Nearly one year ago, Temple introduced Geoff Collins as its new football coach after Matt Rhule departed for Baylor University.
Running off Diet Mountain Dews, seated between President Richard Englert and Athletic Director Pat Kraft in the Liacouras Center, Collins talked about the pressure he faced by inheriting a program in the midst of back-to-back 10 win seasons for the first time in school history.
In his southern twang, Collins said he thrives on the pressure.
During his first year as coach, Collins’ team hit a roadblock. Temple needed to win three of its last four games to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight season. The Owls (6-6, 4-4 American Athletic Conference) delivered and will face Florida International University in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 21.
But even with Collins and the Owls salvaging their season with a bowl game, the regular season ended with questions surrounding the program’s future.
First, who will be the starting quarterback in Collins’ second season?
Redshirt-junior quarterback Frank Nutile performed well at the end of the season after redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi suffered a foot injury.
Despite solid play, neither Nutile nor Marchi sticks out as the quarterback of the future. Temple’s quarterback room will also be more crowded next season.
Freshman quarterback Todd Centeio, who was withheld from action after Sept. 21 in hopes of getting a redshirt year, will be in the mix for the starting job. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Anthony Russo, who only held field goal and extra point attempts this season, will also compete for a spot.
Then there’s Trad Beatty — an incoming freshman from South Carolina who will enroll in January and is the first quarterback recruited by Collins’ staff. Because the Owls will be overcrowded with candidates for quarterback, there’s a legitimate chance one could transfer to another school.
Regardless of whether one transfers, Temple’s quarterback competition will likely mirror this season’s battle. Collins didn’t announce a starter prior to Temple’s season opener against the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 2.
He said up to three quarterbacks could play in the game but afterward admitted there was some “gamesmanship” and he “probably carried a little too far” with the quarterback battle. Marchi took every offensive snap.
In year two, Collins’ game management will also have to improve. He said being on the sideline as a coach rather than a coordinator was an adjustment after Temple’s 49-16 loss to the Fighting Irish.
When the Owls lost, 31-28, to Army West Point on Oct. 21, time management cost them points.
Sophomore kicker Aaron Boumerhi drilled a 51-yard field goal through the uprights, but it got negated by a delay of game penalty.
After the game, Collins said he didn’t try to call a timeout. Temple’s missed opportunity to take a two-possession lead wasn’t the only variable that went into Temple losing a winnable game, but it would’ve made it harder for the Black Knights to make a comeback.
What should fans expect next year? Again, regardless of who starts at quarterback, Temple will have weapons on offense. The main question is will those players stay healthy?
Temple’s leading returning rusher and receiver — junior running back Ryquell Armstead and redshirt junior Ventell Bryant — had off seasons. Toe and hamstring injuries hindered Armstead’s ability. Injuries also hurt Bryant, and he missed a game for an undisclosed reason.
After he posted career-best numbers during the 2016 season, Bryant received buzz as a potential 2018 NFL Draft prospect. So far, he has barely matched half of last season’s production, hauling in 28 receptions for 273 yards and zero touchdowns.
On the bright side, sophomore wideout Isaiah Wright blossomed in several roles this season. He led the Owls in receiving with 41 catches for 595 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 194 rushing yards and a touchdown and contributed two more scores on special teams.
With senior wideout Adonis Jennings and redshirt-senior wideout Keith Kirkwood graduating after the season, the Owls will need the same production out of Wright next season.
Junior safety Delvon Randall’s game took a significant jump from last season. The American named Randall to the All-Conference First Team. He finished the regular season with a career-high 76 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.
Temple replaced seven starters on the defensive side of the ball. The Owls will be faced with a similar task in 2018 when they’ll replace three defensive linemen and three defensive backs.
Sophomore defensive back Linwood Crump has started six of the past eight games and will most likely start at one of the two cornerback positions.
Redshirt-freshman defensive lineman Quincy Roche ranked third on the team with six sacks and fourth with 9.5 tackles for loss. His role could increase next season with Temple losing senior defensive lineman Jacob Martin and redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sharif Finch, who lead the team in sacks and tackles for loss and earned second-team selection in The American.
In his weekly press conference before Temple’s victory against Tulsa, Collins said he wanted to send the senior class off the right way with a bowl game. And he will.
But Temple will still have to answer similar questions at the quarterback position and defensive side of the ball as Collins enters year two on North Broad.