Temple comes back this season as a BCS automatic qualifier... now THAT'S scary. (Photo: Mike Pettigano)
Penn State really put together a fine non-conference schedule for 2012. We've covered three of those teams so far, and today we're going to wrap up with Penn State's fourth and final out-of-conference opponent: The Temple Owls.
This ain't your grandpa's Temple program. It's probably not even your older brother's Temple program. On to the snapshot...
Where they call home: Philadelphia, PA
Endless running begins/ends: March 12/April 14
If they suck, this guy gets fired: Steve Addazio
The past two seasons, Temple has come closer than ever to beating Penn State. Against a (arguably) poor Penn State team in Beaver Stadium, Temple lost 22-13 as the home team needed a second-half surge to overcome the Owls' lead. Last season in Philly, Temple had Penn State as on-the-ropes as you could imagine. But a late, somewhat improbable touchdown drive by the Nittany Lions saved the game once again for the Blue and White. Steve Addazio took over for Al Golden following the 2010 season. Under his tutelage, Temple went 9-4 in 2011, capping the season with a bowl win over Wyoming. But this season has some question marks to deal with, including losing record-setting running back Bernard Pierce. If Addazio and his staff can develop what emerged as a stellar 2012 recruiting class (relative to Temple), things might not fall too far, if at all this year.
More specifics below the fold...
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What they return...
Though the news of Kevin Newsome transferring to Temple made waves around Penn State circles, it's unlikely he'll beat out the incumbent, Chris Coyer. Coyer took over for Chester Stewart late last season, and finished as Temple's bowl game MVP. That doesn't mean Newsome has no shot at all to beat out Coyer.
Matt Brown returns, attempting to fill the shoes of Pierce. The rising senior rushed for 916 yards and six touchdowns last season behind Pierce, bringing his career total to more than 2,200 yards. Temple will miss Pierce, but Brown's return goes a long way to alleviating some of the stress at this position.
Three cornerbacks also return--Anthony Robey, Zamel Johnson, and Maurice Jones--who weren't exactly great last season, but gained a ton of experience. With severe losses at linebacker, the corners will see more pressure to shut down receivers and give the front seven more time to get to the quarterback.
What they lost...
Pierce is the guy Temple will miss most this year. Over three seasons, Pierce grew into a leader of the program. Think of recent Penn State players like Michael Robinson, Derrick Williams, or Daryll Clark. That's the kind of loss Pierce represents for Temple. Not to mention, he finished with 3,570 yards and 53 touchdowns in his three years as starting running back, which includes several games missed due to injury.
Two of Pierce's best blockers, guards Wayne Tribue and Derek Dennis, will be gone this year, too. But with Addazio's background as an offensive line coach, building up another solid front five isn't hopeless.
Temple also loses pro prospects on defense, as linebackers Stephen Johnson (team-best 123 tackles in 2011) and Tahir Whitehead (70 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss) graduate to a likely shot in the NFL.
Style on the High Seas...
Whatever worked in the MAC last season... okay, it might still work in the new Big East. Temple returns to the conference that ever-so politely kicked them to the curb several years ago, but this time has the opportunity to--wait for it...--earn a BCS bowl bid!
Temple's offense was pretty easy to figure out for a long time. Not much changed from when Golden was the head coach two years ago, since it was Scot Loeffler and Matt Ruhle running the show. But now, with Loeffler gone, and just yesterday news breaking that Ruhle was leaving for the New York Giants, Temple's offensive identity could undergo another transformation. Former Boston College assistant Ryan Day remains the only coach on staff who was or now holding a title with "offensive coordinator" in the name. Day was hired only about a month ago.
So I honestly can't tell you what to expect from Temple. Maybe after spring practice wraps up, we'll have a better idea.
See you next week, as Spring Snapshot 2012 continues with the Big Ten schedule.