Walking away from the late December debacle Temple football was primarily responsible for, it was pretty apparent that the Owls needed to improve in a couple of areas:
- Game planning
- Pass defense
- Pass Rushing
- Offensive line
We won’t know about the game planning until about halftime of the Miami game if there is such a game but it is apparent the Owls improved in one of the key areas with the acquisition of a Northern Illinois center and a Dayton guard.
Michael Niese got his number called on NFL draft day and it wasn’t to be selected but showed him pancaking a defender on the way to a Dayton touchdown while another Dayton guy was drafted. All the reports on Mike are that he is a high Power 5-level offensive guard talent who was stuck in the FCS. He should earn a starting spot for the Temple Owls. He certainly has the size (6-4, 273) to play the position at this level and he was all-conference for Dayton the last two seasons.
He deserves a larger stage and he will get it at Temple.
There are plenty of players like that, notably two of the last three quarterbacks who played for North Dakota State. One, Carson Wentz, is playing for the Philadelphia Eagles. The other, Trey Lance, is coming off his first season as a starter with 28 touchdown passes, 2,717 yards, and zero (that’s right, 0) interceptions. That’s insane. If there is anything good about the portal, it’s that Temple can grab good players off FCS squads to help them. Brian Westbrook would have come in handy about 20 years ago for instance.
Temple had a big hole in center when Matt Hennessy went in the third round of the draft to the Atlanta Falcons and did not fill it by spring camp but used the quarantine time to acquire All-MAC center C.J. Perez in the portal. With Niese replacing Jovahn Fair and Perez replacing Hennessy, the Owls not only shored up a couple of positions but allowed for more depth along the line because they won’t have to move people around to fill areas of need.
If this gives quarterback Anthony Russo an extra nanosecond in the pocket to make a decision, it’s a big plus. I’ve got to think that Anthony’s 21 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions will improve too, say, 25 and 8, and that would make a difference in the win/loss total.
Their pass-rushing got worse, not better, with the loss of AAC Player of the Year Quincy Roche in the portal to Miami but they did acquire Manny Walker, a DE from Wake Forest, in the portal and Arnold Ebiketie logged a lot of time on the field in the last five games at the other DE. Still, that’s a thin area and maybe some thought of moving Dan Archibong back to end, a spot he started at, could be a consideration if tackles like Kris Banks continue to develop.
Overall, it looks like coach Rod Carey has some pretty good personnel to work with on defense but he must emphasize success in the running game first for both his offense to work and to help keep his defense off the field.
Has he figured this out on his own or is he too set in his ways to change?
We won’t know that for a few months at least.
Monday: A Game to Mark on Calendar
Saturday: Significant Stat Predictions
Monday (6/8): Drop dead date