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Head-to-head: Temple vs. Notre Dame

| Wednesday, August 28, 2013

OWLS PASSING

Under first-year coach Matt Rhule, the Owls have implemented a pro spread offense. The burden to work out the kinks in the new offense will fall on first-time starter Connor Reilly. The junior quarterback impressed in Temple’s Spring Game by launching four TDs and racking up 366 yards on 25 of 41 passing. 

Reilly’s primary targets will be starting receivers Ryan Alderman, Jalen Fitzpatrick and John Christopher. The trio has an average height of 5-foot-10 and average weight of 180 pounds, but each player has earned a single-digit jersey number to signify their spot among the nine toughest players on the team. Fitzpatrick led the unit last year by reeling in 30 catches for 363 yards and two scores. 

The Owls’ passing attack will go against a Notre Dame secondary that returns three starters and shows considerable depth. Senior cornerback and captain Bennett Jackson begins the season on the Bednarik Trophy watch list. The safety spot across from junior returnee Matthias Farley will be filled by the tandem of senior Austin Collinsworth and sophomore Elijah Shumate

Notre Dame allowed just 199.8 yards per game through the air last season, and despite the departure of safety Zeke Motta, the unit could be even better this year. Meanwhile, Temple managed just 120.8 yards passing per game in 2012. The Owls attempted fewer than 300 pass attempts in the season, though, and gave away only six interceptions. The newly-installed pro-style offense suggests the Owls will attempt to air it out against the Irish. Even if a Temple offensive line populated with youngsters and shaken by personnel movement can keep Notre Dame’s fearsome front seven off Reilly, the signal-caller could have a tough time against Notre Dame’s secondary.

     EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

OWLS RUSHING

Temple relied heavily on the rushing game in past seasons, but the departure of its two top running backs from last season has threatened the Owls’ ability to keep the ball on the ground. The team has found three capable backs, though. 225-pound junior Kenny Harper out of Gainesville, Fla., figures to be the lead option. Sophomore Jamie Gilmore and freshman Zaire Williams both promise to bring more speed and big-play ability to the position. 

No matter how talented the Owls’ backs turn out to be, the stout Irish front seven should have no problem dominating the running game. Bednarnik watch list member Louis Nix leads junior Stephon Tuitt (also on the watch list), senior Kona Schwenke and graduate students Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese up the middle for the Irish.  All eyes will be on highly-touted freshman Jaylon Smith as he starts at outside linebacker. 

     EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

OWLS OFFENSIVE COACHING

Rhule has 15 seasons of coaching experience on his resume and spent last year as the assistant offensive line coach of the New York Giants in the NFL, but does not have a game under his belt as the Owls’ head coach. Owls offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield is also in his first year in the position at Temple. Bob Diaco and the Irish are a tough opponent for Rhule and Satterfield to begin against. 

     EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

OWLS SPECIAL TEAMS

Temple turns to two freshmen to handle the field goal and point-after duties. Senior Paul Layton, a transfer from Albany, will serve as the punter and kickoff specialist. Layton earned two first-team All-Northeast Conference honors and has averaged 41.0 yards per punt in his career. Junior receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick will look to bring some lightning to the Owls return game, but the Irish showed little weakness in the area last season. 

     EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

OWLS SCHEDULE (0-0)

Aug. 31 @ Notre Dame                

Sept. 7   Houston            

Sept. 14 Fordham                  

Sept 28 @ Idaho  

Oct. 5 Louisville              

Oct. 11 @ Cincinnati

Oct. 19 Army  

Oct. 26 @ SMU

Nov. 2 @ Rutgers

Nov. 16 UCF

Nov. 23 Connecticut

Nov. 30 @ Memphis

 

IRISH PASSING

Everett Golson and his high ceiling won’t be on the field Saturday or at any time during the 2013 season, but senior quarterback Tommy Rees fills the void as an experienced veteran. Rees has big-game experience and has delivered in both high-pressure and hostile environments (often in his home stadium). The Irish hope to avoid high-pressure situations in the opener, and Rees hopes to avoid any boos from his fan base and begin to secure his job as the starting quarterback moving forward. 

Following the departure of all-world tight end Tyler Eifert, the Irish are left without a dominating receiver for the first time in years. Senior captain TJ Jones and junior DaVaris Daniels bring plenty of talent and experience to the wideout positions, but Irish fans should also look to see what junior Troy Niklas and the rest of the tight-end group can do to help their quarterback out. 

Returning captain and left tackle Zack Martin leads an offensive line that has seen a few changes from last season, most notably at right tackle where sophomore Ronnie Stanley starts ahead of freshman Steve Elmer. The Owls have an experienced defensive front, led by senior captain and nose tackle Levi Brown. Temple recorded 25 sacks a season ago, and the back end of the defense will need to hope the front four can reach Rees a few times on Saturday. The Owls allowed 237.4 yards per game to opposing passing offenses last year and only brought in four interceptions. Junior Owls cornerback Anthony Robey is a reliable outside defender, but the inexperience of sophomore cornerback Tavon Young, senior free safety Abdul Smith and redshirt freshman Stephaun Marshall gives the edge to the Irish. Young is the only one of the three to have notched a start at his current position last season (with two), while Smith is a converted cornerback.

     EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

IRISH RUSHING

The Irish graduated both of their top options from a season ago in Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick, but start the year with a deep and talented group. Junior George Atkinson has earned the starting role, while juniors Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel and freshman Greg Bryant, will likely see the field in the opening game. Irish coach Brian Kelly has spoken about implementing elements of the pistol offense in an attempt to get Atkinson running downfield. 

Temple sophomore linebacker and captain Tyler Matakevich is a strong point of the Owls’ defense. Last season Matakevich recorded 101 tackles in just eight games and earned the Big East Rookie of the Year. Still, Temple surrendered almost 200 yards per game on the ground last season and gave up 4.7 yards per attempt. 

     EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

IRISH OFFENSIVE COACHING

Temple Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow has 36 years of coaching experience but enters his first year in the position for the Owls. Irish Offensive Coordinator Chuck Martin will take over the signal calling for Notre Dame from Kelly. 

In his first year as offensive coordinator last season, Martin led the Irish to average 412.2 yards per game. Kelly has spoken repeatedly about the need to score more points, though. The Irish offense put the ball in the end zone only 27 times in 2012. How Martin guides the offense in the red zone will be the key takeaway from Saturday’s contest.

     EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS

Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza share a spot atop the Irish depth chart as place kicker to begin the year, and each brings experience to the position. Brindza will also take over the punting duties this year. In the return game, TJ Jones will begin his stint as punt returner. Kelly has spoken about being more aggressive in setting up punt returns, and there will be no better time than now to try it out. 

      EDGE: NOTRE DAME

 

IRISH SCHEDULE (0-0)

Aug. 31 Temple 

Sept. 7 @ Michigan

Sept. 14 @ Purdue

Sept. 21 Michigan State

Sept. 26 Oklahoma

Oct. 5 vs. Arizona State    

Oct. 19 USC

Oct. 26 @ Air Force

Nov. 2 Navy

Nov. 9 @ Pittsburgh

Nov. 23 BYU

Nov. 30 @ Stanford