whitehead, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 1 Villanova
Sep. 10 at Akron
Sep. 17 Penn State
Sep. 24 at Maryland
Oct. 1 Toledo
Oct. 8 at Ball State
Oct. 15 Buffalo
Oct. 22 at Bowling Green
Nov. 2 at Ohio
Nov. 9 Miami Univ.
Nov. 19 Army
Nov. 25 Kent State

Here's the thing that seemed to get lost in Temple going from miserable to excellent under Al Golden: the Owls didn't actually win anything.

There's no reason to try to take anything away from what Golden was able to do with a program that was among the worst in college football and making it a success. From 1991 to 2007, Temple won just 34 games in the 16 years before coming up with 23 victories in the last three seasons. By doing a phenomenal job of keeping the top talents home, and by putting together some amazing defenses, Golden orchestrated one of the best turnarounds in recent college football history.

But with little to show for it.

Turner Gill, before bolting to Kansas, came up with a great turnaround of his own at Buffalo a few years ago, and he got a MAC title out of it. Mike Haywood needed one year before he brought a MAC championship to Miami University. Not only did Temple fail to win the conference title under Golden, despite having one of the league's most talented teams over the last two seasons, but it didn't even get to the championship game.

So now Golden is in Miami trying to revive a Hurricane program that hasn't won anything of note since joining the ACC, and while he has to prove he can take a team over a hump, Temple might have gotten a huge break by landing Steve Addazio.

There but for the grace of a change-of-heart goes Addazio, who would've been the head man at Florida last year if Urban Meyer hadn't decided to return. While many Gator fans blamed Addazio for the offensive woes last season, the problems went a whole lot deeper. He has always wanted to be a head coach, will bring a fire to the job in Philly, and he bring SEC credentials. While Temple certainly would've come up with a MAC East title and a conference championship at some point in the near future if Golden had stayed around, Addazio should benefit from the pieces already being in place to do big things.

The defense needs the most work after losing the top four tacklers including stars like tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. However, there's tremendous bulk up front, the linebacking corps is big and can move, and the secondary is somehow full of veterans despite a ton of turnover. Golden was building towards the future, and the MAC's No. 1 defense should still be solid.

The offense hasn't had a passing game in years, and now there's no excuse to not do more with Addazio, a quarterback coach by trade, and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler used to making quarterbacks shine. The receiving corps is full of great prospects and MAC talents, and the running game, thanks to Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown, should once again carry the workload of the attack. The line has to find the right combination, but there's size and experience returning.

Miami University is still strong, but it's undergoing a coaching change. Ohio will be solid again, and Bowling Green and Kent State should improve, but it's all in place for Temple to take the East.

And it's all in place for Addazio to finish what Golden started.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. The running game should be among the MAC's best, the line will figure itself out, and the receiving corps has size, speed, and experience. Now the attack needs a passing game that isn't abysmal. Mike Gerardi is a good veteran who can get the offense moving from time to time, but despite a few big passing games, he's not a top playmaker. Chester Stewart is a mobile veteran, but he hasn't made the most of his opportunities. Transfer Clinton Granger is the wild card who could be the difference between a good season and a MAC title. The 6-3, 235-pounder can run, bomb, and make things happen on his own, but he needs to prove he can be steady and efficient to take the gig away from Gerardi.

What to watch for on defense: The defensive tackles. The secondary and linebacking corps should reload and be okay, and Adrian Robinson is a star to work around on the outside of the line, but the Owls need the big boys on the inside to produce after Muhammad Wilkerson took off to become a New York Jet. 300-pound sophomore Shahid Paulhill worked as a big end for most of last year, and now he'll be a full-time tackle where he needs to get into the backfield on a regular basis like Wilkerson did. Junior Kadeem Custis was a key starter on the outside when Paulhill wasn't getting the job done, but he's better suited for the inside. These two need to be rocks against the run.

The team will be far better if … the pass rush comes back. Addazio and staff will figure out how to get the offense moving through the air, but it might take a little time. The key to the season will be a defense that came up with 34 sacks two years ago with Adrian Robinson ripping off 12 to lead the MAC, and with Wilkerson adding 6.5 from the inside. The 2009 Owls came up with 77 tackles for loss, while the 2010 Owls registered 24 sacks and just 61 tackles for loss. The back seven isn't as good as it was over the last few seasons, and the line has to go back to being dangerous.

The schedule: It's good enough to win the MAC title. The Owls should provide a fight to Penn State, but it won't have enough in the bag to get by, and it should push Maryland the week after, but the season is all about winning the MAC title. The Owls start out the season against Villanova, which needs to be used as a tune-up before kicking off conference play against Akron the following week. Missing Northern Illinois and Western Michigan from the West is a huge plus, and while getting Toledo is a bad break, at least the game is at home. The key to the season is a three-game stretch going on the road to Bowling Green and Ohio before the showdown against Miami, but the RedHawk game is at home. The final three games are at The Link.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Bernard Pierce. There's no denying that Pierce is one of the nation's best backs with 6-0, 218-pound size, great speed, and a nose for the goal line and a knack for coming through in the big game. However, he's only great when he's on the field. Pierce ran for 1,361 yards and 16 scores as a freshman, but he got hurt late with a shoulder injury. Last year he ran for just 728 yards and ten scores on 154 carries, and he was hurt all season long. When he's right, Temple is a tough out and good enough to beat anyone in the league.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Adrian Robinson. The 2009 MAC Defensive Player of the Year should've been dominant again in 2010. He had a first round NFL Draft talent on the inside in Wilkerson taking the heat off, and his job was just to take off and get into the backfield. Instead, he followed up a 12-sack season with 3.5, with the big plays coming at a random basis. At 6-2 and 250 pounds he's big enough to hold up against the run, but he needs to be a terror into the backfield again.

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT/OG Steve Caputo. The starting quarterback will have the spotlight to himself and will need to get the passing game going, but he also needs time to work. Caputo is the key to the line that almost never had the same combination on a regular basis with eight different lineups. The 6-5, 320-pound veteran can work inside or out, but no matter where he plays, he needs to be great. If he's the starting left tackle, he has to be a lock-down pass protector, and if he's at left guard, he has to be the run blocker the line works behind.

The season will be a success if … Temple wins the MAC. Northern Illinois might be the best team in the league, and Western Michigan and Toledo are as good as Temple, but the top teams are all in the West. If the Owls can come up with wins over Ohio and Miami, they shouldn't have a problem with the rest of the conference slate and they should be able to play for the MAC title. Anything less will be a failure in Addazio's first year, and winning the conference championship is a reasonable goal to shoot for.

Key game: Nov. 2 at Ohio. The MAC East was there for the taking. On a rainy, miserable night late last November, the Owls couldn't get the offense moving, getting down 31-10, and then rallied in the final few minutes before coming up short in a program-crushing 31-23 loss. The week after, the Owls lost to Miami in a lifeless 23-3 clunker, and the season was over. This year, the Owls have to go to Athens in what might be the most important game of the MAC East season, and they need to beat Ohio before dealing with Miami the next week.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Fumbles: Opponents 25 (lost 11) – Temple 20 (lost 13)
- Kickoff Return Average: Temple 22.3 yards – Opponents 17.4 yards
- Field Goals: Opponents 14-of-26 – Temple 13-of-20

- 2011 Temple Preview | 2011 Temple Offense
- 2011 Temple Defense | 2011 Temple Depth Chart