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The AAC East title goes through Philly, and Temple might have the upside to win it again

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A lot of last year's defensive difference-makers are gone, but between offensive experience and defensive upside, Temple's still in strong shape.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. How high is your ceiling?

Recruit better players, develop them well, improve your team on the field. Coaching is simple, right?

It's not, of course. Being a good head coach requires the skill set of a politician, a used car salesman, a preacher, and a military tactician, all mixed together. You have to be able to glad-hand and win at chess, woo mothers and look good on television. It is a tricky job, but one that pays handsomely.

You can forgive Temple's Matt Rhule, though, if he wonders what all the fuss is about. He's making this coaching thing look pretty easy. In three years on the job in Philadelphia, he has engineered almost linear improvement, both on the field and in recruiting. In Steve Addazio's last year at Temple before taking the Boston College job, the Owls went 4-7 and ranked 99th in S&P+. The 2013 recruiting class, which featured a lot of Addazio's work, ranked seventh in the AAC.

After a first-year reset in 2013, Rhule improved the Owls to 66th in S&P+ and 6-6 in 2014, then 49th and 10-4 in 2015. In recruiting, Temple ranked fourth in the AAC in 2014, then rose to second second, behind only Houston, this past February. Each year, the Owls get deeper, more athletic, and more successful.

Every program has a ceiling, of course. Five more years with Rhule probably wouldn't have Temple playing at a top-five level. But he's in the process of redefining what we think of as the Owls' ceiling. Temple went from wretched to solid under Al Golden, then briefly peaked at 9-4 and 45th under Addazio in 2011. Addazio couldn't sustain those gains, however, and Rhule inherited what appeared to be a fading program.

It was hard to know what to make of the Rhule hire at first, as he didn't fit a type. He was a little bit of everything. He had been an assistant everywhere from Western Carolina to UCLA before spending six seasons under Golden and Addazio at Temple. He coached defensive line at Buffalo and UCLA, linebackers and offensive line at WCU, defensive line, quarterbacks, and tight ends at Temple. He was an offensive coordinator for just one year, then he jumped to the pros to serve as the New York Giants' OL coach.

In a way, you could say he was grooming himself to be a head coach by learning every job. If that was the intent, it worked. He's been spectacular. And he seems to like his employer well enough that he's not going to jump to just any power conference head coaching job. Some put out feelers, but he remains in Philadelphia for a fourth season.

It's going to be difficult for Temple to improve again in 2016, at least temporarily. The Owls won 10 games for just the second time in their history, and now they have to replace two all-conference linemen, two of their top three wide receivers, and more importantly, three of the top four defensive linemen and an all-world linebacker from a spectacular defense.

An experienced offensive backfield gives Temple some star power, but the offense will likely have to improve to offset defensive regression. It's possible, and even with some regression, Temple could have a solid shot at repeating as AAC East champion thanks to scheduling -- the Owls miss Houston and get the three most highly-projected conference opponents (including USF) at home. Regardless, it's obvious what Rhule is building, and it's forcing us to redefine what we thought Temple could achieve.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 10-4 | Adj. Record: 9-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 45 | Final S&P+ Rk: 49
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Penn State 47 27-10 W 76% 90% +20.3 +24.0
12-Sep at Cincinnati 72 34-26 W 65% 77% +12.6 +15.0
19-Sep at Massachusetts 100 25-23 W 42% 53% -12.5 -8.5
2-Oct at Charlotte 124 37-3 W 79% 100% +11.9 +10.0
10-Oct Tulane 119 49-10 W 94% 100% +10.2 +23.0
17-Oct Central Florida 128 30-16 W 79% 100% -20.0 -8.0
22-Oct at East Carolina 73 24-14 W 75% 92% +3.6 +12.5
31-Oct Notre Dame 7 20-24 L 32% 9% -0.8 +6.5
6-Nov at SMU 106 60-40 W 72% 98% +3.3 +6.0
14-Nov at South Florida 44 23-44 L 16% 1% -24.4 -24.0
21-Nov Memphis 41 31-12 W 91% 99% +19.1 +20.5
28-Nov Connecticut 80 27-3 W 95% 100% +10.1 +12.0
5-Dec at Houston 26 13-24 L 27% 5% -12.1 -4.0
22-Dec vs. Toledo 20 17-32 L 16% 0% -12.1 -17.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 27.1 80 20.2 18
Points Per Game 29.8 60 20.1 17

2. Overachieving, then underachieving

The first two months or so of the 2015 season were a bit of a Temple fairy tale. With Penn State and Notre Dame both coming to town, the Owls fielded a strong team, and they almost took down both of these storied programs.

