clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Temple football had one of the most improved defenses ever. Now for an AAC title shot?

The 128-team countdown previews a team that made one of the biggest jumps in college football advanced stats history.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. From 2-10 to 6-6 to ... ?

You don't have to believe it. Small samples create results your eyes don't expect, and no matter what, we're working with samples of 12 to 15 Saturdays. Another 15-20 Saturdays might paint a different picture.

Regardless, on the 12 Saturdays that Temple played football last fall, the Owls put together a series of results that suggested they had one of the best defenses in FBS. They allowed 17.5 points per game, fourth in the country. They allowed 4.75 yards per play, 11th.

And when you adjust for opponent, the rankings don't change much. Temple ranked 16th in Def. S&P+, driven by the ability to limit big plays, prevent teams from turning scoring opportunities into seven points, and improve dramatically as a half unfolded.

You don't have to believe that Temple's 2014 defense was better than Georgia's (17th in Def. S&P+), Michigan's (18th), Virginia's (19th), etc. But it was awfully effective.

Two other interesting notes about this defense:

1. In 10 years of S&P+ data, the only unit to ever improve by more than 90 spots in one season had been Auburn's offense in Gus Malzahn's return, jumping 91 spots. Temple's defense improved by 97.

2. It returns all 11 starters and almost its entire second string. It also adds the fruits of a second straight solid recruiting class.

A unit that improves so dramatically likely improved too much and will see statistical regression. And a unit that returns all 11 starters is almost guaranteed to improve. These conflicting traits make Temple a fascinating team.

Of course, with a top-20 defense, Temple still went 6-6. That was a rise from 2013's 2-10 finish, but it was still a mediocre finish in a mediocre conference. That tells you most of what you need to know about the offense.

But the combination of experience (the starting quarterback, two of three primary rushers, three of the top four receivers, and four starting linemen) and new blood (four three-star-plus running backs, two-three star receivers, and a four-star redshirt freshman lineman) could drag the Owls higher on the scoreboard.

And if the offense indeed improves, then ... why wouldn't Temple be an AAC contender? Especially with four of the six best teams on the schedule coming to Philadelphia?

Temple is one of college football's most fascinating teams in 2015. At least, on paper. (A bend-don't-break defense and sketchy offense don't create a team that is pleasing to the eye.) Matt Rhule has upgraded Temple's recruiting, and after a full-fledged Year Zero in 2013 (the Owls might have been the worst team in FBS for the first month), his squad made clear progress. I don't know what to expect, but if you play the Count the Ifs game, it doesn't take many ifs to make the Owls a legitimate top-50 team.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-6 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 67
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
28-Aug at Vanderbilt 115 37-7 W 77% 17.4 100%
6-Sep Navy 44 24-31 L 22% -18.1 7%
20-Sep Delaware State NR 59-0 W 92% 33.1 100%
27-Sep at Connecticut 119 36-10 W 73% 14.2 100%
11-Oct Tulsa 117 35-24 W 44% -3.4 91%
17-Oct at Houston 73 10-31 L 20% -19.7 6%
25-Oct at Central Florida 60 14-34 L 7% -33.8 0%
1-Nov East Carolina 61 20-10 W 79% 18.6 88%
7-Nov Memphis 41 13-16 L 59% 5.2 44%
15-Nov at Penn State 45 13-30 L 29% -13.2 23%
29-Nov Cincinnati 47 6-14 L 21% -18.9 4%
6-Dec at Tulane 93 10-3 W 71% 13.2 99%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 18.8 120 19.0 16
Points Per Game 23.1 100 17.5 4

2. Either great on the road or iffy at home

After an up-and-down start, Temple's defense was consistent. The Owls allowed 7.3 yards per play against Navy's masterful option, suffocated Delaware State to the tune of 1.8 yards per play, then settled into a rhythm; in each of their other 10 games, they allowed between 3.8 and 5.4 yards per play.

