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2008 Temple Preview - Defense
Temple NT Andre Neblett
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Temple Owl Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need to know:
11 starters return along with
a ton of backup experience to one of the MAC's top defense. The
D gave up plenty of yards, but it was the epitome of a
bend-but-don't-break group that stiffened up big-time in the red
zone. The secondary should be the strength with safeties
Dominique Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett forming one of the
league's best tandems, while the real improvement should be on a
line revolving around tackles Terrance Knighton and Andre
Neblett. The ends have experience, and there's more potential
for a steady pass rush with Junior Galette likely to approach
double-digit sacks. The linebacking corps has the speed and the
experience; now it has to be better.
Tackles: Dominique Harris, 81
Junior Galette, 7.5
Interceptions: Dominique Harris, 3
Star of the defense: Senior DT Terrance Knighton
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Jordan Martin
Best pro prospect: Knighton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Knighton, 2) NT Andre Neblett,
3) SS Dominque Harris
Strength of the defense: Experience, the secondary, the
Weakness of the defense:
Linebacking corps, run defense
Projected Starters: The anchor of the veteran
defense will once again be 6-2, 290-pound junior Andre Neblett
after making 42 tackles. A strong interior pass rusher with 4.5 sacks
and 8.5 tackles for loss, he's a quick, tough producer who was a
consistent rock in the middle starting all 12 games. His improvement was
one of the big reasons the defense became so much better.
Next to Neblett on the inside will be senior Terrance Knighton,
who's coming off a 56 tackle season with two sacks and 8.5 tackles for
loss. At 6-4 and 295 pounds he's the biggest defender on the line, and
he's also among the most active and productive leading the team with
three recovered fumbles. A great athlete who was a good high school
tight end, he has pro potential if he can be a big stronger and more
consistent against the run.
Senior Leyon Azubuike is a beefed up 6-3, 260-pound end turned
linebacker turned end who spent every game last year on the end making
35 tackles with a sack and 7.5 tackles for loss. While he's a
team-leader and a captain, he has to be more productive and more
disruptive. The Owls have pass rushers. If Azubuike doesn't do more to
get to the quarterback he'll see his playing time quickly decrease.
Sharing time on the outside in a hybrid of outside linebacker and
defensive end in the Rush Outside Linebacker position is sophomore
Morris Blueford after making 21 tackles and two interceptions as a
true freshman. He's a terrific athlete with the ability and the
potential to be a dangerous playmaker in the rotation.
Projected Top Reserves: In a consistent rotation
with Morris Blueford on one end is junior Junior Galette, the
team's leading pass rusher who ripped off a team-leading 7.5 sacks and
11.5 tackles for loss along with 41 tackles. Able to play linebacker if
needed, he found a home on the line and will get more playing time on
both end spots if he can continue to be explosive into the backfield.
It's a bit of a stretch to say he was the reason Temple beat Miami
University last year, but his three sacks and nine tackles had a lot to
do with it.
Also back to form a strong end rotation is junior Brian Sanford
after making 23 tackles and two sacks. The former outside linebacker has
bulked up and showed he could hold up against the run, but the former
high school hurdler has to be more effective in the backfield. He played
in every game last year and could start without the defense missing a
One of the team's key newcomers is star recruit Josh Williams, a
JUCO transfer who's not all that big at 6-2 and 265 pounds, but it
active. Originally off to Boston College, he's a big-time athlete with
the speed to play on the end if needed. With his quickness he should be
a dangerous inside pass rusher right away on the nose.
Adding bulk on the inside is sophomore Elisha Joseph who'll back
up Terrance Knighton. At 6-3 and 270 pounds, he's not huge, but he's big
enough to handle himself against the run and should build on his
19-tackle true freshman season and be a force for the next three years.
Watch Out For ... a better season. This could be the
MAC's best line if everyone uses the experience of last year to make a
jump up in production. Terrance Knighton and Andre Neblett have the
talent to be tremendous, and there's speed on the outside to get to the
passer on a more regular basis.
Strength: Experience and depth. Everyone is
returning to the two-deep except for Josh Williams, and the JUCO
transfer could be the most talented lineman of the lot. This should be
the team's biggest strength.
