What will 2023 bring for Temple Football?

The Owls added 50 new players and enter a new-look AAC this season. What does that mean for their chance at their first bowl game since 2019?

With 50 new players and new-look AAC, the Owls are looking for a fresh start from last season. | CHARLOTTE SAUNDERS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Stan Drayton’s hiring before the 2022 season signified a new era of Temple Football. Although the Owls finished with the same 3-9 record, flashes of potential led to optimism for the future. 

There are some unknowns for Temple with 50 new players and three new coaches, but Drayton likens the feeling to the excitement of the holidays.

“It’s like opening up a Christmas present,” said Drayton, who is entering his second season as Temple’s head coach.

The Owls have a lot of energy entering 2023. With many new players and a lot of untapped potential, Temple will look to build on their work this offseason as the 2023 season begins on Sept. 2 against Akron.

Temple lost several key players from last season. Wide receiver Jose Barbon, defensive lineman Xach Gill and offensive linemen Adam Klein and Isaac Moore graduated, while defensive lineman Darian Varner and linebacker Kobe Wilson transferred. 

Drayton added 50 new players to the roster, including Florida outside linebacker Diwun Black and safety Kamar Wilcoxson, Colorado State safety Tywan Francis and wide receiver Dante Wright. 

The Owls take their revamped roster into the new-look American Athletic Conference, which welcomed six teams this offseason: UAB, Charlotte, Rice, UTSA, North Texas and FAU. Temple will only play UTSA, North Texas and UAB this season. This followed the departure of UCF, Houston and Cincinnati to the Big 12. 

Along with Drayton, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and special teams coordinator Adam Scheier also returned this season. Drayton’s former chief of staff and new defensive coordinator Everett Withers replaced D.J. Eliot, who left Temple to join the Philadelphia Eagles as the linebackers coach. Withers’ transition gives the Owls some much-needed scheme continuity.

So how will the Owls look this year? Looking at the roster, there are certain position groups that could anchor a successful season, but there are some weak points as well. 

How will those strengths and weaknesses play out in 2023? Can Temple make its first bowl game since 2019?


Tight Ends

Tight end is one of Temple’s deepest position groups. Led by single-digit David Martin-Robinson and Jordan Smith, the group also features James Della Pesca and added Peter Clarke from the NFL Academy.

Martin-Robinson and Smith both impressed when healthy last season. Smith finished the 2022 season with 346 yards and four touchdowns, and Martin-Robinson added 366 yards and two touchdowns. In the last three games of the season, the two tight ends combined for 409 yards and four touchdowns.

Each tight end brings a different skill set. Della Pesca adds a blocking element that helps on early downs, Smith and Reese Clark can stretch the field and Martin-Robinson and Clarke do both.

Inside Linebackers

The linebacker position has not changed much because single-digits Jordan Magee and Yvandy Rigby returned and are expected to start. 

Corey Yeoman is returning from injury, and D.J. Woodbury moved to inside linebacker after playing outside last season. Both can provide solid depth. 

The Owls have a talented mix of veterans and young depth at the linebacker position. Similarly to the tight ends, the group has potential to be game-changers and anchor a successful defense. 


Offensive Line Depth

The offensive line lost valuable players during the offseason in Moore and Klein. They have a few veteran players, including single-digit Victor Stoffel, Richard Rodriguez and Wisdom Quarshie. However, the rest of the depth chart is either young or inexperienced. 

Chris Smith and Diego Barajas are junior college transfers who haven’t played at the Division I level. Although Melvin Siani, Kevin Terry and Luke Watson are names that have been mentioned by coaches, they are all freshmen and likely won’t see the field this season. 

Despite their limited in-game experience, Drayton believes in the young group.

“I can’t ask for a better young group of offensive linemen,” Drayton said. “We’re going to count on these guys. We’re going to need them to step up when their number is called.” 

Offensive Identity

The Owls struggled to both run and pass the ball at times. They finished last in the American in last season in both yards per carry and total rushing yards, and their passing numbers weren’t much better. 

Temple’s inability to figure out its strengths hurt the team on both sides of the ball. Temple’s time of possession was 27 minutes per game, leaving the defense on the field for the extra 33 minutes, resulting in fatigue in fourth quarters. 

Although Drayton has said the core of Temple’s offense is running the ball, he has a clear goal.  

“I want us to be explosive, and I want us to score touchdowns, however we get that done,” Drayton said. “I think we have to be creative. The thing that I love about us now is that we have the ability to play in 11-[personnel], in 12-[personnel], and I think we’re really starting to expand our packages that way.” 

Consistency will be important. The offense has talent, but being able to consistently win blocks and effectively run the ball  will be key to their success.


Who’s going to start on the offensive line?

Offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan has kept his five starters close to his chest all offseason, but Stoffel and Rodriguez are expected to start, having lined up with the first-team offense at tackle and center, respectively. 

Jermaine Donaldson, James Faminu, Siani, Barajas, Watson and Quarshiecould potentially start at any of the remaining three spots. 

Who is the go-to receiver? 

Since the Owls lost 109 receptions between Barbon and Adonicas Sanders, they’ll have to replace that production with Amad Anderson Jr., Zae Baines and single-digit Ian Stewart. Wright brings some much-needed speed and is in the mix for targets as well. 

John Adams, a walk-on, could also work his way into the fold. He has turned heads and drawn positive reviews from coaches. 

“That young man can fly,” said safeties coach Marvin Clecidor. “He’s given us trouble just running with him down the field.”

With a handful of names competing for targets, there may not be a go-to receiver until someone emerges as the top target.


Temple’s pros outweigh its cons. As the season progresses, the Owls’ identity will form, and the offensive line will gain experience. The leadership in the locker room, the continuity and a talented roster could help the Owls finish with at least six wins and its first bowl game appearance since 2019.


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