The year began with an easy win over Penn State and a road win over what was supposed to be a strong Cincinnati squad. Temple narrowly survived a hangover trip to UMass, plowed through some weak foes, then survived a trip to ECU. That made the Owls 7-0 when Notre Dame came to town; ESPN College GameDay was present to see Temple take a 20-17 lead on the Irish with under five minutes left.

That was the peak. The valley followed. Notre Dame scored late to survive, 24-20, and the Owls' defense began to fade. They allowed 84 points in trips to SMU and USF before stabilizing. They peaked again with two brilliant performances against Memphis and UConn, then they slumped again with mediocre gains against Houston and Toledo, two of the best mid-majors.

  • First 5 games:
    Performance vs. S&P+ projection: +8.5 PPG | Average percentile performance: 71% (~top 35) | Record: 5-0
  • Next 4 games:
    Performance vs. S&P+ projection: -3.5 PPG | Average percentile performance: 65% (~top 45) | Record: 3-1
  • Last 4 games:
    Performance vs. S&P+ projection: -3.9 PPG | Average percentile performance: 49% (~top 65) | Record: 2-3

After mostly stable play, the road got bumpy at the end of the year. Temple couldn't quite maintain its early pace after the Notre Dame setback, but the ceiling was still high, and the result was still 10 wins.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.31 44 IsoPPP+ 98.3 75
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.9% 99 Succ. Rt. + 94.1 98
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.3 38 Def. FP+ 29.6 65
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.3 80 Redzone S&P+ 93.0 99
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 26.7 ACTUAL 19 -7.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 96 89 98 75
RUSHING 96 90 96 77
PASSING 72 80 88 70
Standard Downs 108 110 104
Passing Downs 38 48 33
Q1 Rk 90 1st Down Rk 83
Q2 Rk 92 2nd Down Rk 108
Q3 Rk 58 3rd Down Rk 54
Q4 Rk 107

3. Still the caboose

In Rhule's first year, the Temple offense ranked 78th in Off. S&P+ while the defense ranked 113th in Def. S&P+. With the right pieces in place, the defense surged to a stunning 16th in 2014, but the offense completely bottomed out (120th). It improved by more than eight adjusted points per game last fall, but it still dragged Temple down overall. Temple scored 23 or fewer points in each of four losses and averaged 4.8 or fewer yards per play in three.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield became the head coach at Tennessee Tech in January, so Rhule promoted quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas to the OC position. Thomas has been with Temple for only one season -- he spent 2008-14 with the Atlanta Falcons, 2011-14 as their quarterbacks coach. And in his one year of working with QB P.J. Walker, the effects were noticeable. Walker's completion rate improved from 53 to 57 percent, and his interception rate fell from 3.9 percent to 1.8. He picked his spots better when it came to running the ball (from 7.3 non-sack carries per game to 4.5), ran more efficiently, and fumbled less. If Thomas can have the same effect on Temple's overall offense this fall, the Owls are in business.

Perhaps it's encouraging that Temple did the hard part well in 2015. With Walker utilizing his legs and leaning on both Robby Anderson and Ventell Bryant, the Owls ranked 38th in Passing Downs S&P+. Unfortunately, they had to prove their passing downs mettle pretty frequently: They ranked 108th in Standard Downs S&P+, with almost every touch going to either Anderson or running back Jahad Thomas.

