The Temple Owls enter the 2017 season with questions marks after winning their first American Athletic Conference championship last year. That is to be expected when arguably the program's best coach leaves to take on another uphill battle and only eight starters return from last season's squad.
We know that they will have another talented defense. Temple has made its resurgence from perennial loser to a team that is made up of will and determination, and that has been largely in part of a decade of defensive players that have made a living in the National Football League. Whether it has been Terrance Knighton, Muhammad Wilkerson, Tahir Whitehead, Tavon Young, Tyler Matakevich or this year's first-round selection, Haason Reddick, defense has been the calling card at Temple.
It has been the offense that has been overlooked by the stars of the defense. That will be the case again this season as new head coach Geoff Collins inherits a fine defense to work with. The biggest question entering this season will be the identity of the offense under the new regime.
One of Collins’ first moves as the new head coach was hiring former Coastal Carolina offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude to the same position. Patenaude was very successful moving the football with the Chanticleers as his up-tempo offense set all sorts of records in the Big South Conference. His success is in large part why Coastal Carolina is making the jump to the FBS.
Whether or not that system will work in North Philadelphia remains to be seen.
The Owls' top two playmakers from last season are both no longer with the team. Jahad Thomas is currently in camp with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, but faces a difficult battle to make a team with Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and the recently signed Ronnie Hillman all on the roster. Philip Walker, the winningest quarterback in school history, is in training camp with the Indianapolis Colts. Not only are the Owls undergoing a change in coaching, they are trying to replace their two most important players on offense.
The first question that needs to be answered is who will take over for Walker at quarterback. Patenaude has four players to choose from - Frank Nutile, Logan Marchi, Anthony Russo and Todd Centeio - with the latter being the most impressive during their spring game. This is sure to be the hot topic of the summer for the Owls, and at this time, it's tough to gauge who is out in front in this battle.
The winner of this competition will have plenty of receiving options to choose from with deep group of wide receivers and a talented running back in Ryquell Armstead to hand the ball off to. What they need to find is another running back to spell Armstead and whether or not the offensive line will be capable of running the up-tempo offense that the coaches want to use.
Jager Gardner was impressive in the spring game and looks to be the leading candidate to backup Armstead. It's a guessing game who would step up if something were to happen to those two players. Leon Johnson will anchor an offensive line that will have some turnover due to graduations.
The first recruiting class of the new staff did not bring in a plethora of players that the Owls can use to quickly make the adjustment to that style of offense. Centeio is the first signal caller that Collins did recruit which could give him a small leg up on the rest of the group, but he is also a true freshman. Some will argue that it would be difficult for Collins to start a freshman in his first season at the helm, but that idea did not backfire for Matt Rhule by making the switch to Walker.
With all these unknowns as Temple transitions into its new offense, no one really knows what to make of the Owls heading into the season. They were picked to finish third in the AAC East, which is respectable considering all the change that has taken place. No one will really know how it will look until they lineup on Sept. 2 against Notre Dame.