That's the only time I'll use the word "consistent." Temple's week-to-week performances were all over the map, thanks to their hit-or-mostly-miss offense. When the offense showed up, the Owls played like a top-40 team: 77th percentile against Vanderbilt, 92nd against Delaware State, 73rd against UConn, 79th against ECU, 71st against Tulane.

When the offense was a liability, it was too much for the defense to overcome. The five performances at the 70th percentile or greater were offset by five weeks spent below the 30th percentile. Temple's week-to-week performance chart looked like a heartbeat, but there's another interesting trait that could be important:

  • Average Percentile Performance (home): 53% (record: 3-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (road): 46% (record: 3-3)

This is the first year I've been working with the idea of using percentiles to measure performance, so I don't know all the ins and outs yet, but a team's home averages seem to be about 25 percent higher than its road averages. Temple's were not. The Owls were almost the same team at home and away.

We can draw either of two conclusions from this, beyond the general "sample sizes!" warning: either Temple was strong on the road, or the team derived no advantage at Lincoln Financial Field. Coaches like to say that good defense travels, so maybe the Owls were destined to have smaller home-road splits. But as I've discussed regarding UMass and its games at Gillette Stadium, a half-empty stadium is going to dissipate noise.

The Linc holds 68,500 people, and Temple averaged 23,370, peaking at 28,408. That's not a terrible average, and it could improve with an incredible home slate that features visits from Penn State and Notre Dame. But an actual home-field environment could do wonders.

Of course, that's a touchy issue. The Linc arrangement ends after 2017, and while the university debates making the commitment for a near-campus stadium, the pro and con lists are long. As a fan of underdogs, I would love to see the program improve and move into a happy stadium. But there are concrete reasons why it might not happen.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.80 97 IsoPPP+ 89.0 98
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.1% 114 Succ. Rt. + 85.3 119
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.0 51 Def. FP+ 99.0 77
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.3 124 Redzone S&P+ 89.8 95
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.3 ACTUAL 27 +2.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 120 104 117 98
RUSHING 118 93 97 97
PASSING 88 106 116 91
Standard Downs 91 107 81
Passing Downs 121 120 115
Q1 Rk 115 1st Down Rk 113
Q2 Rk 86 2nd Down Rk 70
Q3 Rk 80 3rd Down Rk 58
Q4 Rk 118

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
P.J. Walker 6'1, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8091 203 381 2317 13 15 53.3% 19 4.8% 5.5
Connor Reilly
10 19 77 0 1 52.6% 1 5.0% 3.8
Tim DiGiorgio 6'3, 191 So. NR NR
Frank Nutile 6'4, 199 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8079
Lenny Williams 5'10, 196 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8234
Logan Marchi 6'1, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7881

3. Pass first, couldn't pass (again)

As strong as the defense was, the offense was almost equally weak. Despite an intriguing talent at quarterback, the Owls had a pass-first offense that couldn't pass.

P.J. Walker lost his two best targets from 2013, and his stats regressed: his completion rate fell from 61 percent to 53, his interception rate rose from 3 percent to 4 percent, and his per-attempt yardage fell from 7.1 to 5.5. Even his rushing average fell from 7 (not including sacks) to 5.2.

Opponents figured out his tendencies, and Temple didn't have enough weapons to help him counteract a slump. Walker pressed, and opponents took advantage.

An ankle injury didn't help. He battled a limp, and there was quite a split between his first five games and his last seven.

  • P.J. Walker's passing (first 5 games): 62% completion rate, 11.3 yards per completion, 5.7% TD rate, 2.5% INT rate
  • P.J. Walker's passing (last 7 games): 47% completion rate, 11.5 yards per completion, 1.8% TD rate, 4.9% INT rate.

Walker's rating was 138 or higher in four of the first five, then fell below 113 for each of the final seven and below 85 for four games in a row. Consequently, Temple scored 20 or fewer points in each of the last seven games and averaged 10.5 points per game over the last four.

