New Big East member Temple opens spring practice this afternoon. Here is a quick primer on what to expect.
Spring changes: The Owls begin the spring with a new offensive coordinator in Ryan Day, who comes over from Boston College. He replaces Scot Loeffler, who left after one season to become offensive coordinator at Auburn. Matt Rhule was named co-offensive coordinator as well, but he reportedly has left for a position with the New York Giants. Temple also hired Ryan Day as receivers coach.
Many of the most familiar Owls faces over the last several years are gone as well. Temple only returns nine starters, and will be without players like Bernard Pierce, Adrian Robinson, Tahir Whitehead, Kevin Kroboth, Evan Rodriguez, Rod Streater and four of five starting offensive linemen. Defensively, the Owls lose five of their top six leading tacklers. Given all those losses, here is a look at the biggest position battles to watch during spring practice.
Offensive line. Temple loses a wealth of experience up front. All-MAC left tackle Pat Boyle, left guard Derek Dennis, center John Palumbo and right guard Wayne Tribue combined to start 120 games in their Temple careers. They are all gone, leaving right tackle Martin Wallace as the only starter coming back. He has 15 starts under his belt. Getting a bunch of inexperienced players to go in and start has to be the biggest priority going into camp.
Defensive line. This has been an area of great depth and talent for Temple, which has been able to reload after losing key players over the last several years. This time, the Owls lose All-MAC defensive end Adrian Robinson, along with third-team selection Morkeith Brown. The two combined for 10.5 sacks and were a big reason why the Owls once again were solid up front. Players to watch this spring include Kamal Johnson and Kadeem Custis.
Linebacker. Two of the most productive players from last year's team are gone in Stephen Johnson and Tahir Whitehead. Johnson led the team with 123 tackles, while Whitehead tied for the team lead with 13.5 tackles for loss, and ranked second with five sacks. The good news is that Blaze Caponegro returns, after emerging as a sophomore last season, and Ahkeem Smith should find his way into the starting lineup as well. But there is a lot of production the Owls are going to have to find from other players.
Running back. This position should belong to Matt Brown, who has been highly productive as a complement to Pierce. But the Owls do have to work on building depth here. Kenneth Harper and Darius Johnson are the only other returning running backs who have any playing experience, and Johnson joined the team as a walk-on last season.