Temple Cherry & White Game: What to Watch For

Clinton Granger could be the quarterback for the Temple Owls this season.This Saturday’s Cherry & White spring football game will present an opportunity for Temple University fans and alumni to get their first look at the 2013 Temple Owls. After a disappointing first year in the Big East, there are plenty of question marks going into next season. Will new coach Matt Rhule close the perennially revolving door at the Quarterback position? Who will step up next at Running Back? Will someone step up in the secondary and fill the void left by Jaiquawn Jarrett two years ago?

Some of these questions will have to wait until August 31st in South Bend, Indiana to be answered. Some of them, however, could be answered this weekend. If you are planning on attending or just excited about the new team, here are the top three positions to pay attention to. The production out of these positions should go a long way in determining how successful this year’s Temple team can be.

3. Running Back – Temple fans have been spoiled over the last four years with the likes of Bernard Pierce, Montel Harris and the toughest player to ever wear a Cherry & White uniform, Matt Brown. Unfortunately, those days are now officially over. While Rhule has said that he plans to throw the ball quite often, the offense must at least present a threat to run the ball to make the defense think twice before simply pinning their ears back and coming after the Quarterback. Sophomore Jamie Gilmore seemed to be the lead candidate for the position, at least at the end of last year. Former coach Steve Addazzio said Gilmore has the potential to be a “great” player. Junior Kenny Harper is a player who seems to always be in the mix and has seen the more playing time thus far in his career than any other back on the roster but seems to lack that special play making ability that Temple is used to showcasing at the position. Sophomore Spencer Reid is a tough as nails, team player who can fill in admirably in a pinch but most likely lacks the physical talent to be an every down back. The other three backs on the roster, Avery Williams, Hassan Dixon and Jordan Spector are complete question marks. This is one position that is easy to watch and will be very important. The Running Back position has proven over the years to be a position where almost anyone can step up and contribute. Star players at this position often come out of nowhere. Where will the next star Temple running back come from? Is he on the current roster? This weekend may provide us with the answer.

2. Quarterback – The Quarterback position is, without a doubt, the most important position on the football field. With the exception of a few brief moments in time over the last few years, the performance of the previous few Temple Quarterbacks has left much to be desired. Heading into this weekend, there are currently five Quarterbacks on the roster. Only three of them, however, have a legitimate shot at winning the job. 2011 and 2012 starter, Chris Coyer, struggled in his second year as the starter and gave way several times to Clinton Granger in the second half of games. Many thought that this year’s competition would come down to those two but when coach Rhule declared an open competition for every position on the roster, junior Connor Reilly took advantage of it. Heading into the game on Saturday, Reilly is currently #1 on the depth chart. Even more interesting, though, is the announcement this week that Coyer had been taking snaps at the H-back position as a hybrid Tight End/ Fullback. Could this mean the end for Coyer at the Quarterback position? Is Reilly ready to step up and lead this team to victory? It has been said that Reilly has the best arm of the three Quarterbacks. Hopefully he demonstrates that this Saturday because in a passing offense with an unknown at running back, this team will only go as far as the Quarterback takes them.

1. Defensive Line – While Quarterback is the most important position, the establishment of a presence along the defensive line is the most important task for this Temple team. Temple teams of the past have shown the ability to compete with sub par Quarterback play because of the defense and defensive success relies so heavily on the performance of the defensive line. Temple’s defensive line was decimated last year with the loss of Kamal Johnson and Kadeem Custis midseason. Their absence forced freshman who were not ready to play into the trenches of the Big East. Edge rushers Marcus Green and John Youbouty created very little pressure leading to more linebacker blitzes leaving the secondary exposed. How has this year’s team grown in this area? Johnson has returned to the team for his senior year and should provide some veteran leadership and quality depth along with fellow senior nose tackle, Levi Brown. Freshmen Brett Niederreither and Averee Robinson have caught the attention of coach Matt Rhule so far in spring camp and have climbed to the top of the depth chart on the interior line. Sophomore Hershey Walton, while currently listed third on the depth chart at tackle showed some promise last year while making plays as a freshman. At the very least, the interior defensive line should bring much more depth, however, to get back to the ”Temple Tuff” defenses of the last few years, some of them are going to have to emerge as leaders and big time players. On the outside, Rhule seems to be throwing it all on the wall to see what sticks. There are ten defensive ends listed on the current depth chart. Rhule has mentioned several times already that senior Sean Daniels has to step up and start getting a consistent rush off of the edge. Daniels showed promise in his freshman year but has been relatively quiet since. Outside of Daniels, lies the great unknown. Who will step up? Is the next Adrian Robinson on the roster? Could it be the hard nosed third year sophomore Brandon Chudnoff? What about the highly recruited freshman Kiser Terry? Only time will tell, but if nobody on the roster can take that next step, the defense could be in for another rough season. Hopefully, somebody can give the fans some hope on Saturday.

Check back in next week when we will review the Cherry & White game and highlight any players that may have emerged into the spotlight over the offseason.

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Philly Phootball is a loving husband to an amazing wife and a proud father of his wild one year old son. He obtained his Bachelor's degree from Temple and his MBA from LaSalle. In real life, he works as an auditor but his true passion is Philly sports with an emphasis on Eagles and Temple football. You can follow him on Twitter @phllyphootball or read more of his work on his Eagles blog (http://phillyphootball.com/).