At this time a year ago, the slogan on the shirts at the Edberg-Olson Complex was “Mayhem is Coming.”
A year later on Cherry and White at a much better venue, The Temple Sports Complex, there were a few “Mayhem is Here” T-Shirts visible (although I could not find where to purchase one).
The change of slogans pretty much is an indication of how far we’ve come in expectations. I did not see much defensive Mayhem until the final game of the year, a 28-3 win over Florida International in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Let’s hope that it becomes the norm, not the exception, this year.
That’s the biggest difference this year could make in that a proven SEC coordinator has finally put his defense in place with the kind of talent that can get to the quarterback and cause significant disruptions at the point of attack. That’s my definition of Mayhem: Hitting the quarterback so much he either fumbles the ball or forces interceptions.
The other pieces to this puzzle seem to be fitting quite well.
At this time last year the Owls had four quarterbacks. As they say, when you have two quarterbacks you have none and four just doubles that equation. Now the Owls have one of the very few returning bowl-winning quarterbacks in Jim Plunkett clone Frank Nutile and have seen significant improvement from backup Anthony Russo. Toddy Centeio is the special packages (wildcat) quarterback and Trad Beatty could be the quarterback two years down the road if he’s redshirted. This position was a question mark last year and is now an exclamation point. The receivers are in good hands (pun intended) with holdovers Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright and newcomers Jadan Blue and Sean Ryan, among others.
Owls’ coach Chris Wisenhan said that the three interior linemen anchored by Dave Rimington candidate Matt Hennessey could be the best in his five years at Temple. That’s saying a lot since Kyle Friend was a pretty good center and represents a significant upgrade from this time a year ago.
Ryquell Armstead, who had 916 yards and 15 touchdowns two years ago, is back to full health after being banged up much of last year. He is being pushed by Jager Gardner, who was even worse banged up in that he had to take a redshirt year. Gardner, as a true freshman, set the Temple record for longest run from scrimmage (a 94-yard touchdown against SMU). Considering that the Owls were down to using a fullback (Rob Ritrovato) at tailback due to injuries, the Owls are in a much-better spot.
Another area of strength as Michael Dogbe earned a single digit and former Penn State commit Karamo Dioubate joins Dan Archibong and Temperor in Training Freddy Booth-Lloyd on a line that can cause Mayhem all by themselves. Dogbe, Dioubate and Archibong have position flexibility as tight ends but hopefully head coach Geoff Collins leaves those duties to Chris Myrick and Kenny Yoboah.
They looked young and lost last year but are the strength of the team led by Shaun Bradley and former St. Joseph’s Prep first-team All-Catholic Todd Jones.
All in all, what a difference a year makes with some additional help on the way in August.
Don’t order National Championship game tickets quite yet, but a Lincoln Financial Field AAC championship game is not out of the question.