Here are five observations from Temple after the end of spring football…
The biggest difference during Geoff Collins' second spring as Temple's coach as opposed to the first was an obvious one. Last spring the players had to get used to a new coaching staff, which meant a new playbook and a new set of eyes to evaluate the talent. The players and the new coaching staff were adjusting on the fly. Fast forward to this year and the players seemed so much more comfortable, and so did the coaches.
Players were able to react much quicker, trusting their instincts, rather than thinking about what they were doing. Things were so comfortable that Collins had the players wear their Twitter handles instead of their names on the back of their jerseys for the spring game. We couldn't imagine that happening at this time last year.
Quarterback Frank Nutile doesn't have the best arm on the team, and the redshirt senior to be certainly isn't the fastest quarterback. But nobody knows the offense better than he does. The coaches have joked that he knows the offense better than they do. His total command allows him to check down to receivers when his primary targets are covered. Nutile's decision-making, plus the invaluable experience he earned by starting the last six games and going 4-2, will help. His leadership skills are off the charts.
And barring injury, Nutile will have no shortage of targets. The wide receiver group is the deepest on the team. Three players, freshmen Sean Ryan and Kadas Reams, who both enrolled in January and made some impressive plays in camp, and redshirt freshman Jadan Blue, made huge strides and should push for playing time. Yet, jumping over the established veterans such as last year's receptions leader Isaiah Wright, rejuvenated redshirt senior Ventell Bryant, up-and-coming junior Randle Jones and redshirt sophomores Freddie Johnson and Branden Mack won't be easy.
That's not including the tight ends such as 6-5 redshirt sophomore Kenny Yeboah, a matchup nightmare, 6-4 redshirt senior Chris Myarick, one of the most consistent pass catchers and 6-2 redshirt junior Jake Robinson, who made several big plays in the spring.
The running game, which was depleted by injury, should be strong if the key expected contributors can stay healthy. Nutile will have no shortage of options in directing the attack.
One of the key offensive players is senior running back Ryquell Armstead. As a sophomore he shared time with Jahad Thomas and rushed for 919 yards (5.9 average) and 14 touchdowns. Last season, although he did not miss a game, Armstead was hampered by nagging injuries. He rushed for 604 yards (3.9 average) and five touchdowns. In the spring game he had just three carries but scored on two of them while gaining 33 yards. Armstead was so healthy this spring that he even worked out more on special teams and as a situational pass rusher. Collins likes many of his starters to play special teams. He says it enhances their stock for the next level and helps Temple as well. Armstead was a healthy and willing participant. If he can return to his sophomore form, the offense will be even more explosive than projected.
Last season, linebacker was the major question mark because only one player who saw meaningful time, Todd Jones, was older than a sophomore. Now Jones is the only senior on the unit. Linebacker has gone from one of the most inexperienced positions a year ago to among the most experienced. Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker, the former linebackers coach, has brought the young group along well. It went from a group that appeared overmatched in the opening 49-16 loss at Notre Dame to one that was dependable by the end of the season. Now it's a seasoned group, with two juniors, Shaun Bradley and Sam Franklin displaying big-play ability. Junior Williams Kwenkeu grew significantly as a player by the end of the season. Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Graham-Mobley made two starts. Junior Chapelle Russell didn't participate in spring workouts while recovering from a knee injury, but if he regains his form, it will make this unit even deeper.