Temple Preview 2006 - Defense
Temple Owls
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Temple Owls Preview 2006 - Temple Owl Defense

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 fit. 

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Garrett Schultz, 91
Sacks: None
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) Tyler
Strength of the defense: Size up front, depth in the secondary
Weakness of the defense:
Proven playmakers, experience

Defensive Line
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 run.

Defensive Line Rating: 3.5

Projected Starters
- 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.

- NT
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.

Top Backups
- 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 leverage.

- 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 tight end.
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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 Azubuike.

Defensive Backs
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 boost. 
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

Projected Starters
- 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 special teamer.

- 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.

Top Backups
- 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 great upside.
- 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 ball.

Special Teams
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

Projected Starters
- 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 job.
- 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.

Related Stories
Temple Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Temple Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Temple Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

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