Weakness: Being physical. Too often the line was shoved around
in key moments, and while the run defense wasn't awful, finishing third
in the MAC, it has to be even more of a plus and even more consistent.
Outlook: If this isn't the best front four in the
MAC, it'll be in the top three. Compared to most MAC teams there's
plenty of size all along the front, and there's more than enough
experience and athleticism for it all to come together and be a special
unit. You know things are good when the second teamers might turn out to
be better than the projected starters.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps might be
a work in progress, but junior Alex Joseph should be a sure thing
starter in the middle. While not huge at 6-2 and 228 pounds, he's a
tough tackler with great range. He finished fourth on the team with 66
tackles with seven tackles for loss, and now he's expected to do even
more. Speed isn't an issue and he's great at getting to the ball. Now he
has to be more disruptive.
Sophomore Amara Kamara started every game as a true freshman
making 71 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. While he beefed up over the
last few years, he's still not huge at 225 pounds. Even so, he's a
hitting machine on the outside with the strength to handle himself
against any tight end on the strongside. While he's built like a safety
and runs a 4.58 40, he's a linebacker.
6-3, 235-pound sophomore Jordan Martin is a big, smart defender
on the weakside. The transfer from Valparaiso had to sit out last year
and is now expected to be dominant from the start. He has the potential
to be a top pass rusher and has the quickness to be a strong pass
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing hard for the
starting job on the strongside will be 5-11, 210-pound junior Lamar
McPherson after making 29 tackles a sack and five tackles for loss.
While the Syracuse transfer isn't big and appears to be more suited for
the weakside, he has tremendous speed and can get into the backfield.
For a while early in his career he considered moving to running back
before settling in on defense.
Junior John Haley will get a long look on the strongside, but
he'll have to battle to get more time in the rotation. With 59 tackles
and three sacks over the last two seasons, he has a little bit of
experience playing in 24 games with three starts. Now the 6-1, 220-pound
cousin of former NFL star Charles Haley has to use his physical style to
do more against the run.
Behind Jordan Martin in the middle will be 6-2, 240-pound senior
Tommie Weatherspoon, the biggest linebacker option. The former JUCO
star originally signed with Middle Tennessee, dominated at Reedley CC,
and was a key backup last year making 26 stops.
Working with Jordan Martin on the weakside will be 6-2, 230-pound
sophomore Elijah Joseph after making two tackles in a little bit
of time as a true freshman. He's a natural pass rusher with the
quickness to get into the backfield on a regular basis. Now he just
needs a chance.
Watch Out For ... Jordan Martin. The Valpo transfer
has all the tools to be an instant impact performer on the outside. At
the very least he strengthens the depth in a big way.
Strength: Amara Kamara and Alex Joseph. The
linebacking corps took a step back to potentially take a huge leap
forward. The good recruiting classes of the last few years should
finally reap rewards.
Weakness: Pass rush. There's speed and quickness at all three
spots, but can it transfer into production? The run defense was too much
of a problem throughout last year and there has to be more big plays.
The group needs to be turned loose.
Outlook: The hope was to go through lumps last
year to lead to a big 2008. There's more experience now, and with some
help with the addition of Jordan Martin and top recruit Adrian Robinson,
there's no reason to not be a whole bunch better. Alex Joseph and Alex
Kamara have to take the next step and become even bigger defensive
Projected Starters: The strong secondary starts
with junior strong safety Dominique Harris after leading the team
with 81 tackles with three interceptions and five broken up passes. The
team's top returning tackler going into last year, he proved that he's
the star to build the back seven around after moving from free safety to
the strong to take advantage of his 6-3, 215-pound size and big hitting
Sophomore Jaiquawn Jarrett was a special teams star as a true
freshman and got six starts in the defensive backfield making 61 tackles
with five broken up passes. At 6-2 and 190 pounds he has decent size to
go along with corner speed. He'll get in on several tackles but he has
to do more when the ball is in the air.
The team's top corner will be junior Anthony Ferla after making
45 tackles, an interception, and five broken up passes in his second
year as a starter. Ridiculously fast and with tremendous leaping
ability, he plays bigger than his 5-10 and 190 pounds. While he hasn't
done enough to come up with big plays on No. 1 receivers, he's been a
great tackler who doesn't give up many yards after the catch.
