Without any solid news coming out of the Temple summer football camp, it’s hard to get a read on who the impressive newcomers are and how fast they are progressing up the depth chart.
This time a year ago, we would have had a season-ticket holder party and have been able to sit down at the tables and talk to the players and get their imput.
That’s how in 2009 I got this when I asked who was surprising among the true freshmen. “Bernard Pierce.” Just about every one of the seniors and juniors I talked to back then said to watch Bernard Pierce and that’s he’s going to make an immediate impact. To a man, when asked about the pleasant surprises the two words “Bernard Pierce” came out of every mouth.
They were right.
Players know. Pierce had to wait until two days before the Villanova game to be cleared by the NCAA to play, and that’s why he only had 44 yards in a limited debut against Villanova. Everyone who saw him said in the parking lot afterward if Pierce played the entire game, Temple would have won.
Without that kind of input, picking a projected starting lineup is like walking around a dark room without a light on. All we have to go on here are three things: 1) what we saw last year; 2) last year’s depth chart and 3) the roster currently published on Owlsports.com, which is constantly updated.
So here’s an educated guess with all of those caveats plus the injury factor which can happen between the time this is typed and published. That’s how football is, unfortunately.
Quarterback: Anthony Russo (6-4, 235); Halfback: Ray Davis (5-9, 210); Fullback: None (unfortunately); Wide receivers: Jadan Blue (6-0, 180), Randle Jones (6-0, 190) and Branden Mack (6-5, 220); Tight end: David Martin-Robinson (6-4,245); Tackles: Adam Klein (6-5, 295) and Isaac Moore, (6-7, 305); Guards: Vince Picozzi (6-4, 305) and Michael Niese (6-5, 275); Center: C. J. Perez (6-1, 287).
First impressions: The line is extremely large and experienced. In Perez, the Owls got an All-MAC performer and MAC championship center to replace a high NFL draft choice. “There’s not one coach here I didn’t know previously,” Perez said on the school’s official website. An argument could be made that this line is better than the one that played in the bowl game because Picozzi is back after wrecking his knee in the USF win last fall. Picozzi, from Lansdale Catholic, was arguably the second-best lineman on the team. The other guard is a FCS All-American from Dayton, Michael Niese. Huge upgrades at the guard position from just the bowl game.
Second impressions: Quarterback depth improved with Re-Al Mitchell, the transfer from Iowa State, and the improvement of prized recruit Trad Beatty. Even if Russo, who has been durable for his two seasons, goes down, the Owls should be in good shape at quarterback. I don’t feel as confident in the backup RB position, which is why the Owls should have made a run for Penn State portal guy Ricky Slade (who ironically went to Old Dominion, which isn’t playing football this year).
That should open enough holes for Ray Davis to go from 900 yards to over 1,000. If that happens, and the coaching staff utilizes more play action than they did last year, that should buy an extra second or two for Russo to find the most talented three wide receivers who have ever played together at Temple.
That’s not even an argument because it’s impossible to find three who had the stats just two (Mack and Blue) put up last year. Going over the list, the closest I could find were the Henry Burris duo of Troy Kersey and Van Johnson and their best year fell well short of the nearly 2,000 yards Mack and Blue put up under the same quarterback last year.
One thing is clear: If the Owls have trouble putting points up on the board this year, it will be on the coaches and not the players. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that establishing the run first and a heavy dose of play-action second will get that job done.
Friday: Special Teams
Monday: Do You Ever Get The Feeling?