2009 Temple Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 29, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Temple Owl Offense

Temple Owls

Preview 2009 - Offense

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2009 Temple Depth Chart
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What you need to know: There’s plenty of experience and plenty of depth returning, but now there has to be some production. Nine starters are back, but where will they play? There will be plenty of movement on the line where several players will switch spots throughout the season until the coaching staff finds the right combination, while leading rusher Kee-ayre Griffin will have to battle just to be in the top two of the depth chart. The key will be the quarterback play where Vaughn Charlton will get the first look after sitting out last year, but he’ll have a fight on his hands to keep the gig. There’s too much experience and too much overall speed and quickness for Temple to be last in the MAC in total offense again, but unless the line play improves in a huge way, this might be another tough year.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chester Stewart
53-106, 524 yds, 4 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Kee-ayre Griffin
96 carries, 394 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Jason Harper
33 catches, 571 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Jason Harper
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Vaughn Charlton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG John Palumbo
Best pro prospect: Sophomore WR James Nixon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harper, 2) RB Kee-ayre Griffin, 3) OT Pat Boyle
Strength of the offense: Experience, speed at receiver
Weakness of the offense: Production, pass protection


Projected Starter: Junior Vaughn Charlton was saved for this year, but he needs to prove early on that he’s ready to be the starter to work the offense around. At 6-4 and 235 pounds he has good size and good passing skills, but he’s not all that mobile and didn’t do anything special in his time as a starter two years ago. He threw for 808 yards and three touchdowns in 2007 and now will have to show a bit of a spark to get the offense moving on a more consistent basis.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Chester Stewart was thrown into the mix for three games last year when Adam DiMichele went down and he showed promise. While he only completed half of his passes with seven interceptions, including three against Penn State, he threw four touchdown passes, with three coming in the win over Miami University, and showed great mobility. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, he has good size to go along with his rushing ability.

The coaching staff is keeping open the idea of true freshman Chris Coyer to see time right away. The 6-3, 210-pound lefty is a fantastic runner, taking off for 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior for Oakton High in Virginia, and he threw for 32 scores. While he’ll most likely redshirt and be the main man two years from now, he could be too good to keep on the bench for long.

Watch Out For ... Charlton to take hold of the starting job and not let it go. He was close to playing last year but didn’t see any time to keep his two years of eligibility alive. He might press a bit early on and make mistakes, but this should be his gig as long as he’s at least above average.
Strength: Size. There’s not going to be an issue with height or at least looking the part with all the quarterback options big, strong, and with good potential to be the main man.
Adam DiMichele. Often hurt, DiMichele had a hard time staying on the field. However, he was a warrior who fought through injuries and made things happen for the team. The Owls need a quarterback to provide the same type of spark, especially in the clutch.
Outlook: While Adam DiMichele will be missed, the overall situation is strong with Vaughn Charlton ready to step back into the spotlight after failing to get on the field all of last year. Chester Stewart has progressed and does a little of everything well, and freshman Chris Coyer is a mobile prospect to work on for the near future. Don’t discount the idea of rotating quarterbacks depending on the situation, but Charlton will likely turn out to be leader after a good battle for playing time.
Rating: 5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Senior Lamar McPherson started out last year as a linebacker, after making 29 stops in 2007, and made five tackles last year. He saw a little time on offense but didn’t gain any yards, and now he’ll start out as one of the key options to get the ground game going. The Syracuse transfer has excellent speed and could be a game-breaker the offense has been missing.
Projected Top Reserves: Working both in the backfield and as a kick returner, sophomore Kee-ayre Griffin had a decent true freshman season with a team-leading 394 yards and five touchdowns with a 4.1 yard-per-carry average. At 5-11 and 185 pounds he’s a wiry, quick back who came on over the second half of last season to become a steady producer. He can be used as a receiver with eight grabs for 128 yards.

Sophomore Ahkeem Smith saw a little bit of time last year with 26 yards in a limited role, but now he’ll be expected to carry more of the workload. While he won’t be much of a receiver, he provides a little bit of pop and has a nose for the goal line. At least he was a big-time scorer in high school with 50 touchdowns in his last two years.

