Temple football knows nothing is guaranteed.
The Owls finished second in its conference last season with a 7-1 record and their only loss came against Central Florida, 52-40, on Nov. 1, 2018.
This season, the American Athletic Conference preseason poll projects Temple to finish fourth in the East behind Central Florida, Cincinnati and South Florida.
Players have tried impress a new staff and secure a starting spot, and the Owls will find out how they’ve adjusted to new changes on Saturday at its season opener against Bucknell University at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple will play four non-conference games before playing eight in conference.
The Owls’ conference schedule begins against East Carolina on Oct. 3 in Greenville, North Carolina. Last season, the Owls defeated the Pirates at home 49-6.
They will play Memphis on Oct. 12 and Oct. 19 against Southern Methodist in Dallas.
The Owls last faced both Memphis and SMU in 2016. They lost to Memphis on the road, 34-27, and beat SMU at home, 45-20.
Temple will play Central Florida at home on Oct. 26., then hit the road to face South Florida on Nov. 7. In 2018, Temple defeated the Bulls, 27-17, at home on Nov. 17.
On Nov. 16, Temple will host Tulane, which went 7-6 last season and 5-3 in conference play. The two teams have not played each other since 2016.
On Nov. 23, Temple heads to Cincinnati to play the Bearcats, who finished 11-2 last season.
The Owls will end the regular season on Nov. 30 against Connecticut. Temple and UConn played last season, with the Owls taking a 57-7 win on the road.
If Temple wants to win The American, it can’t focus on how the other teams perform, Crump said.
“I’ll try to focus more on us, and I’ll try to make sure that I keep our head on winning the championship,” Crump said.
Crump is one of the many Owls battling for a starting spot. He is competing with redshirt-sophomore cornerback Christian Braswell, redshirt-sophomore cornerback Ty Mason, junior cornerback Harrison Hand and redshirt-junior cornerback Freddie Johnson.
Johnson converted to cornerback this offseason after playing the last three seasons as wide receiver. Hand transferred to Temple after two seasons at Baylor University.
A spot in the starting rotation has to be earned, Hand said.
“With the depth that we have, there’s a lot of competition,” Hand said. “Every time we’re in the film room, it’s a competition answering questions. On the field, we’re competing. If you mess up on a rep, you’re out.”
The Owls have to replace former running back Ryquell Armstead, who was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2019 NFL Draft. Armstead rushed for 1,098 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
The most experienced running back on the Owls’ roster is graduate running back Jager Gardner. He compiled 585 rushing yards and four touchdowns in four seasons with the Owls.
The backfield includes freshman Re’Mahn Davis and redshirt-freshman Kyle Dobbins.
“[Gardner] has done a nice job of taking over as the senior spokesman,” Infante said. “Having a relatively young, inexperienced group, the fact that we have a guy that’s been here for a while who’s been through a lot of different programs and cultures here.”
Multiple players are competing for the starting kicker spot, coach Rod Carey said.
Former kicker Aaron Boumerhi transferred to Boston College in June. He only played in two games last season after being sidelined due to a hip injury. Redshirt-sophomore kicker Will Mobley, who replaced Boumerhi, made 11-of-15 field goal attempts last season.
Graduate kicker Jacob LaFree is competing with Mobley for the starting spot. LaFree joined the team after four years at the Division II level at the University of Indianapolis.
It is too early to tell if Redshirt-junior quarterback Anthony Russo, who suffered a lower-leg injury on Aug. 12, will be ready to play on Saturday, Carey told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday. Russo is slated to star this season.
Starting spots will be announced ahead of Saturday’s game. The Owls will have to respond to their adjustments if they want to win, Carey said.
“I’m sure they’re not gonna do everything the same,” Carey said. “It’s gonna be a merging of the minds. We’ll have to be really good in the game about adjusting to what we see.”
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