Following a 2015 season that saw Temple win 10 games on the strength of an efficient offense and tenacious defense culminate in a spot in the inaugural AAC Championship Game, Owls fans are clamoring for the season to get rolling again.
Temple returns many key players on the offensive side of the ball, setting the stage for another strong campaign. Just like with any other program, however, there are also certain weaknesses that must be addressed in order to repeat the success of the previous season.
Let’s delve a little deeper.
Consistency at Quarterback – When it comes to strength on an offensive roster, the first thing to look for is the quarterback position. Temple has something that other schools only wished they had – consistency at this key position.
Senior QB P.J. Walker has been with the Owls for four years and has become one of the best signal callers in the history of the program. Walker holds school records for passing yards (2,972), total offense (3,179), touchdown passes (52) and completions (601).
If Walker is able to continue to protect the ball (he threw just eight interceptions in 433 attempts last year), the offense will put up some solid numbers.
Do-it-all Running Back – In addition to a solid quarterback, Temple also boasts a pretty talented stable of running backs. The best of the bunch, however, is the guy who actually began his collegiate career as a defensive back.
Senior RB Jahad Thomas has developed into a workhorse for the Owls. Last season, he rushed for 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns on 276 carries (over 4.5 yards per carry). Thomas also added 216 yards and another score on 22 catches out of the backfield.
The do-everything bell cow will look to continue his development and post big numbers again this year. If Thomas is able to stay healthy, the sky is the limit for the Maxwell Award hopeful.
No Clear No. 1 Wide Receiver – Former Owls wide receiver Robby Anderson played a huge role in Temple’s success last year, recording a team-high 939 yards and seven scores on 70 receptions. The next highest totals came from first-year player Ventell Bryant (39 catches, 579 yards and three TDs).
With Anderson signing on as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets, a new No. 1 receiver will have to emerge from the pack.
After his strong showing in 2015, Bryant has to be the early favorite for this role. However, he will have to show that he can handle the extra attention that comes with being a top target, while trying to match Anderson’s production from a year ago.
We will have to keep a close watch on how the sophomore handles this additional pressure.
Lost a Great Friend – Joining Robby Anderson, ex-Temple offensive lineman Kyle Friend signed on with the New York Jets following the NFL Draft. Without the stalwart presence in the middle of their offensive line, the Owls will need to find a new starting combination and hope it gels as well as the line of yesteryear.
Solid players such as Brendan McGowan and Dion Dawkins should help with the transition, but Temple will most likely have some youth and inexperience infused along the front line.
With the success of the offense relying so heavily on Walker having time to let plays develop downfield and Thomas’ ability to find running lanes, the team hopes the new line combination will be productive sooner rather than later.