Sophomore Joe Jones finished second on the team with 275 yards and a score getting a little bit of work throughout the year. The 5-11, 206-pounder can take over the starting role if needed, he has the skills to become a No. 1 back. However, he’ll most likely serve as the type of back who gets 5-to-10 carries per game.

When the offense uses a fullback, which won’t be all that often, it’ll turn to walk-on redshirt freshmen Zack Collins and Bob DeLucas. DeLucas is 240 pounds and Collins is 235.

Watch Out For ... more Kee-ayre Griffin. Forget about the off-season depth charts and the idea of rotating backs on a steady basis. Griffin will be the team’s top back until he drops, if he drops. He’s the team’s best back and he should lead the team in rushing again.
Strength: Options. There’s only one running back slot in the offense but there are four good, quick players to work with. There’s a good mix of youth, athleticism, and possibilities to find a hot hand to stick with.
Production. The Owls had a big, veteran offensive line last year and a decent passing game, but the running game wasn’t able to take advantage averaging a mere 95 yards per game with 12 touchdowns. It’s not a plus when the leading rusher (Griffin) had just 394 yards.
Outlook: The coaching staff has made a concerted effort to push the running game and get it going, but first there has to be a back who takes the job by the horns. Kee-ayre Griffin will be the main man for stretches, but former LB Lamar McPherson will add more flash. Running back coach Tyree Foreman has several decent players to work with, and now there needs to be more production.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters: With leading receiver Bruce Francis gone, it’ll be up to senior Jason Harper to become the main man. Originally a running back with 586 yards and five touchdowns in 2007, he was switched to wideout and finished second on the team with 33 catches for 571 yards and three scores. At 5-9 and 195 pounds he’s not all that big, but he can move at the outside X position in place of Francis.

Taking over Harper’s spot at the Z will be James Nixon, a 6-1, 185-pound sophomore who saw a little bit of time last year but only made one catch for 46 yards. The UConn transfer is one of the team’s fastest players and best all-around athletes, but now he has to make his skills translate into production. A pure home-run hitter, he might not be build like a pounding back, but the two-time New England 100-meter champion should be a bolt of lightning once he gets into the open. The plan will be to find several ways to get him the ball

Back at his spot in the slot will be senior Dy’Onne Crudup after making 15 catches for 214 yards and a score. It was a down year after he came up with 39 catches in 2007, and now he has to be more consistent and come up with more big plays to use his experience and speed to do more.

Senior Steve Maneri took over the starting tight end job halfway through the season and will be a big blocker once again. He hasn’t been much of a receiver in his career, but he has made the most of his opportunities with seven touchdowns on just 26 grabs. He scored four times last year and can be used more as a safety valve. At 6-6 and 271 pounds, he’s built like a third tackle who can run decent short  routes.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Nyles Bynum has been involved as a practice player over the last few years but has yet to catch a pass in game play. He has been on the field for 11 games and now has to provide some production as the backup behind Jason Harper at the X. At 6-1 and 190 pounds he has decent size to go along with good speed.

Junior Delano Green has mostly served as a punt returner averaging 10.8 yards per try to so far in his career. However, he only has four catches in two years. The star high school quarterback is only 5-10 and 170 pounds, but he can fly.

One of the team’s most interesting new weapons will be Matt Brown, a 5-5, 160-pound freshman who has lightning quickness. He went the military academy route for a year before joining Temple, and now he’s ready to see time right away behind Dy’Onne Crudup in the slot.

Combining with Steve Maneri at tight end will be 6-4, 258-pound sophomore Matt Balasavage. After getting hurt right away, he got on the field early as a true freshman and made two catches for 42 yards with a touchdown in 2007 and redshirted last year. With good size and the athleticism to become a regular contributor, he needs to be used as a regular in the passing game.

