2013 Temple Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Temple Owl Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Temple's leading returning rusher and passer, Chris Coyer, is now lining up at H-back. And the guy who caught the most touchdown passes in 2012, Cody Booth, is taking a swing at left tackle. Yeah, it's going to be a major transition year in Philadelphia. The Owls, under head coach Matt Rhule, are moving from Steve Addazio's ground-based spread to a more passer-friendly pro-style system. As such, Coyer's dual-threat persona is now persona non grata, soon to be replaced by either Connor Reilly or Clinton Granger. Reilly was the story of the spring, going from a holder on special teams to the top of the depth chart. His favorite target, assuming he remains in the pole position, will be Jalen Fitzpatrick, a dynamic playmaker underutilized by the previous regime. Temple will run it less in 2013, which is a good thing since a since a feature back might not emerge until the rookies arrive in the summer. The remaking of the Owls offense is going to take time and a much better fit of personnel than what currently exists on the roster.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Jalen Fitzpatrick
Passing: Chris Coyer
84-164, 946 yds, 8 TDs, 4 INTs
Rushing: Chris Coyer
111 carries, 444 yds, 2 TDs
Receiving: Jalen Fitzpatrick
30 catches, 363 yds, 2 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Connor Reilly
Unsung star on the rise: Senior LT Cody Booth
Best pro prospect: Fitzpatrick
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fitzpatrick, 2) Senior C Sean Boyle, 3) Sophomore OL Kyle Friend
Strength of the offense: Quarterback depth, run blockers
Weakness of the offense: The passing game, the backs, wide receivers, overall depth, explosive players
For the last two years, Connor Reilly, has led the Owls out of the tunnel, waving an American flag his father flew with as an Army squadron commander in Afghanistan. This year, he could be leading the Owls out of the offensive huddle. In the biggest offseason surprise so far, the strong-armed 6-3, 215-pounder has risen to the top of the depth chart, passing teammates with far more experience. The two-sport athlete, who doubles as an outfielder on the baseball team, has only been a holder on extra points and field goals in the fall. But his style of play is a far better fit for the new pro-style attack.
For now, 6-3, 220-pound senior Clinton Granger will be looking up at Reilly on the depth chart. The local product—and former transfer from Pierce (Calif.) College—possesses a good mix of size, speed and reps. As a two-game starter in 2012, he went 31-of-55 for 370 yards, two touchdowns and two picks, adding 206 yards and a score on the ground.
Watch Out For .... how well Reilly handles being the frontrunner in the summer. This is going to be completely uncharted territory for No. 12, who has spent his career with the complete anonymity of a holder. He's now the guy to beat, which will bring with it some unforeseen new challenges.
Strength: Athletic quarterbacks. Reilly is a two-sport athlete who can extend plays with his feet. Granger flashed his agility behind center last year. And, heck, the staff can even move former starting quarterback Chris Coyer, a Tim Tebow-like bruiser back behind center for situational purposes.
Weakness: The passing game. No disrespect to Reilly, but he's in this position largely because last year's starters were ineffective through the air. Yeah, the old guard ran a run-based spread, but that's no excuse for ranking 106th in passing efficiency and throwing just 10 touchdown passes.
Outlook: The Reilly story sure is an entertaining one, but will it have a happy ending? The holder still has plenty to prove, and Granger will not go away without a fight. Both contenders need to continue grasping the nuances of a system that's starkly different from the one run the last two seasons. The Owls need someone capable of igniting a passing attack that's been dormant for many years.
For the second straight year, Temple is trying to replace a 1,000-yard rusher. In 2012, the Owls got a gift when Montel Harris transferred down from Boston College. This fall, they'll have to rely on returning players. Junior Kenny Harper has the inside track on the top spot after serving as a backup the last two seasons. The 6-0, 225-pounder started three games at fullback last year, carrying 13 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns. However, he'll also be an asset in the passing game, catching 13 passes for 129 yards and a score, and doing a terrific job picking up blitzes.
Sophomore Jamie Gilmore was one of 14 true freshmen to see the field in 2012. At 5-8 and 185 pounds, the Ocala, Fla. product is an all-purpose back who got his feet wet with 20 carries for 94 yards in his debut.
For a little more punch out of the backfield, the Owls might turn to 5-10, 198-pound redshirt freshman Avery Williams. He runs with the power of Harper, but with a little more quickness and elusiveness when he gets out into the open field.
Watch Out For .... one of the rookies to make a splash. The Owls signed three backs in February, headed by three-star Zaire Williams, an original West Virginia commit. This is a position where true freshmen traditionally don't require a ton of time to assimilate. Add in the need factor, and it's no wonder that newcomers will be embraced in August.
Strength: Young legs. In 2012, Temple went with Harris and Matt Brown, a pair of Owls with plenty of mileage on their wings. This season, though, the team will be employing a swath of running backs with plenty of tread on the tires. The unit will be young, and ideally fresh from start to finish.
Weakness: Lack of a true feature back. The Owls will run less in 2013 than in recent years, but they'll still need someone to carry the load from time to time. No running back left on the roster rushed for more than 100 yards last season, a quantifiable representation of the uncertainty that the backfield is facing as it enters the fall.
Outlook: The coaching staff is feverishly searching for an every-down back. Even former Penn State QB Kevin Newsome will even get a long look in the summer. This competition has yet to really begin, but will shift into high gear once the rookies put on pads for the first time. Harper is the safe bet right now, thanks to his ability to protect the quarterback and serve as a safety valve in the passing game.
