On Nov. 24, following a disappointing 45-21 loss to Memphis, Temple Football’s head coach Stan Drayton addressed media members about what went wrong throughout the season.
While Drayton was disappointed with the overall outcome, he saw something developing behind the scenes that the media and fans couldn’t.
“I think this is a much more resilient football team than it was a year ago,” Drayton said. “The record’s just not telling you what you want to hear. The end result is what you see, but behind closed doors, there’s something that’s developing that’s special. I can’t wait to expose it to you.”
Since that moment, the Owls lost six of their seven single-digits and a magnitude of starters to the transfer portal, including quarterback E.J. Warner (Rice), cornerback Jalen McMurray (Tennessee) and left tackle Victor Stoffel (Cal), and NFL Draft, including linebackers Jordan Magee and Yvandy Rigby.
After bringing in 50 new players to the roster last season, the Owls seem on pace to top that number in the upcoming 2024 season. One has to wonder, with all the departures and newcomers, if that special feeling in development got lost in the mix.
In the running back room, the Owls are bringing back Joquez Smith. He broke out against Norfolk State for 142 yards but struggled and saw his snap count decrease as the season continued. The Owls need him to take a major step forward next season after losing their two lead-backs.
The Owls lost their top two pass catchers David Martin-Robinson and Amad Anderson Jr., but are bringing back receivers Dante Wright, Ian Stewart and John Adams.
As of now, Wright is the top receiver on the depth chart, but Temple still lacks a true number-one receiver to rely on week in and week out.
The Owls were injury-riddled on the defensive line all season, which made it difficult to get to the quarterback. Defensive linemen Allan Haye, Zamar Grove and Demmerick Morris are all expected to be healthy for next season.
In their absence, freshman Conlan Greene showed upside. However, with uncertainties on the defensive line, someone else will need to be a factor if they want any chance of reaching the quarterback.
On the offensive line, freshman Luke Watson, junior James Faminu and graduate student Wisdom Quarshie showed promise at times but needed more time to develop. If the three use this offseason to get more acclimated to playing, they could take a step forward and anchor the line.
WHO CAME IN?
After the first signing day on Dec. 20, the Owls brought in 23 total players with junior college athletes in the portal making up the majority.
Everyone has their focus set on Rutgers transfer quarterback Evan Simon, who will replace Warner. Simon threw just three passes in 2023, but in 2022 he threw for 777 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions.
“[Simon] is an accurate passer, has the ability to play with his feet and extend plays,” Drayton said. “And the thing I love about him right now is the intangible of having a major chip on his shoulder because of whatever went on with him at Rutgers. He’s going to bring some instant leadership and a little moxie to him.”
Temple also brought in running back Tyrei Washington and offensive lineman Mausa Palu. Both are expected to make immediate impacts on the offense.
The Owls recruited heavily in the secondary, bringing in seven defensive backs, highlighted by Jaylen Lewis and Torey Richardson.
Lewis, transferring from Arkansas, brings athleticism to a defensive back room that desperately needs it. Richardson is transferring from UTEP. Both are a step down from McMurray but are key additions compared to what they had with Ben Osueke and Daiyaan Hawkins.
The Temple News is tracking transfers and recruits throughout the offseason via this dashboard.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?
The loss of talent this offseason was a big blow that can’t be glossed over. However, there is still talent on the roster. They added eight JUCO athletes who are looking to take advantage of their opportunities at the Division I level. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if a couple of them break out and help the Owls win games next season.
While there is a case to be optimistic about Temple Football in 2024, people will undoubtedly watch growing pains and underwhelming football yet again. Under Drayton, the program has not won more than three games in a season. It’s hard to see a way they magically improve.
Even before the departures, Temple had many holes that they needed to fill. While Temple added 23 players through one signing day, they will need to hit on every single one of its additions in the offseason if they want to see any real improvement.
The Owls are still expected to bring in even more players to plug holes where they feel they need to improve overall during the next signing day on Feb. 7.
Fans should expect the Owls to bring in more players in the trenches on the next signing day. Last season, Temple suffered an extensive amount of injuries and lacked depth and if there is any chance of taking a step forward, they will need to recruit heavily in the trenches.
“This process is not over,” Drayton said. “We’re not finished, but I really do feel like we’re off to a really good start.”