Senior right tackle Martin Wallace’s job this season will be much the same as last. However, as he looks to his left at the rest of his line, that will be a big change. Perhaps more noticeable, is that the players behind him are almost completely different from the Temple team that took the field opening day last year.
In what would be the Owls’ last year in the Mid-American Conference, they saw three different quarterbacks start a game. They saw perhaps their best offensive weapon in history score 27 touchdowns and depart for the NFL. They saw four of their five starters on the offensive line graduate, along with two of their leading receivers.
Redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer, who at times was the third quarterback on the depth chart, but also started four games last year and was the offensive MVP of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, is slated to take charge of this year’s fractured offense.
“I am very confident in my capabilities and I am confident that I will stay healthy and run this offense through an entire season,” Coyer said. “As a leader on this team and a leader of the offense of course people are going to look to me [to lead the team].”
The team could also be looking to senior Matt Brown, the team’s second-leading rusher last season, who has big shoes to fill in replacing Temple’s all-time leading rusher Bernard Pierce, something Brown said won’t be an issue.
“[Replacing Pierce] is going to happen, it’s already been happening,” Brown said. “He was a good player who brought good talents just like the new backs are good players who are going to bring good talents.”
Senior running back Montel Harris, who transferred from Boston College after last season and is eligible to play immediately, will have to help Brown pick up the slack.
“[Brown] is going to do a great job,” sophomore wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick said. “He is one of the best football players I have ever been around. He and [Harris] both are going to do a great job. I don’t think we will miss a beat.”
Harris and Brown will be expected to carry the load for an offense that has a commitment to running the football. The two-running-back approach that was used last year will be used again this year to utilize both players, Addazio said.
“Brown is our starting tailback and he and [Harris] have had a great camp,” coach Steve Addazio said. “I like the way they are practicing and I like the way they are playing. They are dynamic and exciting.”
While stability in the offensive playmakers may have been established with the emergence of Coyer and the addition of Harris, the players who block for them face the biggest challenge after losing the majority of their unit.
“Our offensive line has a depth issue right now, that is just a fact,” Addazio said. “If we are healthy, I like our five guys. Our five guys right now are ahead of where our starting five guys were at the start of last year. The problem is we have less depth. If we have a rash of injuries it is going to be a problem.”
Wallace is the one starter who is returning, playing right tackle and blocking for the left-handed Coyer’s blindside. Wallace said he knows the team will be depending on him to anchor the line and protect his quarterback.
“I have to know my stuff, I can’t take a day off, I can’t take a snap off,” Wallace said. “Every day I have to think that if I do not do my job, [Coyer] is out of the game.”
Protecting the quarterback and the offense is a group effort, however, and how Wallace views his new offensive line could characterize the entire team this year.
“It does not matter the man as long as they know the scheme,” Wallace said. “If they know the scheme and they know how to execute it well enough, the man itself is just a tool inside a greater machine.”
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.