The trucks pulled into the parking lot as ESPN's technical crew got working during the wee hours of the morning. Temple had finally hit the big time with ESPN staking claim in arguably the best season in school history.
The crest of the Temple wave grew even higher just a few days later as College Gameday was live from Philadelphia for the Temple versus Notre Dame game. In the end, the Owls just missed out on the upset with Notre Dame pulling out a hard fought win.
Defense was the name of the game for the Owls all season long with a group that ranked in the top 30 nationally in total defense, third down defense, red zone defense, rushing defense, scoring defense, and tackles for loss. They were one of the best defenses in many advanced statistics as well.
The momentum of an excellent start to the season led the Owls to a 10-win season in 2016. That is all in the past as the Temple Owls look to remain at the top tier of the AAC heading into the 2016 season.
So, what do the Owls have to replace on defense heading into 2016 spring practice?
For starters, Temple is likely to end up with at least three starters from the 2015 defense drafted by the NFL. Defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis, defensive back Tavon Young, and linebacker Tyler Matakevich are all headed to the scouting combine and have very good chances of hearing their names called during the NFL Draft.
Ioannidis had 115 tackles, 29.0 tackles for loss, and 10.0 sacks for his career. Young was a three-year starter at cornerback. Matakevich is the most decorated player in Temple history winning both the Chuck Bednarik Award and Bronco Nagurski Trophy. He was a consensus first-team All-America with 126 tackles, 4.5 sacks and five interceptions to go along with 493 career tackles.
OK, those losses hurt. That is only the beginning of the losses for Temple from the record setting 2015 squad. Not only are the three defensive stars gone to graduation, Nate D. Smith (36 tkl, 9.5 tfl, 7 sacks), Hershey Walton (33 tkl, 5.5 tfl), Alex Wells (52 tkl, 2 int), Boye Aromire (19 tkl), and Will Hayes (30 tkl) are also gone from the nation's #20 ranked defense.
Those senior losses accounted for 42.4% of all tackles made by the Temple defense last fall. In addition, that group also accounted for 46.5 tackles for loss and seven interceptions.
All is not lost for the Owls defense in 2016 as several important underclassmen return this fall. Looking at the defensive line first, the combination of Praise Martin-Oguike (30 tkl, 9 tfl, 4 sacks) and Haason Reddick (46 tkl, 12.5 tfl, 5 sacks) should be fine at defensive end. Reddick in particular was outstanding last fall in route to All-AAC honorable mention honors.
Nose tackle Averee Robinson (16 tkl, 4 tfl, 1 sack) should fit in nicely as the full time starter. The only question mark is at the other tackle spot, a position that Ioannidis has controlled in recent seasons. Several players will be vying for that open slot.
On the linebacker level, one name stands out more than any: Matakevich. Not only do the Owls have to replace a player that just missed out on 500 career tackles, but his backup is also gone. This could be the most important position battle for Temple in 2016. It is almost impossible to project who will attempt to fill Matakevich's shoes.
Middle linebacker Jarred Alwan (74 tkl, 7 tfl, 1.5 sacks) finished the season second on the team in tackles last fall. Sam linebacker Avery Williams (49 tkl, 6 tfl) is also a returning starter. Both backups for Alwan and Williams are returning this fall as well.
The secondary includes the return of one of the biggest NFL prospects on the entire team, cornerback Sean Chandler. The junior has been one of the team's best performers since first stepping foot on campus in 2014. Chandler has 130 tackles, five interceptions, and 8.5 tackles for loss in his career. He was an All-AAC second team selection last fall.
Opposite cornerback Tavon Young must be replaced with Nate Hairston getting first dibs. Expect that position battle to last quite a while.
Both starting safeties are gone from 2015 with Delvon Randall (16 tkl) and Nate L. Smith (54 tkl, 1 int) ready to step in. One could argue that Smith was the main starter last fall, finishing the season fourth on the team in tackles.
It will not be an easy task in replacing an All-American and three possible draft picks, Temple has the chance to still be in excellent shape on defense. Expect the Owls to build off of the work that the 2015 senior class put in and stay among the elite defenses in the nation this fall.