A healthy Walker still has quite a bit going for him, and if the skill positions give him more options, a bounceback is more than achievable.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
P.J. Walker QB 6'1, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8091 87 451 3 5.2 4.8 42.5% 9 2
Kenneth Harper RB
87 307 5 3.5 5.5 25.3% 1 0
Jahad Thomas RB 5'10, 170 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 80 384 0 4.8 7.1 30.0% 2 1
Jamie Gilmore RB 5'8, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8596 56 229 1 4.1 4.0 32.1% 0 0
David Hood RB 5'9, 185 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 11 62 0 5.6 3.7 54.5% 0 0
Zaire Williams RB 5'11, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8615 7 17 0 2.4 0.5 14.3% 0 0
Hassan Dixon RB
7 12 1 1.7 1.2 14.3% 0 0
Bashir Lee RB 5'9, 188 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8612
T.J. Simmons RB 6'1, 195 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.8740
Chapelle Cook RB 6'1, 214 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8464
Jager Gardner RB 6'2, 205 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148
Ryquell Armstead RB 5'11, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8117






4. No shortage of running backs

Walker was still an efficient runner, something that couldn't be said for any of Temple's primary backs. None had an Opportunity Rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards) greater than 32.1 percent, and while both Kenneth Harper and Jahad Thomas were explosive in open field, they rarely saw open field.

In 2015, there will at least be options. Thomas and Jamie Gilmore return, as do sophomore David Hood and junior Zaire Williams, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2013 before battling injury last year. And if none of these are up to snuff, bring on the youngsters. T.J. Simmons was a top-200 recruit according to Rivals, and three other incoming freshmen were three-stars. Plus, Bashir Lee, a former star recruit, is only a sophomore.

This is a quantity-leads-to-quality situation. Nine Temple running backs produced well at some point in either college or high school. The odds are good that a couple will produce in 2015.

The odds are also good that the line will improve -- it returned only one starter in 2014, and a shuffled-around lineup struggled. Now, seven with starting experience return, including all-conference center Kyle Friend. And if two well-touted redshirt freshmen (including a Rivals four-star in Aaron Ruff) live up to potential, there's room in the rotation.

This won't be a great line, but if the line and running backs both improve, Temple won't have to rely nearly as much on Walker.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jalen Fitzpatrick WR
89 53 730 59.6% 23.9% 56.2% 8.2 80 8.3 91.5
John Christopher WR 5'10, 185 Sr. NR NR 42 24 194 57.1% 11.3% 59.5% 4.6 -103 4.6 24.3
Brandon Shippen WR 5'11, 189 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7700 35 12 165 34.3% 9.4% 57.1% 4.7 -4 4.7 20.7
Romond Deloatch WR 6'4, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8325 32 14 169 43.8% 8.6% 53.1% 5.3 -15 5.3 21.2
Kenneth Harper RB
32 27 158 84.4% 8.6% 37.5% 4.9 -154 4.9 19.8
Nate Hairston WR 6'0, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 23 13 88 56.5% 6.2% 52.2% 3.8 -73 3.8 11.0
Jahad Thomas RB 5'10, 170 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 22 14 364 63.6% 5.9% 68.2% 16.5 194 18.1 45.7
Colin Thompson TE 6'4, 250 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9408 19 11 98 57.9% 5.1% 63.2% 5.2 -38 5.3 12.3
Jamie Gilmore RB 5'8, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8596 16 13 166 81.3% 4.3% 68.8% 10.4 15 10.6 20.8
Khalif Herbin WR 5'7, 170 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8026 15 9 53 60.0% 4.0% 73.3% 3.5 -57 3.0 6.6
Brodrick Yancy WR 5'11, 184 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8060 13 6 35 46.2% 3.5% 38.5% 2.7 -43 3.0 4.4
Keith Kirkwood WR 6'3, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 9 4 69 44.4% 2.4% 55.6% 7.7 17 7.9 8.7
Wanemi Omuso TE
9 6 51 66.7% 2.4% 77.8% 5.7 -21 5.5 6.4
Samuel Benjamin WR 6'0, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8077
Ventell Bryant WR 6'3, 180 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966
Kip Patton TE 6'5, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7979
Patrick Anderson WR 6'4, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8155
Cortrelle Simpson WR 5'10, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7985

5. Step right up! Opportunities available!

Of course, you know what else helps a quarterback? Receivers. And it's not clear whether Walker has any.