If a new OC means a better standard downs identity, and Walker doesn't have to prove himself on passing downs as much, this offense could indeed improve enough to help out the defense.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
P.J. Walker 5'11, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8091 246 433 2973 19 8 56.8% 18 4.0% 6.4
Frank Nutile 6'4, 219 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8079 3 3 40 1 0 100.0% 0 0.0% 13.3
Logan Marchi 6'0, 192 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7881
Anthony Russo 6'4, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8584

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Jahad Thomas RB 5'10, 188 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 277 1262 17 4.6 6.8 31.0% 4 3
P.J. Walker QB 5'11, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8091 63 314 2 5.0 5.6 44.4% 7 2
Ryquell Armstead RB 5'11, 205 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8117 51 191 2 3.7 2.7 35.3% 2 1
David Hood RB 5'9, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 45 180 1 4.0 3.5 31.1% 2 1
Jager Gardner RB 6'2, 214 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 32 184 1 5.8 12.4 25.0% 0 0
Brandon Shippen WR 6 41 0 6.8 6.6 50.0% 0 0
Kip Patton TE 6'3, 240 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7979 4 41 2 10.3 6.2 75.0% 0 0
Robby Anderson WR 4 15 0 3.8 0.5 75.0% 3 2
Nick Sharga FB 6'2, 240 Jr. NR NR
Tyliek Raynor RB 5'10, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8510
Taiyir Wilson FB 6'2, 245 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.7000







3. All-or-nothing

Jahad Thomas is one hell of a runner in the open field. He averaged nearly three 10-yard runs and one 20-plus run per game, and he scored at least one touchdown in 11 of 14 games. His explosiveness is obvious just about every time he has the ball in his hands.

Unfortunately, Thoams didn't see the open field nearly enough in 2015. For all of his obvious flash, he averaged better than five yards per carry just four times and averaged under four seven times. And he lost yardage a lot. Even with three all-conference linemen, Temple ranked 124th in stuff rate, and while some of that was obviously on Thomas  -- in search of big plays, his instinct is never on cutting his losses or accepting merely a two- or three-yard gain -- a lot was on the line itself.

Look at the opportunity rates of the Temple running backs. Of the four who carried the ball at least 30 times, none had an opportunity rate greater than 35 percent, and only one was higher than 31. The national average is closer to 40 percent. Thomas was not alone in his inconsistency, which suggests the line indeed had some issues.

So what happens now that three multi-year starters are gone up front? Four linemen with at least eight games of starting experience are back, but despite all-conference status, some new blood might not be the worst thing in the world.

The ceiling for Temple's improvement will remain low if the Owls cannot run efficiently. Thomas (the runnning back) is dynamic, but Thomas (the OC) will need to figure out how to get him in open space more frequently.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Robby Anderson WR 122 70 939 57.4% 28.6% 7.7 59.0% 40.2% 1.75
Ventell Bryant WR 6'3, 189 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966 70 39 579 55.7% 16.4% 8.3 41.4% 47.1% 1.55
Brandon Shippen WR 40 20 288 50.0% 9.4% 7.2 37.5% 40.0% 1.64
Romond Deloatch WR 6'4, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8325 34 20 155 58.8% 8.0% 4.6 64.7% 35.3% 1.28
Jahad Thomas RB 5'10, 188 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 32 22 216 68.8% 7.5% 6.8 31.3% 40.6% 1.62
John Christopher WR 32 20 208 62.5% 7.5% 6.5 46.9% 43.8% 1.31
Adonis Jennings WR 6'3, 200 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8933 32 14 146 43.8% 7.5% 4.6 62.5% 34.4% 1.24
Kip Patton TE 6'3, 240 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7979 18 13 169 72.2% 4.2% 9.4 44.4% 44.4% 1.94
Saledeem Major TE 10 6 96 60.0% 2.3% 9.6 70.0% 60.0% 1.51
David Hood RB 5'9, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 10 9 73 90.0% 2.3% 7.3 50.0% 30.0% 2.11
Colin Thompson TE 6'4, 255 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9408 7 5 67 71.4% 1.6% 9.6 42.9% 57.1% 1.70
Brodrick Yancy WR 5'10, 195 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8060 3 2 11 66.7% 0.7% 3.7 0.0% 33.3% 1.10
Keith Kirkwood WR 6'3, 218 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) NR
Cortrelle Simpson WR 5'9, 188 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7985
Hez Trahan TE 6'4, 260 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7826
Isaiah Wright WR 6'2, 207 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8458
Branden Mack ATH 6'5, 195 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8116
Randle Jones WR 6'0, 171 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8058

5. Wanted: efficiency options

Efficiency was an issue in the passing game, too. Indeed, Walker's completion rate may have improved, but only to 58 percent. And while good passing attacks have at least a couple of guys with a better than 50 percent success rate, only two of Temple's top seven targets topped even 41 percent and none topped 47.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the three guys who left (Robby Anderson, Brandon Shippen, John Christopher) had replaceable production. And the only primary option who topped either 47 percent success rate or 8 yards per target is back: sophomore Ventell Bryant. Bryant peaked midseason -- against Notre Dame, SMU, and USF, he caught 13 passes for 261 yards and two scores but showed hints of a high ceiling. He was the guy Walker most frequently looked to on third-and-long, and he will likely be the primary standard downs guy as well.