Watch Out For ... more big plays. The speed is there to make several big plays. The Owls averaged an excellent 13 yards per catch last year, but the quarterback play could be a bit shakier early on. Eventually, there should be plenty of home runs.
Strength: Veterans. Bruce Francis might be gone, but everyone else of note is back. A true No. 1 go-to target has to emerge, but there are plenty of No. 2s. 
A proven scorer. The Owls came up with 22 touchdown catches last year, but Francis had 13 of them. There might have been too much of a reliance on the proven veteran, but his loss leaves a gaping hole to be filled.
Outlook: The receiving corps could be one of the team’s biggest strengths even if the stats don’t quite show it. The speed is there, and then some, led by the combination Jason Harper and James Nixon, who can blow past anyone in the MAC. The tight end combination of Steve Maneri and Matt Balasavage has been underutilized and could be far more productive as safety valves.
Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The team’s biggest loss, other than QB Adam DiMichele, is at center where Alex Derenthal is gone. Sophomore Wayne Tribune started last year at left guard but will move inside to bring excellent size and surprising quickness for the position. At 6-4 and 312 pounds, he’s a thumper who can also move.

Stepping in at Tribune’s spot at left guard will be John Palumbo, a right guard who’ll move to the other side. The 6-6, 304-pounder started the final five games last year and should grow into the role in his new spot. He’s a good athlete for his size and could be a tackle if needed.

With Palumbo moving spots, that means Colin Madison will step in after seeing a little bit of work in six games. He has starting time at guard and should be fine at right guard with a little bit more time. The 6-4, 310-pound junior has mostly made his mark on the track field so far as a star in the shot put for the Owl track team. He’s a very strong, very physical player who should turn into a mauler on the inside. Even though he has the potential to be an All-MAC performer on the football field before his career is over, he likely won't ever be as good as he in on the track.   

Senior Devin Tyler spent most of last year at left tackle and now will move to the right side. The 6-7, 301-pound veteran is a former defensive end who has had problems in pass protection throughout his career. He was a part of a rotation last season after starting all 12 games in 2007. Now he needs to use his size and experience to be more consistent.

Taking over at left tackle will be Pat Boyle after starting four times as a true freshman. The 6-5, 308-pound sophomore took over the starting job late in the year and he should be a mainstay for the next three seasons. He needs to improve his pass protection, but he’s a good athlete for his size and he should grow into the team’s star.

Projected Top Reserves
Junior Marcus Brown won’t likely take over the starting left tackle job from Pat Boyle, but he’s just good enough to see time somewhere on the line. The 6-4, 292-pounder redshirted last year and saw a little time in 2007 after starting ten times as a true freshman. He might move to the right side at times.

6-5, 316-pound junior Derek Dennis got his feet wet as a true freshman starting ten games at right guard and got six starts last year on the left side. One of the team’s most versatile blockers, he could see time at either guard or tackle and will start out playing behind Devin Thomas at right tackle.

6-4, 305-pound junior Darius Morris was supposed to play a role last year but ended up redshirting. A strong recruit a few years ago, he got four starts as a sophomore and now will be a big, athletic option behind John Palumbo at left guard.
Watch Out For ... more tinkering with the combination. The lineup was never set with only one player, Alex Derenthal, starting every game in the same spot. There are plenty of interchangeable parts, and the coaching staff will have to keep working to find the right fits.
Strength: Veterans. There’s veteran depth to go along with all the starting experience among the starters. This group has seen it all in MAC play and has been around long enough to be far better if there can be a little more cohesion.
Production. Considering all the experience and all the talent of last year’s line, there should’ve been far better protection for the passing game and far more done for the ground attack. Temple was last in the MAC in rushing yards and last in sacks allowed.
Outlook: Offensive line coach Andrew Dees had veterans, backups, and options to work with last season and it was still the league’s least productive offensive line. This year’s group has everyone back except for all-star Alex Derenthal at center, so while there’s still a ton of work to be done, this should be an area of improvement if experience means anything. The key will be to find a steady starting five to count on game in and game out, and it’ll be vital to find one thing this group can do well.