Three of last year's top four return, but John Christopher, Brandon Shippen, and Romond Deloatch combined to average an abysmal 4.8 yards per target over nine targets per game. Only Jalen Fitzpatrick was productive, and he's gone. This unit struggled with separation, drops ... everything a receiving corps is supposed to do.

Aside from four-star sophomore tight end Colin Thompson, Rhule's staff hasn't recruited any slam dunks, so there isn't immediate hope for improvement. Redshirt freshman Ventell Bryant had a nice spring, and there's always a chance that a freshman like Patrick Anderson or Cortrelle Simpson carve out a niche.

But while the running game should absolutely improve, we can't say the same about the pass. And that could be an obvious issue if coordinator Marcus Satterfield continues with his pass-first preferences.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 81.9 2.42 1.96 32.2% 64.1% 24.2% 108.6 3.9% 6.3%
Rank 120 120 127 119 91 116 54 44 45
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Kyle Friend C 6'2, 305 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7909 33 2014 2nd All-AAC
Dion Dawkins LT
13
Brendan McGowan C 6'4, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 13
Eric Lofton RT 6'5, 300 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7444 12
Shahbaz Ahmed LG 6'3, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7873 9
Jacob Quinn RG
5
Semaj Reed LT 6'7, 300 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 1
Brian Carter LG 6'3, 280 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 1
Leon Johnson RG 6'6, 300 So. NR 0.7000 1
Adrian Sullivan RT 6'5, 280 So. 2 stars (5.2) NR 0
Aaron Ruff OL 6'3, 300 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8571
James McHale OL 6'6, 300 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8117
Benson Israel OL 6'1, 316 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8008

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.72 7 IsoPPP+ 117.7 24
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.6% 21 Succ. Rt. + 102.5 56
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 33.2 13 Off. FP+ 102.0 38
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 2.8 1 Redzone S&P+ 122.6 10
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.4 ACTUAL 30.0 +4.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 24 39 56 24
RUSHING 54 54 56 52
PASSING 13 34 69 17
Standard Downs 35 57 25
Passing Downs 45 64 40
Q1 Rk 62 1st Down Rk 51
Q2 Rk 20 2nd Down Rk 24
Q3 Rk 94 3rd Down Rk 67
Q4 Rk 6

6. The best bend-don't-break D in the country

This offseason, I tweaked my S&P+ ratings to deal not only with efficiency (Success Rates) and explosiveness (PPP), but also the components that go into field position and finishing drives. The latter helped Temple's defensive ratings dramatically.

The Owls were efficient for a mid-major defense and prevented big plays at a top-25 level. But their biggest strength was how they played when the field shrank. Opponents averaged 2.8 points per scoring opportunity (first downs inside Temple's 40), less than a field goal per trip. And even adjusting for opponent, Temple had a top-10 defense in this regard.

Playing bend-don't-break is both effective and tenuous. From a tactical standpoint, you can continue playing smart near the goal line, but waiting until the last second to make a stop can lead to huge changes from year to year based on personnel. If your linebacking corps is suddenly weaker near the goal line, or if your defensive backs give up a few more big plays and easy scores, the balance gets shifted.

