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Temple Football: Three Questions Following Spring Practices

The Owls have already seen some big changes with Rod Carey as head coach.

Temple helmets

The Temple Owls finally put the focus on football after arguably the wildest offseason in college football.

In case you have forgotten, Temple lost Geoff Collins to Georgia Tech, hired Manny Diaz as head coach for a minute before Mark Richt decided to retire from Miami and Rod Carey finally took the job after a lengthy coaching search.

Now that crazy coaching carousel is complete, Carey and his staff made of mostly coaches from his previous gig at Northern Illinois essentially met many of the Temple players for the first time over the spring.

The Owls finished their 15 practices allotted with the Cherry and White Fan Fest on Saturday, basically an open practice at North Broad. Carey opted not to hold a spring game, which many programs around the country participated in this weekend, to minimize the players’ risk of injury. Many of the “veterans” on the roster have been held out of practices to preserve them for the regular season.

That leaves us with plenty of questions to ask as the new regime looks to continue the success that the previous coaches have sustained. Let’s dive into some of the more glaring issues to keep an eye on under this new coaching staff.

What changes will Rod Carey make to the program?

There are always significant changes with any new coaching staff with so many new faces meshing together all at once. Collins was all about the athletes being themselves on and off the field. He embraced social media. Many of the players on this squad committed to Collins, not Carey and the new group of coaches.

It will be interesting to see whether or not Carey extend the tradition players have come to love at Temple. Wearing a single-digit number is a badge of honor that started under Al Golden and stuck around since. The players rushed to Collins’ white board after forcing turnovers, and one of the things Temple players were looking forward to was Diaz bringing the turnover chain to North Philadelphia. Who knows if Carey’s staff continues to the appeal the players in this way.

Carey’s staff will use new verbiage on both sides of the ball that the players will need to learn. But there is so much more than a coaching change than just a new playbook. There will be new practice times and workout schedules, as we have seen with the decision to not hold an actual spring game and resting players this early in the process. Plenty of new faces - more on this in a minute - will be taking over at positions of strength a year ago. And let’s be honest, some players and coaches just don’t mesh well together. Only time will tell how Carey adjusts to Temple (and vice versa) leading up to the start of the 2019 season.

Who takes over at running back?

Temple’s recent success has been predicated on a strong ground game. It started with Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown terrorizing defense together from 2009 to 2011. They passed the torch to Jahad Thomas, who then gave way to Ryquell Armstead.

Like the three backs before him, Armstead left his mark on the Owls’ history books. The NFL hopeful finished his collegiate career third in rushing touchdowns (34), fourth in rushing yards (2,812) and fifth in yards from scrimmage (2,987). Those numbers could have been even bigger if it wasn’t for numerous nagging injuries throughout his time at North Broad.

Temple v Boston College Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Jager Gardner figures to be the first in line for carries, but has never been asked to carry the load. He had a chance to do so against Cincinnati and Navy with Armstead out of the lineup, but didn’t capitalize on the opportunity. If you throw out his 110-yard performance against SMU in his freshman season, the most rushing yards he’s racked up in a single game is 57 against UConn this past season.

Speedsters Jeremy Jennings and Tyliek Raynor are still on the roster, as well as six other running backs that will get extended looks with a new coaching staff on hand. With no real heir in place, it’s really anyone’s job for the taking. Of all the positional battles heading into spring practices, this should be the most fun to watch.

Who replaces the leaders in the secondary?

Defense has been the Owls’ calling card in the resurgence from college football laughingstock to one of the best Group of Five programs in the country. Much of this has been a combination of great defensive line play and playmakers in the secondary. Last season, they finished 20th in the country in passing defense and tied for third in the country in turnovers, one behind the nation’s leaders.

Sean Chandler departed for the NFL last season, but Delvon Randall continued the trend of terrific safety play at Temple. Chandler was named to the Chuck Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe Awards watch list, has led the team in solo tackles the last two seasons and finished his career with 12 interceptions, good for fifth best in school history. The three-year starter did not get invited to the NFL Combine, but is expected to find a home at the next level.

Rock Ya-Sin arrived at Temple from Presbyterian College and was almost immediately awarded a single-digit jersey. Many weren’t sure if he would be able to make the jump from FCS to FBS, but the NFL hopeful finished third in the AAC and tied for 14th in the nation in passes defended (12). Many expect his name to be called on the first or second day of the NFL Draft this month.

Carey will need to figure out who is the new leader in this revamped secondary. Linwood Crump picked off three passes last season and will be senior in the group. Kimere Brown and Christian Braswell will likely round out the starting cornerbacks. After that, it’s a guessing game as to who will back up the corners and the new starters at safety as well. In a league where defense is sometimes optional, having a stout pass defense was a luxury.

There will be plenty more to discuss this summer as the Owls inch closer to the Aug. 31 home opener against Bucknell so be sure to check back with us at Underdog Dynasty throughout the offseason for more Temple news and analysis.