Will Bryant get enough help? Among Thomas, senior Romond Deloatch, former four-star recruits Adonis Jennings or Colin Thompson, tight end Kip Patton, JUCO Hez Trahan, or mid-three-star freshman Isaiah Wright, might a couple of steadier complements emerge? If this offense ends up focusing once again on two guys (in this case, Thomas and Bryant), it probably won't improve that much. [Update: Patton transferred to Tennessee Tech.]

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 88.7 2.51 2.33 33.7% 61.4% 25.9% 139.3 4.8% 2.9%
Rank 113 116 119 113 95 124 29 64 5
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Kyle Friend C 10 43 2015 1st All-AAC
Eric Lofton RT 13 25 2015 1st All-AAC
Dion Dawkins LT 6'5, 320 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7800 13 26 2015 2nd All-AAC
Shahbaz Ahmed LG 13 27
Brendan McGowan C 6'3, 298 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 4 17
Brian Carter RG 6'1, 304 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 10 12
Leon Johnson RT 6'5, 320 Jr. NR 0.7000 7 8
Semaj Reed LG 6'5, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 0 1
Jordan Jones OL 5'11, 290 Jr. NR NR 0 0
Adrian Sullivan OL 6'3, 298 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.0000 0 0
James McHale LT 6'6, 300 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8117 0 0
Jaelin Robinson RT 6'6, 325 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7800 0 0
Darian Bryant OL 6'6, 325 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8133

Matt Hennessy OL 6'4, 285 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7931

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.35 106 IsoPPP+ 110.2 36
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 34.3% 9 Succ. Rt. + 116.9 15
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 33.7 5 Off. FP+ 32.1 24
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 3.9 23 Redzone S&P+ 133.4 5
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.6 ACTUAL 22.0 -1.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 20 24 15 36
RUSHING 24 28 7 53
PASSING 43 29 26 29
Standard Downs 32 19 47
Passing Downs 18 13 22
Q1 Rk 19 1st Down Rk 34
Q2 Rk 52 2nd Down Rk 19
Q3 Rk 6 3rd Down Rk 57
Q4 Rk 52

6. Now what?

It wasn't hard to wonder about Rhule's hire of Phil Snow to lead his defense. He hadn't exactly lit the world aflame at EMU in his return to life as an NCAA defensive coordinator -- from 2010-12, the Eagles' average Def. S&P+ ranking was 104.7. Of course, it's been 125.7 since he left, so maybe that was indeed an encouraging sign.

A longtime defensive coordinator at Boise State, Arizona State, UCLA, and Washington, Snow spent a few years with the Detroit Lions before heading to Philadelphia via Ypsilanti. After a two-year reset in 2012-13, Snows' defense became dominant overnight. His 2015 defense was one of the most efficient in the country, especially against the run, and it stiffened beautifully in scoring situations. Temple was willing to risk a few big plays in the name of three-and-outs, and aside from the two-week glitch against SMU and USF, it worked out well.

Of course, that was with tackles Matt Ioannidis and Hershey Walton, end Nate D. Smith, and all-world linebacker Tyler Matakevich. Ioannidis and Matakevich were both picked in the 2016 NFL Draft, as was cornerback Tavon Young.

So what happens without those guys? Recruiting has been strong, and Temple returns a lot of players who graded out better as recruits than these departees. Will they fit into an active, aggressive scheme and thrive? Or were guys like Matakevich particularly special and impossible to replace?

We'll find out soon enough. Snow played a lot of guys in 2015, and the overall experience levels are just fine. But you never know what will happen when you lose your breakthrough talent.

