With a full season under his belt, second-year head coach Stan Drayton has instilled a new identity in the Temple football team and created a family-type atmosphere in the locker room.
Temple is hoping to improve on last season’s 3-9 record through key additions on both sides of the ball and the development of the young talent displayed in 2022.
As summer camp comes to an end and football gets closer, here is everything you need to know ahead of Temple’s season opener against Akron on Sept. 2.
Key Transfer Additions
Temple added key players through the transfer portal this offseason to help fill positions of need on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
On offense, Temple added redshirt junior wideout Dante Wright from Colorado State. Wright adds extra speed to the wide receiver room, but also experience to a young core of wideouts.
During his freshman season in 2019, Wright recorded 805 receiving yards, including two 75-yard touchdowns. In 2021, he put up 556 yards, with his longest reception being 62 yards. Wright will add a much-needed deep threat to the Owls’ wide receiver room.
On defense, the Owls added outside linebacker Diwun Black and safety Kamar Wilcoxson from Florida, along with safety Tywan Francis from Colorado State.
All three players are expected to play a large role in improving an Owls defense that finished sixth in the American Athletic Conference in yards allowed per game at 391.2 yards.
“We’re not throwing basic defenses at offenses,” Francis said. “We’re giving more complex looks so that offenses can’t have a pre-snap read on what we are doing. They have to do all of that post-snap.”
In 2022, Temple lacked a true identity on the offensive side of the ball and struggled at times with turnovers, communication and consistency, all of which is to be expected with a first-year head coach, and a true freshman starting under center in E.J. Warner.
This year, the Owls head into their second year with Warner under center and will need to find out what type of offensive attack they will have this season.
“I want us to be explosive and I want us to score touchdowns,” Drayton said. “I think we have to be creative and defenses are going to present certain things for us that are going to make us go into our bag and pull out certain personnel groupings.”
Warner showed extreme promise last season, finishing the 2022 season with 3,028 yards and 18 touchdowns in his 11 games. He was also named to the first-team freshman All-American team.
Warner used this offseason to put on more muscle and tighten up his ball security after throwing 12 interceptions last season. So far the sophomore quarterback has seen not just improvement in himself, but improved comradery throughout the locker room as well.
“There’s definitely so much more improvement from last year,” Warner said. “Day one in fall camp last year, you could see a lack of details and lack of comradery as a team, but having this whole offseason, we’re growing on the field, but also off the field.”
Temple finished in the middle of the pack in the AAC last season with the passing offense averaging slightly more than 268 yards per game. With the expected growth and development from Warner and the rest of the offense, it’s reasonable to assume the passing offense will improve this season and could be key against a weaker pass defense in Akron.
What to expect from Akron
Last season, the Zips finished ninth in yards allowed per game in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, specifically struggling against the pass as 60 percent of their almost 5,000 total yards allowed came through the air.
While Akron’s defense struggled in 2022, the Zips are returning their leading passer. Quarterback DJ Irons, who finished second in the MAAC last season in both yards per game and completion percentage, is expected to lead the team.
Irons is also a threat with his legs, as he’s been able to escape the pocket and pick up yards. The Owls’ defense will need to be aware of his mobility as he finished last season as the Zips’ second-leading rusher, averaging 31.4 yards per game, and also tallied four rushing touchdowns.
The Zips have also been busy in the offseason, bringing in 13 key pieces from the transfer portal. With so much uncertainty around who will play, Drayton addressed the issue of preparing for Akron without knowing who will be in the lineup.
“We’re really locked in and focused on the personality of the coordinators, the people who are going to call the game,” Drayton said. “We’re just trying to really get a gauge on what their tendencies and their personality is and we’ll try to build a scheme that will fit that.”
Declan Landis (Sports Editor): “There is way too much momentum in the Temple program for the Owls to come out flat in this matchup. I think the team chemistry and effort will be on full display at Lincoln Financial Field.”
Temple wins 45-10.
Johnny Zawislak (Assistant Sports Editor): “With all that being said, I believe the Owls will take advantage of the Zips’ struggle to control the passing attack and Warner will kick off his second season in a big way.”
Temple wins 35-17.
Ryan Mack (Assistant Sports Editor): “I think the way Temple ended the season last year transitions into this year. The offense led by Warner and running back Edward Saydee will be too much for Akron to handle, and Temple will cruise their way to a win.”
Temple wins 31-13.
Jaison Nieves (Sports Social Media Manager): “The promise of E.J. Warner and the rest of this Temple offense is too strong to ignore and will really push the Owls to a strong showing while the defense contains Akron’s attack.”
Temple wins 27-10.