What you need to know ...
For good and bad, only three starters return to a defense
that gave up 461 yards and 45 points per game. The buzz word
will be flexibility as former star Penn State linebacker and new
defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio will use several different
alignments and formations depending on the situation. The base
will be a 3-4, but there will occasionally be a 5-2 to bring the
outside linebackers up as pass rushers. The secondary has the
most promise with several decent prospects, while the front
three is big, if not experienced. The linebacking corps will be
a work in progress as the coaching staff tries to make the parts
Tackles: Garrett Schultz, 91
Interceptions: Chris Page, 1
Star of the defense: Senior S Chris Page
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
CB Georg Coleman
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Devin Tyler
Best pro prospect: Sophomore NT Terrance Knighton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Page, 2) Knighton, 3)
Strength of the defense: Size up front, depth in the
Weakness of the defense:
Proven playmakers, experience
With all the top pass rushers from last year gone,
priority one will be to figure out how to generate some sort of pressure
from the front three. There's good size helped by 325-pound Terrance
Knighton and 290-pound Alston Smith, but there's almost no experience
and no returning sacks. The strength will be on the nose with several
players looking to be the team's anchor.
The key to the unit: Figure out how to come up with an interior
pass rush and use all the size up front to be much stronger against the
Defensive Line Rating: 3.5
- DE Devin Tyler, RFr.
Tyler has the talent to be the Owls most dominant defensive player. The
6-6, 250-pounder redshirt freshman is starting to fill out his frame
while keeping his athleticism. He came to Temple a rail-thin 215 pounds
and still has room to add more weight.
Terrance Knighton, Soph. - 17 tackles, 3.5 TFL
The 325-pound Knighton is the biggest player on the line and is expected
to grow into the team's most important run stopper now that Neil Dickson
has moved to the nose. He got one start and
made the most of it dominating Navy for 11 tackles.
- DT Philip Simpson, Soph.
The 275-pound sophomore worked his way though the mix to earn the
starting spot this spring. He'll have to battle with Doug Morris for the
job this summer, but he has the quickness and potential to be a fixture
on the line.
- DT Alston Smith, Soph. - 4 tackles
Smith is a bowling ball of a player at 6-0 and 290 pounds. He saw a
little bit of time as a reserve throughout last season, and now he has
to be one of the team's better run defenders as a backup for both tackle
spots. His size gives him good
- DT Doug Morris, Sr.
It'll be a bit of a shock if he doesn't start early on. The 280-pound
senior was all set to be a top performer last year but was hurt and
missed the entire season. He has the best combination of size and
quickness on the line.
This will have to be the team's most flexible position with
so many alignment changes. The outside linebackers will have to
occasionally be defensive ends and will sometimes have to be safeties,
while the inside defenders will mostly be used to stop the run. Ryan
Gore is the only returning linebacker with any appreciable experience,
but Keith Holt should make a successful switch from safety to linebacker
and Leyon Azubuike should do well on the end after moving over from
The key to the unit: Everyone has to stay flexible
depending on the situation. Out of all the positions that need
improvement from last year, this needs the biggest upgrade.
Linebacker Rating: 4
- Leyon Azubuike, Soph.
Can Azubuike make the move back to defense? Originally a defensive end,
the 245-pound sophomore caught five passes as a tight end and now will
move to outside linebacker. He'll be the key to the defense being used
as to be an extra safety in pass coverage and a pass rushing defensive
end when the line uses five players up front.
- Keith Holt. Soph. - 33 tackles, 1 interception, 2.5 TFL
The 215-pound sophomore will move from safety to inside linebacker. He
bulked up in the off-season to handle the demands of the position after
being one of the team's steadiest defenders as a true freshman. He might
not be that big, but he's a tremendous athlete.
- Walter Mebane, Sr. - 21 tackles, 1 TFL
Mebane saw time in every game last season as a reserve. The coaching
staff wanted him to get in better shape to handle the rigors of the
inside job, and he did. Now the 225-pound senior should be one of the
team's leading tacklers.