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 110.5 2.31 3.01 33.6% 62.2% 23.8% 98.2 4.7% 7.2%
Rank 31 8 48 17 42 18 67 76 69
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Haason Reddick DE 6'1, 230 Sr. NR NR 13 37.5 5.1% 12.5 5.0 0 1 1 0
Matt Ioannidis DT 13 34.5 4.7% 11.5 3.5 0 5 0 0
Nate D. Smith DE 14 28.0 3.8% 9.5 7.0 0 0 0 0
Hershey Walton NT 14 27.0 3.7% 5.5 0.0 0 4 0 0
Praise Martin-Oguike DE 6'1, 255 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7585 13 26.0 3.6% 9.0 4.0 1 0 3 0
Averee Robinson NT 6'0, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7806 13 12.0 1.6% 4.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Dogbe NT 6'3, 280 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8168 11 10.5 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Sharif Finch DE 6'3, 255 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7833 12 10.0 1.4% 3.0 1.0 1 0 0 0
Freddie Booth-Lloyd DT 6'1, 315 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8219 12 6.5 0.9% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jacob Martin DE 6'2, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 12 3.5 0.5% 2.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Avery Ellis DE 6'2, 250 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7736 12 2.5 0.3% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Chudnoff DL 6 2.0 0.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jullian Taylor DT 6'5, 280 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7833
Greg Webb DT 6'1, 312 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8731
Karamo Dioubate DT 6'4, 289 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9264
Quincy Roche DE 6'4, 210 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8255
Chris Tucker DE 6'3, 245 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8098
Dan Archibong DE 6'6, 255 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7965

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Tyler Matakevich WLB 14 107.5 14.7% 15.0 4.5 5 5 0 0
Jarred Alwan MLB 5'11, 229 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8362 14 52.0 7.1% 7.0 1.5 0 2 4 0
Avery Williams SLB 5'10, 224 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7200 14 38.5 5.3% 6.0 0.0 1 1 0 0
Stephaun Marshall SLB 5'11, 206 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8220 14 34.5 4.7% 0.5 0.5 1 5 1 1
Boye Aromire WLB 13 16.5 2.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nick Sharga MLB 6'2, 240 Jr. NR NR 13 12.0 1.6% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Todd Jones LB 6'0, 227 So. NR NR 3 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jared Folks LB 6'1, 239 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7954
William Kwenkeu LB 6'1, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8416








7. Looking forward vs. looking backward

You get two different impressions of this defense if you look at who returns vs. who left. We could find out soon enough that the guys who left were indeed too special to replace. But looking specifically at who's back tells us there's still a world of potential within the front seven.

Ends Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike combined for 21.5 TFLs and nine sacks, while Sharif Finch and Jacob Martin added a combined 5.5 and two in limited action. Senior tackle Averee Robinson showed play-making potential, and sophomores Michael Dogbe and Freddie Booth-Lloyd both found spots in the rotation despite the experience and star power around them. And despite Matakevich vacuuming up so many plays around him, senior linebackers Jarred Alwan, Avery Williams, and Stephaun Marshall combined for 13.5 TFLs, 10 passes defensed, and five forced fumbles.

That's a lot of proven play-making ability, and we haven't touched on youngsters like high-three-star sophomore Greg Webb (a former UNC Tar Heel) or blue-chip freshman end Karamo Dioubate.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sean Chandler CB/S 6'0, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8019 14 55.5 7.6% 5.5 1 4 10 0 0
Nate L. Smith SS 6'0, 188 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8684 14 43.0 5.9% 0.5 0 1 3 0 0
Alex Wells FS 13 42.0 5.8% 0.5 0 1 5 0 0
Tavon Young CB 13 35.0 4.8% 5 1 0 7 0 0
Will Hayes SS 9 23.5 3.2% 0.5 0 1 0 0 0
Delvon Randall FS 5'11, 208 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8420 13 14.0 1.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nate Hairston CB 6'0, 193 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 13 8.5 1.2% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Artrel Foster CB 5'11, 189 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8106 13 6.5 0.9% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Jyquis Thomas SS 6'1, 205 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7876 13 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cequan Jefferson CB 5'10, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8678 10 4.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Khiry Lucas S 6'1, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000
Derrek Thomas CB 6'3, 193 So. NR 0.7694
Kareem Ali CB 5'10, 180 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8711
Jeremiah Atoki S 6'2, 214 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8116
Keyvone Bruton DB 5'11, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8560
Sam Franklin S 6'3, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8400
Amir Tyler DB 6'0, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8221
Isaiah Graham-Mobley S 6'2, 198 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8082
Benny Walls DB 6'1, 208 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8025

8. A test of depth

Temple didn't play nearly as many guys in the secondary in 2015. Whereas 12 linemen and six linebackers made at least 10 tackles each, only six DBs did so, and one of them missed nearly half the season.

