Opponent Outlook: Temple trying secrecy before Notre Dame game

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

When Temple comes to town Saturday for Notre Dame’s season opener, the Owls will bring plenty of question marks.

First-year head coach Geoff Collins has been coy about naming starters and hasn’t released a typical depth chart ahead the game.

The two teams met during the 2015 season in a 24-20 victory for Notre Dame at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Plenty has changed for both teams since then.

That’s why we asked Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer to fill us in on what Notre Dame should expect this weekend.

• Temple coach Geoff Collins has said that three or four quarterbacks could play against Notre Dame. Is this a case of not having a quarterback capable of winning the job on his own, an opportunity to use multiple quarterbacks with different skill sets or a bit of gamesmanship from Collins?

Narducci: Could I go with all of the above? Temple is in this situation because nobody stepped up in spring or during preseason practice, although coach Geoff Collins indicated that two quarterbacks have separated themselves, believed to be redshirt junior Frank Nutile and redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi. 

Entering the spring, Marchi, the backup last season, appeared to be the favorite, but like the other three, wasn't consistent. In the spring game he completed 4 of 10 for 92 yards and two interceptions.

New coordinator Dave Patenaude does like using quarterbacks with different skill sets and don't be surprised if true freshman Todd Centeio, a dual threat, comes in and runs a few series. 

The gamesmanship angle also can't be discounted because Collins wants to give as little information as possible and won't provide a true depth chart. He also talked about liking to keep the defenses guessing and how much more difficult it will be to prepare for different quarterbacks.

That said, if given truth serum, Temple would rather have a situation like Notre Dame's, where the starting quarterback is known.

• How different will this Temple team look under Collins than it did in previous seasons under Matt Rhule?

Narducci: The one major difference may be Collins could be blitzing much more on defense. He talks about creating mayhem and he has several different blitz packages. Since Temple has a strong secondary and the defensive line's ability to get to the passer is one of the questions, look for the Owls to send anybody among the linebackers and secondary on any down.

On offense, Patenaude is known for his hurry-up spread offense and Temple will have some of that, but the Owls will also offer pro-sets, because they intend to run the ball, especially with such an inexperienced quarterback group. So it might be more hurry-up, but the Owls also won't abandon plenty of times when they run in the I-formation, have fullback Nick Sharga as the lead blocker and attempt to play a smashmouth style.

• Running back Ryquell Armstead had a breakout season last year. How much better can he be this year, and how much of focal point will he be for Temple's offense?

Narducci: Ryquell Armstead, in my opinion, will be the main focal point and was my preseason choice for Temple's offensive player of the year. Last season he rushed for 919 yards and 14 touchdowns on 156 carries as the so-called second-team back behind Jahad Thomas, who signed a free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

Armstead (5-11, 205) has gained more weight, is stronger and should carry the ball more, although Temple will likely use three backs,

including junior Jager Gardner and redshirt junior David Hood. One area that Armstead could have a bigger impact is in the passing game. He only had five pass receptions last season, and he said he has worked extremely hard at that aspect of the game.

• What will be the strength of Temple's defense under Collins, the former defensive coordinator at Florida?

Narducci: The strength of the Temple defense will be the secondary. It's not exaggerating to say that all four projected starters could be in the NFL.

The top player is senior free safety Sean Chandler, who has started 35 games. He was a corner his first two years and made the smooth transition

to safety last season.

Junior strong safety Delvon Randall is one of the best tacklers on the team. He was tied for second on the team with 65 tackles and led the Owls with four interceptions.

Redshirt senior Artrel Foster is in his second year as a starting cornerback. And the other projected starter is graduate transfer Mike Jones of North Carolina Central, who was considered a potential late-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft before he decided to move up a level and play one more season of college football.

Chandler and Jones also could be dangerous punt returners.

• The last time these two teams met, Temple traded punches with Notre Dame for four quarters. Can the Owls draw any confidence from that game or is it too far in the past?

Narducci: I think there are certain Temple players who can draw confidence from that game, including the aforementioned Sean Chandler, who had eight tackles. In addition, redshirt junior wide receiver Ventell Bryant had six receptions for 91 yards, but nobody else who is still on the team had a big individual performance.

I feel that since that season, Temple has felt it can compete with any team and that confidence still exists. That was the year the Owls beat Penn State for the first time since 1941 and came so close to beating Notre Dame. Plus last year they crushed a ranked Navy team, 34-10 in the American Athletic Conference title game.

Most of the players are saying that this is just another game. I am not sure that is the true feeling, but if so, that's a good attitude.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Temple head coach Geoff Collins has not released a true depth chart ahead of the season opener against Notre Dame. (Ed Hille/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

NOTRE DAME (0-0) vs. TEMPLE (0-0)

WHEN: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (EDT).

WHERE: Notre Dame Stadium

TV: NBC

RADIO: WSBT FM (96.1), WNSN-FM (101.5)

LINE: Notre Dame by 17