Sophomore Jamal Schulters got his feet wet in ten starts as a
true freshman. Not only did he pick off two passes and break up four, he
recovered two fumbles and finished second on the team with 74 tackles.
After originally signing with Kansas State two years ago, Schulters
switched over to Temple and was an instant star. Along with being a top
corner he saw time as a kickoff returner, but he only averaged 18.4
yards per try.
Projected Top Reserves: Dominique Harris is a rock
at strong safety, but there's still room somewhere for senior Georg
Coleman. The veteran started off his career as a running back before
moving to corner and then settling in at safety making 26 tackles and
two interceptions. Able to play either safety spot, he's one of the
team's most versatile backup defensive backs.
6-0, 200-pound senior Richard Sheppard was never healthy last
season and finished with just eight tackles in nine games. A good hitter
with excellent range, he'll see plenty of time at free safety and could
be moved over to strong safety at times just to get him on the field.
Seniors Evan Cooper and Tommie Williams have been around
long enough to step in at any time at corner and produce. They're both
around the same size with the same skills. Williams, a tremendous
athlete who once won the Florida state high school triple jump
championship, made 17 tackles while Cooper made 13 stops after making 52
as a sophomore. Cooper has the speed and the experience, but he's just
not that great in coverage.
Watch Out For ... the corners to do even more.
Anthony Ferla and Jamal Schulters can hit, and now they need to use
their speed and experience to do more to take the ball away. The two
won't combine for just three interceptions again this season.
Strength: Depth. The coaching staff has made a
point of throwing the most talented players on the field no matter what,
and while that's been a problem at some spots, with the inexperience
leading to mistakes, it wasn't that big an issue in the secondary. The
Owls have several options to play around with.
Weakness: Interceptions. The Owls came up with 14 as a team and
there's no reason there can't be more. The pass defense was hardly an
issue, but that was partly because teams chose to run the ball on a
regular basis. Everyone has to do more to turn games around with a big
Outlook: The MAC's best pass defense should be
even better with more help from the defensive front to pressure the
quarterback. All four spots are strong with good, young players led by
the safety tandem of Dominique Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett, while the
corner tandem of Anthony Ferla and Jamal Schulters should be among the
best in the league. Unlike past years there's decent depth to rely on.
Projected Starters: The punting was lousy last
year, but it wasn't all Jeff Wathne's fault. He averaged 38.2
yards per kick with 11 put inside the 20 and ten forced fair catches,
but he didn't get a bunch of help from the coverage unit. Even so, he
could stand to be more consistent. He has a big leg, and now he has to
Junior PK Jake Brownell had a few big moments and hit 13 of 21
field goals, but he doesn't have a consistently big leg and missed five
kicks inside the 40. He'll be challenged by Wathne, who has a bigger leg
and will likely get more chances to hit from deep.
Sophomore Delano Green was the bright spot on an otherwise
abysmal punt return game. The team averaged 5.4 yards per return but
Green averaged 10.4 yards on his seven tries. The kickoff returns
weren't much better even with Travis Shelton averaging 21.9 yards
per try. Jamal Schulters will get more chances, but Shelton is
the better option.
Watch Out For ... a major overall improvement. How
much does the coaching staff want to improve the special teams? Head
coach Al Golden is once again handling the job. There's a major focus on
improving in all areas.
Strength: Experience. For good and bad, all the
key parts are back with both kickers and all the return men. The
production was so poor last year that there can't help but be more
production. The Owls were good at blocking kicks.
Weakness: Punt coverage. Punter Jeff Wathne wasn't great, but it
wasn't like he got a lot of help. The Owls gave up a whopping 11.2 yards
per punt return and two scores.
Outlook: Head coach Al Golden wanted to make
special teams a strength last year, but that didn't work. Now he's
really, really emphasizing the importance of an across the board
improvement. Jeff Wathne has the leg to be a better punter and to do
more on deep field goal attempts, while PK Jake Brownell has the
experience to potentially be more consistent. The return game has to
turn into a plus after years of being among the worst in America.