For the Temple Owls, a new dawn is on the horizon as training camp has begun on North Broad.
The Owls have four weeks to prepare for their first game of the season on the road against Notre Dame on September 2 – a tough task for any team, let alone a team replacing their head coach (Matt Rhule), starting quarterback (Phillip Walker), starting running back (Jahad Thomas) and best defensive player (Hasson Reddick).
Under Rhule, the Owls went 10-3 last season, which included their first conference title win since 1967. High stakes are on the table for head coach Geoff Collins to repeat the success of Rhule, who left to coach Baylor University in December.
Replacing a coach is never easy, but replacing a quarterback such as Walker might be even harder for the program. Walker, a four-year starter at Temple, signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in April. He’s the Owls all-time winningest quarterback (28 wins) and holds program records in passing yards (10,273 yards), touchdowns (74) and completions (830).
Collins has been evaluating talent at the position for months and will continue to do so until one separates themselves from the pack in the next few weeks.
“One of the questions I preloaded is who is going to take the first snap [in camp].” Collins said. “There will be four snaps that happen at the same time. At our practices, there are all kinds of drills going on at once. When we have the first snap, there will be four drills and the balls will be snapped by four different guys at the same time.”
Redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and true freshman Todd Centeio are two names that have been rumored to man the helm by Temple analysts and fans. Others in consideration are redshirt junior Frank Nutile and redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi.
Russo, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound product of Archbishop Wood, is built for the job. He racked up 2,452 yards passing and 35 touchdowns as a senior at Wood and is said to have a cannon for an arm. The three-star recruit played in a pro-style offense and was ranked as the 15th overall recruit in Pennsylvania in 2016.
Centeio plays so similar to Walker, you sometimes catch yourself doing a double-take when he’s on the field. The Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, native threw for 1,162 yards and 17 touchdowns last year at Dwyer High School, while adding 243 rushing yards on the ground. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds he’s nearly identical in stature Walker and his smart decisions in the pocket often give you flashbacks.
“When you start evaluating quarterbacks and start talking about personalities, you say is he a kid that gets it? Does he have ‘it’? And [Centeio] does,” new Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, formerly of Coastal Carolina, said. “He’s got a little bit of swagger to him. He’s got confidence in his ability. He’s a good athlete. … He gives us a dynamic that maybe some of the other guys don’t.”
Collins’ first major decision as coach will need to be made soon. Quarterback is the most important position in football and the Owls cannot afford to wait much longer.