- Ryan Gore, Sr. - 60 tackles, 2 TFL
Gore is a quick, experienced defender who's one of the few returning
starters to the defense. He started out his career at running back
before moving over to linebacker early in his freshman year, and now he
has 34 games of experience on the outside with some of the best
quickness in the corps.
- Ryan Herting, Soph.
While Ryan Gore appears to be firmly entrenched at one of the outside
linebacker spots, the 215-pound Herting will push hard for time. The
Pitt transfer will be expected to get in the backfield early and often
when he gets on the field.
- Kevin Armstrong, Soph.
At 240 pounds, Armstrong is one of the team's bigger linebacker options.
He'll be used as an outside linebacker and defensive end behind Leyon
The secondary was the worst in the nation when it came to
pass efficiency defense allowing quarterbacks to complete 66% of their
passes for a 163.2 passer rating. On the plus side, this
is one of the deepest units on the team with several options to play
with and interchangeable parts throughout the secondary. Help has been
enlisted from elsewhere with former running back Georg Coleman and
former receiver Michael Loveland trying their hands at defensive back,
while the return of David Reese from academic exile will provide a huge
The key to the unit: Someone has to make a play.
There was almost not production in the secondary last year, but now
it'll start from near-scratch. It'll take a while to get better, so
patience will be important.
Secondary Rating: 3.5
- CB Georg Coleman, Soph.
A running back last season rushing for 31 yards on 23 carries, he'll
move to corner bringing his speed and quickness to the defensive
backfield combining with Evan Cooper on the right side. He's also a key
- Right S Dominique Harris, RFr.
At 6-3 and 190 pounds, Harris is the tallest safety with the speed to
grow into a top all-around playmaker on the right side. He should be a
big improvement for the pass defense, but it remains to be seen what he
can do against the run on a consistent basis.
- Left S Chris Page, Sr. - 49 tackles, 1 INT, 1 broken up passes
Page turned into a starter early on last season and was the team's most
productive corner despite missing time with an ankle injury. The former
JUCO star is also a
great special teamer, and
now he'll be expected to grow into a top safety with Garrett Schultz no
longer with the program
- CB David Reese, Sr.
Reese started out looking like one of the team's most promising
defenders before having problems with his academics and needing to go
the JUCO route. He's back after missing all of last year and should
be one of the team's top corners on the left side now that Chris Page
has moved to safety.
- CB Evan Cooper, Soph. - 4 tackles
Cooper will start out as a reserve on the right side but will push
former running back Georg Coleman for the job. He's very fast and has
- S Michael Loveland, Sr.
Loveland spent last year as a wide receiver catching five passes for 43
yards while also serving as a key special teamer. He has to learn the
ropes early on and needs to overcome the problems with his athleticism
on right safety behind Richard Sheppard.
- Garrett Schultz, Sr. - 91 tackles, 2 TFL
Schultz started every game last season finishing second on the team in
tackles, but he's not with the program anymore leaving after spring
Special teams wasn't immune from all the problems of last
year averaging a nation's-worst 27.25 yards per punt while finishing
second-to-last in punt returns and 105th in kickoff returns. The
coverage units were a joke allowing 13.4 yards per punt return and 26.3
yards per kickoff return. It'll be up to Danny Murphy, Jake Brownell and
Mike Pettinelli to figure out the kicking and punting situations, while
it'll be an open casting call for the kick return jobs with Nick Santa
Cruz, Tim Brown, Jason Harper and Travis Shelton all getting looks.
The key to the unit: Wipe the slate clean and start
from scratch. Step one will be to improve the coverage units and hope
things improve from there.
Special Teams Rating: 3.5
- PK Danny Murphy, Jr. or
Mike Pettinelli, Sr.
The only experience is Murphy's one missed field goal against West
Virginia in 2004, so it'll be an open competition all summer long for
the starting job. Pettinelli is a walk-on who'll get every shot at the
- P Jake Brownell. RFr.
The Navy transfer will get the first shot at the punting job. It'll be
next to impossible for him to not be an improvement after the Owls were
the worst in the nation last season in net punting.