Luckily, that won't be an immediate issue. The Owls return every starter and almost every backup. Beyond omnipresent injury concerns, it appears veteran coordinator Phil Snow could find a lot of the same success.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 97.3 2.81 2.63 36.3% 73.8% 22.2% 107.6 4.3% 8.9%
Rank 76 47 21 33 101 28 50 73 39
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Matt Ioannidis DT 6'4, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8091 12 36.5 5.0% 11.0 3.5 0 3 0 0
Praise Martin-Oguike DE 6'2, 250 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7585 12 31.0 4.3% 9.5 7.0 0 0 5 1
Sharif Finch DE 6'4, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7833 12 27.5 3.8% 7.5 2.0 1 1 2 0
Hershey Walton NT 6'4, 300 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7778 12 22.5 3.1% 4.5 0.0 0 2 0 0
Haason Reddick DE
10 20.0 2.7% 7.5 2.0 0 1 0 0
Avery Ellis DE 6'2, 246 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7736 11 15.5 2.1% 4.5 2.0 0 0 1 0
Jacob Martin DE 6'3, 230 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 12 9.5 1.3% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Chudnoff DE 6'2, 250 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8086 10 5.5 0.8% 1.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Averee Robinson NT 6'1, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7806 12 4.5 0.6% 1.5 1.5 0 0 0 1
Jullian Taylor DE 6'5, 240 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7833 2 3.5 0.5% 1.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Dogbe DE 6'3, 240 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8168 4 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kiser Terry DT 6'3, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 9 2.5 0.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Freddie Booth-Lloyd DT 6'0, 315 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8219
Brenon Thrift DE 6'3, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8005
Greg Webb DT 6'1, 312 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8731
Dana Levine DE 6'4, 213 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8169
Josiah Bronson DE 6'5, 265 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7833







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Tyler Matakevich WLB 6'1, 235 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7100 12 102.5 14.1% 10.5 1.5 1 3 0 0
Nate D. Smith MLB 6'0, 225 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7659 11 58.5 8.0% 2.0 0.0 1 1 3 0
Avery Williams SLB 5'10, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7200 9 30.5 4.2% 3.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Stephaun Marshall WLB 5'11, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8220 12 27.5 3.8% 2.0 2.0 0 3 0 0
Jarred Alwan MLB 6'1, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8362 10 19.0 2.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Rob Dvoracek (2013) SLB 6'2, 230 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8148 8 17.5 2.4% 3.0 0.0 0 3 0 0
Michael Felton WLB 6'0, 215 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 12 13.0 1.8% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Shahid Lovett SLB
6 6.5 0.9% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Buddy Brown LB
2 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Rob Ritrovato LB 6'0, 210 So. NR NR 4 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jared Folks LB 6'2, 218 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7954
Daishaun Grimes LB 6'2, 192 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8125








7. Sound and stout

Temple's success was based around invasive play, stout linebacking, and big-play prevention. Of the 10 players who recorded at least three tackles for loss, nine return. So does each component of one of the best linebacking corps in the country.

Tyler Matakevich is an absolute wrecking ball, the rare weakside linebacker who combines tackling-machine capabilities -- it's obvious that the defense filters the ball toward Matakevich and MLB Nate D. Smith, and Matakevich has a chance to become the seventh player in NCAA history to record 100-plus tackles in each of his four seasons -- with residence in the backfield. Tackles Matt Ioannidis and Hershey Walton combined for 15.5 tackles for loss and commanded attention, which freed Matakevich up to wreck shop.

Combine this work with a pass-rush specialist in Praise Martin-Oguike and depth at linebacker -- both Smith and Avery Williams missed time, and Rob Dvoracek missed the season with injury, but then-sophomores Avery Williams, Stephaun Marshall, and Jarred Alwan stepped up -- and you've got a lovely front seven. The run defense could stand to improve (and should), but the steadiness and play-making ability that emerged on a shrunken field were fantastic.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sean Chandler CB 5'11, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8019 12 60.5 8.3% 3 1 1 8 2 0
Alex Wells FS 6'0, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8200 9 43.5 6.0% 0 0 0 5 0 0
Will Hayes SS 5'9, 182 Sr. NR NR 12 37.0 5.1% 1.5 0 0 3 0 0
Boye Aromire SS 6'0, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 12 30.5 4.2% 0.5 0 0 0 3 0
Jihaad Pretlow SS
11 27.5 3.8% 1 0 0 1 1 0
Tavon Young CB 5'10, 174 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7600 12 22.5 3.1% 0 0 4 9 0 1
Nate L. Smith FS 6'1, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8684 11 10.5 1.4% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Khiry Lucas CB 6'2, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 11 8.0 1.1% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Anthony Davis DB 5'11, 180 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8634 9 7.0 1.0% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Anthony Robey CB
12 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Samuel Benjamin DB
11 6.0 0.8% 0.5 0 0 0 1 0
Artrel Foster DB 6'0, 170 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8106 12 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cequan Jefferson DB 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8678 5 2.0 0.3% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Shamir Bearfield DB 5'11, 175 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8209
Jyquis Thomas DB 6'1, 182 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7876
Kareem Ali, Jr. CB 5'11, 175 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8711
Jeremiah Atoki DB 6'2, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8116








