Temple season preview

Temple Owls

Coach: Matt Rhule (first year as a head coach)

2012 record: 4-7

Key losses: RB Montel Harris, K Brandon McManus, PR Matt Brown

Key returnees: HB Chris Coyer, LB Tyler Matakevich, WR Jalen Fitzpatrick

Newcomer to watch: QB Connor Reilly

Biggest games in 2013: at Notre Dame (Aug. 31), Army (Oct. 19)

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Who is Connor Reilly? After being listed as the fourth-string quarterback last season, Reilly is now at the top of the depth chart and the projected starter. Rhule has moved last season’s starter Coyer to halfback, making it an open competition between Clinton Granger and Reilly in the spring. Though Reilly has the edge, it’s not etched in stone. In Rhule’s first year as a head coach, his offensive experiment could make or break his season.

Forecast: When Rhule makes his head-coaching debut against Notre Dame on Aug. 31, the Owls will look like an entirely different team. Wanting to move away from a ground-and-pound offense, Rhule has limited to time to install his pass-heavy offensive system with two quarterbacks who have little experience. Replacing 1000-yard rusher Harris, Coyer will be responsible for the running game this season after he rushed for 444 yards and two touchdowns last season.

“We're excited about our quarterback,” Rhule said of Reilly. “And no one's really talking about him, and rightfully so. There are a lot of guys in this league that can spin it.”

Reilly will have the benefit of three seniors on the offensive line. But Temple will have to replace key members of its special teams in McManus (14-of-17 on field goal attempts) and Brown (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year).

Defensively, the Owls are anchored by Matakevich, last season’s Big East Defensive Rookie of the Year. Sophomore linebacker Nate D. Smith joins him, and Temple returns starting cornerbacks Zamel Johnson and Anthony Robey.

Picked in the preseason media poll to finish next to last in the conference, Temple has an advantage in hosting both American Athletic heavyweights Louisville and Cincinnati. Despite the low expectations, Rhule isn’t shy about his goals for the Owls.

“For me, now it's my charge and my job to get us to win a conference championship,” Rhule said. “So that's what we're doing, that's why we're here.”