With the offense moving to a more passer-friendly offense, Temple needs more consistency from its passers … and its receivers. While this group didn't have to do too much in recent years, its job description will be changing. The Owls' go-to guy should be 5-11, 180-pound "Z" receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick. He's this team's best all-around playmaker, a speedy weapon who led Temple with 30 catches for 363 yards and two touchdowns. He can also be used behind center as the quarterback in Wildcat formations.
It's now or never for 6-5, 210-pound senior Deon Miller at "X" receiver. Obviously, he enjoys a size advantage on everyone he faces and is experienced, but injuries have slowed down his progress as an Owl. He started three games in 2012, making seven grabs for 101 yards, but was arguably the team's top target a year earlier.
Sophomore John Christopher is contending with Miller at "X". He saw significant action in his first season, nabbing nine balls for 122 yards and a touchdown as a four-game starter. At 5-10 and 180 pounds, he lacks Miller's length, but offsets pedestrian size with clean hands and fundamentals.
Coming out of the slot, or "F" receiver, will be 5-9, 170-pound senior Ryan Alderman, who has played in every game of his college career. However, he's caught just 17 passes for 259 yards, failing to fit in properly in the old system. In the new pro-style attack, though, his ability to locate soft spots in the zone should emerge.
The staff needed to find a way to get last year's starting quarterback, 6-3, 230-pound senior Chris Coyer, on the field. It turns out that he might win the job at H-back. Coyer is a gamer and a nice athlete, even though his ability to connect downfield got him bumped in the race behind center. He caught two touchdown passes in the spring game, an early indication he might be a factor in the 2013 passing attack after all.
Watch Out For .... Fitzpatrick to benefit from the shift in offensive philosophy—and the change at quarterback. The junior got no help from his quarterbacks, but that figures to change this fall. There were two occasions when he caught balls clean in 2012, without having to extend or leap, and both resulted in touchdowns. With a little more support, Fitzpatrick could emerge as the outside threat that this program sorely needs.
Strength: Talent mix. Miller has outstanding size and leaping ability. Fitzpatrick and Alderman are shifty types who can make things happen after the catch. Coyer will box out defenders like a power forward. Together, they'll help give Temple a diverse set of hands with which the quarterbacks can connect.
Weakness: Depth of talent. Fitzpatrick is getting closer, but there really are no sure-things within this corps. Miller has had injury problems throughout his career, and the balance of the pass-catchers lack relevant experience at this level.
Outlook: The problem at receiver is that the group was rarely asked to catch passes over the past two seasons. And the transition back to a more traditional role won't happen overnight. The Owls are doing their best to flatten the curve and bolster depth, but the chemistry between a new quarterback and an evolving, largely unproven set of hands might not fully occur until 2014.
The Temple O-line is a work in progress that probably won't have a cohesive two-deep until late into summer. One of the more interesting developments of the offseason has been the relocation of TE Cody Booth to left tackle. The former walk-on was an effective pass-catcher in 2012, making 17 grabs for 137 yards and four touchdowns. However, the coaches felt as if he had the feet, the smarts and the toughness to protect the quarterback. He finished last season at 6-5 and 250 pounds, but was up to 270 pounds in the spring, with an eye on reaching 285 for the opener.
Last year's starting left tackle, 6-6, 280-pound sophomore Zach Hooks, has been moved to right tackle. He looks the part, and made steady progress throughout his debut, but now needs to ramp up his ability to neutralize the other guy's best pass rusher.
The staff is hopeful that sophomore Kyle Friend can emerge into an anchor up front in Philadelphia. The versatile 6-2, 300-pounder was a pleasant surprise in 2012, starting four games at center and five at right guard in his debut. He's tough, physical and poised to play wherever he's needed on the interior of the line.
Flanking Friend to his left will be experienced G Scott Roorda. The blue-collar senior started four games at right guard a year, earning reps that'll benefit him this fall. The one-time walk-on will scrap to the whistle, but can get whipped by better opposing linemen.
At right guard, the Owls could be leaning on a newcomer, true freshman Dion Dawkins. The 6-5, 330-pound mid-year enrollee has obvious natural physical gifts and a full spring behind him, but will need to be a quick study in order to maintain this spot throughout the 2013 season.
Watch Out For .... the return of 6-5, 300-pound senior Sean Boyle, who has been granted a sixth year of eligibility. The Owls really need their veteran to be available for all 12 games, though history says it might be doubtful. He missed all of 2011, and then went down with a shoulder injury after starting last season's first seven games. If Boyle returns to center, it'll send Friend to right guard and Dawkins to the second team.
Strength: Run blocking. Sure, this is going to be a different unit working a different playbook, but the one thing each blocker knows how to do is run block with authority. It should be in their DNA by now, especially the veterans. This will continue to be a self-made, no-nonsense unit that does its best work going north and south.
Weakness: Elite blockers. The left tackle is a converted tight end. The center is in only his second year. And the group's most important player is a physical liability. Temple lacks that one anchor that it can count on, week-in and week-out. Oh, and the depth of this unit is going to be a problem as well.
Outlook: During the peak of the Al Golden era, Temple was physical and nasty at the point of attack. New head coach Matt Rhule was on that staff, and wants to return to that mentality as quickly as possible. He might be a little disappointed in 2013. The Owls have the right mindset, but the personnel is a little shaky. A healthy Boyle will help immensely, especially for the younger blockers.
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