PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Temple Owls have emerged in recent years as a power in the American Athletic Conference.
The Owls have appeared in the conference title game the last two years, and last season they won the conference championship by throttling Navy in the title game.
Temple will look to continue that success here in 2017, but under a new head coach. Of course Matt Rhule left the Owls to take over at Baylor and the new man in charge is former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.
“It’s been a great camp,” Collins tells KYW Newsradio. “These kids are amazing to me. They work hard, they’re physical. They’re great teammates to each other and they love playing football.”
One of the biggest holes the Owls have to fill is at quarterback where Phillip Walker has moved on to the NFL.
Temple has had four players battling in camp for the job in redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt freshmen Logan Marchi and Anthony Russo and freshman Todd Centeio.
“We’re down to two that are going to play a lot during the game [against Notre Dame] and then we’ve got another that will probably come in and [we’ll] do some unique special package things with him,” Collins says of the quarterback situation. “So we’ve got a plan, the kids know the plan.”
But Collins says revealing what quarterbacks are in which roles probably won’t happen until game time in the season opener against Notre Dame on Saturday.
However the quarterback position plays out, Collins says the guys catching the passes make up an impressive group.
“The receiving corps obviously I think stands out,” he says. “The kids that we have coming back at that position. The talent, the depth, the size and speed combination that we have throughout that group and the experience with those guys, I think that’s a phenomenal group. Obviously, I think it’s one of the elite groups in college football.”
Redshirt junior Ventell Bryant led the Owls recievers last season with 54 catches for 895 yards. Redshirt senior Keith Kirkwood was second on the team with 42 catches for 648 yards. Both players caught four touchdown passes in 2016.
The Owls should be in good hands on the ground even with Jahad Thomas now with the New York Jets. That’s because junior running back Ryquell Armstead is back after rushing for 919 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
Collins breaks down a strength for the Temple defense.
“In the secondary, I think we’ve got a really good group,” he says. “Obviously, the last two years coaching the db’s and the defense at Florida, I’m used to being around some great defensive backs and these guys fit the bill. They compete, they’re talented, they’re physical and they make plays on the ball when it’s in the air.”
The Temple defense held opponents to 18.4 points per game last season.
Collins is happy to start the season against a high-profile opponent like Notre Dame.
“I think every year, if you have an opponent that’s a legendary opponent, a lot of history, a lot of tradition, great players on both sides of the ball, great coaches, I think it helps you focus throughout the off-season, the summer conditioning, preseason camp, to have such a big challenge waiting on you,” he says. “I know our kids are excited about it. They just love playing ball and the bigger the environment, the more exciting it is.”
Temple and Notre Dame get underway at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.