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2008 Temple Preview - Defense
Temple NT Andre Neblett
Temple NT Andre Neblett
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Temple Owl Defense

Temple Owls

Preview 2008 - Defense


- 2008 CFN Temple Preview | 2008 Temple Offense
- 2008 Temple Defense |
2008 Temple Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Temple Preview | 2006 CFN Temple Preview
 

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Dominique Harris, 81
Sacks: 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 John Haley
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 tackles
Weakness of the defense:
Linebacking corps, run defense

Defensive Line

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 beat.

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.
Rating:
5.5

Linebackers

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 defender.


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 forces.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

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 ability.

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 play.
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.
Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

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 use it.

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.
Rating: 5