Three of the six primary guys are gone now (including draftee Young), which is at least a little bit concerning.

There's still experience here, though. Corner Sean Chandler made even more plays than Young did last year; he shuffled between CB and safety in the spring, so we'll see where he ends up. But safety Nate L. Smith is back as well, and three-star sophomore Delvon Randall might be ready for a larger load. The cornerback position is a bit of a mystery if Chandler makes the move, but there are former star recruits like mid-three-star junior Cequan Jefferson and four-star redshirt freshman Kareem Ali there, and evidently converted receiver Derrek Thomas looked good in the spring.

The 2016 season will test both depth and recruiting, but there's a chance Temple passes both of those tests.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Alex Starzyk 6'2, 226 Jr. 63 42.4 8 21 18 61.9%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Tyler Mayes 75 60.1 19 2 25.3%
Austin Jones 5'10, 205 Jr. 8 59.5 0 1 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Austin Jones 5'10, 205 Jr. 44-45 16-19 84.2% 4-6 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jager Gardner KR 6'2, 214 So. 16 22.4 0
Robby Anderson KR 9 14.4 0
Sean Chandler PR 6'0, 190 Jr. 17 12.1 0
Robby Anderson PR 9 5.9 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 28
Field Goal Efficiency 26
Punt Return Success Rate 26
Kick Return Success Rate 39
Punt Success Rate 80
Kickoff Success Rate 84

9. An ace return game

With minimal touchbacks on kickoffs and a few too many decent punt returns allowed, Temple's kick-and-coverage game was pretty mediocre last year. But at least the Owls were breaking off returns of their own. Jager Gardner was consistent in kick returns (and his explosiveness in the run game suggests he's got plenty of return upside), and Sean Chandler was outstanding in punt returns. With Austin Jones providing a steady contribution in place-kicking, special teams should again be a net strength.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
2-Sep Army 124 22.2 90%
10-Sep Stony Brook NR 28.3 95%
17-Sep at Penn State 28 -11.5 25%
24-Sep Charlotte 123 21.6 89%
1-Oct SMU 98 13.4 78%
6-Oct at Memphis 77 -0.4 49%
15-Oct at Central Florida 99 6.7 65%
21-Oct South Florida 41 -0.5 49%
29-Oct Cincinnati 70 5.3 62%
4-Nov at Connecticut 81 1.8 54%
19-Nov at Tulane 122 14.3 80%
26-Nov East Carolina 78 6.8 65%
Projected wins: 8.0
Five-Year F/+ Rk -4.6% (70)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 69 / 73
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 3 / -3.0
2015 TO Luck/Game +2.5
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 63% (73%, 53%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 9.2 (0.8)

10. So much back, so much to replace

After going from 10 losses to 10 wins in just two years, this is kind of a bonus year for Temple. The Owls could absolutely be good enough to win the AAC East again, but even if they sink a bit, even if the new potential difference-makers need a year of adapting before thriving, the bones of this program are clearly very strong. And the 2016 schedule should provide for a soft landing even if Temple regresses a bit.

S&P+ says Temple will slide a little, to 61st overall, but gives the Owls a 78 percent or better chance in five games, more than most in the parity-heavy AAC. And since they host both USF and Cincinnati (and ECU, for that matter), the division crown will go through Philadelphia one way or another.

Rhule has done a spectacular job so far at Temple. The Owls had succeeded in recent years before he arrived, but it was sporadic, and his recruiting suggests he plans to keep building a stronger foundation the longer he is there. This year's team loses a lot of key guys but returns a ton of upside. I'd say this is a "glass half-full or half-empty" situation, but the glass appears two-thirds full at worst.