By Michael Bennett

Don’t look now, but college footballs season is creeping up on us, with Temple and Villanova playing on Sept. 1 for the Mayor’s Cup on Sept. 1 at noon at the Linc.

Temple has one of the better front sevens in the AAC, a stud at safety in Delvon Randall and may have found their short-term solution at quarterback during a late-season run that included four wins in their final five games.

Once again, they lost several all-conference players, but appear in better position to not only withstand those losses but potentially improve their win total.

Two years after nearly beating Notre Dame in Philly, Temple was throttled by the Irish in 2017’s Week 1, 49-16. And they narrowly avoided a disastrous start to the Geoff Collins era a week later by kicking a late field goal vs. Villanova after squandering a 13-point second-half lead.

Temple lost to a bad UConn team (at home) and their five regular-season FBS wins came against teams that won a combined 20 games, though this year was more of a stay-afloat transition year than anything else.

Collins spent 21 of the first 24 years of his coaching career in the southwest. So, yes, it was a surprise to see him take the Temple job, even if his predecessor Matt Rhule is one of his best friends and gushed about the opportunity.

A year later, Temple isn’t coming off a third straight 10-win season but Collins did manage the transition well with seven wins and a third straight bowl game.

Temple’s three previous head coaches all left for Power Five jobs. How long can they hang onto Collins?

PLAYER LOSSES

WR Keith Kirkwood, WR Adonis Jennings, G Brian Carter, DE Sharif Finch, DE Jacob Martin, DT Julian Taylor, S Sean Chandler

Temple had zero players drafted from 2013-15. They’ve had eight players drafted in the last three years, including defensive end Jacob Martin (sixth round, Seahawks) and defensive tackle Julian Taylor (seventh round, 49ers) in April. Those two and Sharif Finch combined for 37.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks in 2017.

Offensively, one of their big-play receivers, Adonis Jennings is gone (17.7 yards per catch), as is Keith Kirkwood, a back-to-back 600-yard receiver.

RETURNING OFFENSIVE PLAYERS

QB Frank Nutile, RB David Hood (above), RB Ryquell Armstead, WR Isaiah Wright, WR Ventell Bryant, C Matt Hennessy

Temple got behind early a lot, averaging just 3.2 points in the first quarter, 119th in the FBS, and with poor quarterback play for most of the first half and an often-stagnant run game, they rarely had the balanced offense to fight back.

Frank Nutile replaced Logan Marchi under center in late October and led the offense to 31.2 points per game over their final six games (19.4 in their first seven games). While he played poorly against good competition (17-for-40, two interceptions vs. UCF), the 6-foot-4, 225-pound pro-style passer looked comfortable in Dave Patenaude’s fast-paced system and earned a revered single-digit jersey for his senior season.

The red-zone offense was poor, failing to score on 20 percent of their possessions and has been a major focus for Patenaude this offseason, particularly using senior running backs David Hood and Ryquell Armstead behind a Matt Hennessy-led line.

Leading receiver Isaiah Wright is back, as is 2016 leading receiver Ventell Bryant, though the Owls expect to go deep in search of targets of Frank Nutile.

RETURNING DEFENSIVE PLAYERS

DE Quincy Roche, DT Dan Archibong, LB Shaun Bradley, LB Sam Franklin, LB Chapelle Russell, S Delvon Randall

Most of Temple’s defensive numbers worsened from 2016 but that was expected after the departures of Haason Reddick, Nate Hairston, three starting linebackers and several other key contributors. Still, their sack rate was sixth nationally and they allowed a respectable 4.3 yards per carry.

They also ranked 11th nationally with 7.8 tackles for loss per game. Six players had at least nine tackles for loss, three of whom return in Quincy Roche (11.5), Shaun Bradley (10) and Sam Franklin (9.5).

Fellow sophomore Dan Archibong gives Temple a good mix of upperclassmen and rising youngsters that could apply as much pressure as any team in the conference. And in addition to Shaun Bradley and Sam Franklin, the linebacker group also returns Chapelle Russell, who’s breakout sophomore season (before he missed the final four games with injury) included three 10-tackle games, including 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss vs. USF.

Delvon Randall, meanwhile, leads a secondary that lost three starters. Like most of last year, he was briefly banged up during spring practice but should be 100 percent by fall camp and is a rising draft prospect.

PLAYER ADDITIONS

CB Rock Ya-Sin

There aren’t a lot of openings, as of now, in Temple’s two-deep for new faces, but corner Rock Ya-Sin won’t have any trouble making an instant impact after his transfer from Presbyterian. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior enrolled for the spring semester and was praised by the coaching staff.

SCHEDULE

After hosting Villanova in Week 1, Temple hosts old MAC foe Buffalo, whom they haven’t met since the Owls left the conference for the Big East after the 2011 season.

They also play Boston College for the 37th time but the first time since 2004.

DATE
OPPONENT
Saturday, Sept. 1vs. Villanova
Saturday, Sept. 8vs. Buffalo
Saturday, Sept. 15at Maryland
Thursday, Sept. 20vs. Tulsa
Saturday, Sept. 29at Boston College
Saturday, Oct. 6vs. East Carolina
Saturday, Oct. 13at Navy
Saturday, Oct. 20vs. Cincinnati
Thursday, Nov. 1at UCF
Saturday, Nov. 10at Houston
Saturday, Nov. 17vs. USF
Saturday, Nov. 24at UConn