8. Havoc in the back

Temple's defense seemed to play things conservatively, then ratchet up the aggressiveness as a half wore on. The Owls ranked 62nd and 94th in first- and third-quarter S&P+, then 20th and sixth in the second and fourth quarters.

The secondary's ability to prevent big plays was the defense's most important strength, but some newcomers made quite a few plays, and it made an immense difference. True freshman Sean Chandler was a sound tackler and occasional play-maker opposite the sticky Tavon Young, and JUCO transfer Alex Wells and Virginia Tech transfer Boye Aromire were immediate difference-makers at safety.

Five of the top seven returnees are seniors, to there will be a drop-off in 2016, but a) with four-star freshman Kareem Ali Jr. and redshirt freshman Shamir Bearfield, there is potential among the youngest players, and b) worry about 2016 in 2016. This secondary should be stellar.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Alex Starzyk 6'3, 205 So. 70 38.4 4 26 17 61.4%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Jim Cooper 6'1, 195 Jr. 60 61.7 12 0 20.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Austin Jones 5'10, 190 So. 30-30 10-16 62.5% 3-6 50.0%
Tyler Mayes 6'2, 200 Sr. 2-2 2-2 100.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jahad Thomas KR 5'10, 170 Jr. 14 23.7 0
Khalif Herbin KR 5'7, 170 Jr. 12 17.7 0
John Christopher PR 5'10, 185 Sr. 8 3.0 0
Khalif Herbin PR 5'7, 170 Jr. 7 15.4 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 26
Field Goal Efficiency 108
Punt Return Efficiency 67
Kick Return Efficiency 105
Punt Efficiency 66
Kickoff Efficiency 1
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 25

9. Now this is a coverage unit

Depth at linebacker and defensive back paid off. Temple had one of the best coverage units in college football. Opponents averaged 19 yards per kick return (28th in FBS) and 3 yards per punt return (fifth); Temple's punt efficiency was decent despite a low punting average (38.4 yards), and the Owls kickoff efficiency was spectacular (first in FBS).

The return game and place-kicking could stand to improve, but if the offense is more efficient, special teams should assure that Temple does well in field position.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep Penn State 45
12-Sep at Cincinnati 47
19-Sep at Massachusetts 120
2-Oct Charlotte NR
10-Oct Tulane 93
17-Oct Central Florida 60
22-Oct at East Carolina 61
31-Oct Notre Dame 34
6-Nov at SMU 127
14-Nov at South Florida 123
21-Nov Memphis 41
28-Nov Connecticut 119
Five-Year F/+ Rk -8.6% (77)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 71 / 79
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 3 / 1.1
2014 TO Luck/Game +0.8
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 19 (8, 11)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 6.6 (-0.6)

10. A schedule for a run (if you can ignore the names)

Temple ranked 67th in F/+ last year and returns almost everybody. That level of experience could produce a top-60 team and could quite possibly a top-50 team.

Now look at the schedule: five games against teams that ranked 119th or worse last year, no games against teams that ranked better than 34th, and four of the six best opponents (as of last year) coming to Lincoln Financial Field. Even if the Linc doesn't provide an immense advantage, playing at home is still better than playing on the road, yes?

If the Temple offense takes steps toward competence -- and while there is plenty of reason to worry about the passing game, the run game should indeed improve, perhaps by quite a bit -- the defense should be able to turn last year's close losses into wins.

I shouldn't go overboard, but it doesn't take many ifs to turn Temple into an AAC contender with this schedule. The pressure is on the offense, because the defense is loaded for bear. Temple should bowl again no matter what, but there could be a lot more than that at stake.