NCF Nation: Temple Owls

Setting up the spring in the American Athletic Conference:

CINCINNATI

Spring start: Feb. 27

Spring game: April 5

What to watch:
  • Gunner Kiel: Attention has followed the former high school sensation for years, from Indiana to LSU to Notre Dame and now to Cincinnati. He enters his redshirt sophomore season having never taken a college snap. With sixth-year senior Munchie Legaux still recovering from last year's leg injury, the show is Kiel's to run this spring.
  • Hank Hughes' defense: The former Cincinnati defensive coordinator returns after coaching last season at UConn. There, he orchestrated a rushing defense that finished 23rd nationally despite a 3-9 campaign. He will keep a 4-3 base but loses three all-conference performers from last season: Greg Blair, Jordan Stepp and Deven Drane.
  • RDA IV: Ralph David Abernathy IV has been a playmaker out of the backfield for the Bearcats in recent seasons, but he has moved to the slot this spring. He will probably still line up in the backfield at times, but seeing what the 5-foot-7, 161-pounder can do in space is definitely worth keeping an eye on, especially if the man throwing him the ball, Kiel, lives up to the hype at quarterback.
EAST CAROLINA

Spring start: March 21

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Carden's ascent: Shane Carden could be a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate in 2014. He enters his fifth year in the program coming off a season in which he completed better than 70 percent of his throws for more than 4,000 yards, totaling 43 combined touchdowns between passing and rushing. Similar numbers in a new league will get him much more attention.
  • Replacing Jeremy Grove: The redshirt senior linebacker recently announced that he was hanging up his cleats after several shoulder injuries. The former freshman All-American led the Pirates in tackles for two years running before being limited last season. Expect bigger roles for Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams, who together last season totaled 10 tackles for loss and three forced turnovers.
  • Filling the backfield void: East Carolina says goodbye to Vintavious Cooper, who turned in consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. While signee Anthony Scott looks like a player who could contribute right away upon his summer arrival, the burden for now falls on the shoulders of three backs who totaled 548 yards on the ground last season.
HOUSTON

Spring start: March 3

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:
  • O'Korn looks to take next step: John O'Korn started 11 games last season at quarterback, proving to be efficient through the air and on the ground while taking the Cougars to a bowl game in their first season in the American. Now he's running an offense that, including him, returns eight starters. He set the bar pretty high as league rookie of the year, but incremental improvement could mean big things for Houston in 2014.
  • CB battles: Zach McMillian and Thomas Bates have graduated, taking their combined 10 forced turnovers from last season out the door with them. Two transfers could find themselves in the mix, as Lee Hightower (Boise State) and Tyler White (Utah) look to battle for starting spots on a defense seeking help in the secondary.
  • Trevon Randle: The former LSU linebacker and three-star recruit now finds himself in more of a pass-rushing role after sitting out the 2013 season for undisclosed reasons. The move is interesting for the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Randle, but the talent is certainly there for Randle to become a playmaker, wherever he ends up playing on the field.
MEMPHIS

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:
  • Paxton Lynch's growth: Lynch made a name for himself by unseating Jacob Karam as the starting quarterback during fall camp last season. He followed with an up-and-down season for the 3-9 Tigers, showing flashes of playmaking ability and a penchant for turning it over. He is now the hunted, not the hunter, with redshirt freshman Brayden Scott now in the role Lynch played last season in hoping to steal the No. 1 job.
  • Hayes' return: The biggest coup of the offseason was the NCAA granting Brandon Hayes a sixth year of eligibility. The former walk-on was the team's MVP and leading rusher last season, and he will help take plenty of pressure off of whoever emerges as the starting quarterback.
  • Defensive growth: The Tigers were ranked 39th last season in total defense, and eight starters return. The unit gave the offense chances to win last season against league heavyweights Louisville and UCF before falling by a 24-17 margin in both games, and the Tigers welcome two new coaches in Ricky Hunley (line) and Ryan Walters (corners).
SMU

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 5 (no spring game)

What to watch:
  • Replacing Gilbert: SMU opened practice Tuesday with five men in the mix to become its starting quarterback, with Neal Burcham carrying the front-runner status after starting the final two games last season in place of Garrett Gilbert (knee), who totaled nearly 3,800 yards rushing and passing last season, accounting for 27 scores.
  • Receiver depth: The Mustangs are relatively thin at the position following the graduation of two of its top three receivers from last season, as Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman each tallied more than 1,000 yards in 2013. Deion Sanders Jr., meanwhile, will miss spring practice because of a shoulder injury.
  • The next Acker: Cornerback Kenneth Acker starred with the Mustangs, earning second-team all-conference distinction after finishing second in the league in passes defended (16) and tallying a team-best three interceptions on the season. Jay Scott, who forced three turnovers himself last season, is also gone. Talented safety Shakiel Randolph could see his role increased after showing plenty of promise in his first two seasons, including a 37-tackle campaign last season.
TEMPLE

Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Receiver help: Temple will open spring practice without Robbie Anderson, the Owls' top receiver from last season, who is no longer with the team. Both Anderson and the graduated Ryan Alderman combined for more than 1,300 yards last season, so the pressure will be on Jalen Fitzpatrick and John Christopher to carry bigger workloads going into 2014. They'll have a familiar Philly face coaching them, with former QB Adam DiMichele now the Owls' receivers coach.
  • Aerial attack: One silver lining from a 2-10 campaign last season? P.J. Walker, who rebounded after losing the preseason quarterback battle and ended up starting the season's final seven games, threw for 2,084 yards. He was part of a group that passed for the most yards ever (2,996) by a Temple team, a promising sign moving forward for the second-year player (and his second-year coach, Matt Rhule).
  • Tyler Matakevich: The kid just keeps on getting better, as the linebacker followed up his impressive rookie season by tallying 137 total tackles — including 11.5 for loss — picking off one pass, recovering two fumbles and forcing three more. He wears a single-digit jersey, No. 8, to signify his toughness, and he is a great central piece for the defense to build around. Temple was ranked 109th overall in yards allowed last season.
TULANE

Spring start: Feb. 7

Spring game: Feb. 26 (no spring game)

What to watch:
  • Injuries: The situation is a little different here with Tulane, which is already finished with its spring season, allowing us to instead look back. And the Green Wave even ended up finishing earlier than anticipated, as coach Curtis Johnson ended it after Feb. 26, cutting the final two practices because of injuries. Among the walking wounded throughout last month: Linebacker Nico Marley, running back Sherman Badie and linebackers Sergio Medina and Edward Williams, who both missed all of spring because of pre-existing injuries.
  • QB battle: Tanner Lee is seemingly the front-runner to start in 2014 after redshirting as a freshman this past fall. A local prospect from Jesuit High, he passed for nearly 4,000 yards in high school while tallying 39 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, and he received a much heavier workload this spring after the Green Wave struggled with consistency in the passing game in 2013.
  • Filling the backfield void: Orleans Darkwa is gone after totaling 920 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Tulane might be turning to another redshirt freshman, with Badie getting plenty of attention this spring before suffering a concussion down the stretch. Senior Rob Kelley (420 yards in 2013) and three other backfield contributors from last season return to give this unit a bit of depth.
TULSA

Spring start: March 11

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Defensive stability: No one in the program is happy following a 3-9 campaign last fall, but the Golden Hurricane bring back plenty of experience from last season as they move into Year 1 in the American. Ten starters are back on defense. Despite finishing just 102nd in yards allowed last season, that gives the program a nice foundation as it welcomes in a tougher slate of opponents.
  • Josh Blankenship and the offense: Head coach Bill Blankenship's newest hire is his son, Josh, who was brought in to coach quarterbacks and rework an offense that finished 100th overall last season. The former Muskogee High head coach is part of a restructured offensive staff after coordinator Greg Peterson left the program and Bill Blankenship gave up coaching the QBs.
  • Backfield holes: Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas are gone after totaling nearly 1,700 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Reinforcements are on the way in three running back signees from this recruiting cycle, with one of them, juco transfer Tavarreon Dickerson, enrolling early and looking to make an impact after averaging 8.5 yards per carry last season at Trinity Valley.
UCF

Spring start: March 12

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Like after Bortles: Blake Bortles will be examined and re-examined in the public eye daily before the NFL draft, and his replacement back at UCF has some major shoes to fill. His backup last season, Justin Holman, is the most experienced of a three-man group that includes early enrollee and former SMU commit Tyler Harris.
  • Replacing Storm Johnson: Johnson is gone after rushing for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, and Will Stanback will likely have to prepare for a much bigger role in his sophomore year after getting 105 carries in his rookie campaign of 2013. There are plenty of other bodies back there, but none managed the workload Stanback carried last season as a freshman.
  • Offensive line depth: Brent Key is now the assistant head coach of the offense, and he will serve as offensive line coach as well. The spring will be very important in helping to sort out the chaos up front, and one player worth keeping an eye will be Chester Brown, who saw limited action last season after switching from the defensive line in fall camp.
UCONN

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • New leader: Bob Diaco had an introductory news conference like few others. The former Notre Dame defensive coordinator is filled with energy, and he certainly brings a new approach atop the program following the Paul Pasqualoni and Randy Edsall eras. He already has made some cosmetic changes in the training facility, but bringing immediate change on the field is a bigger challenge in 2014.
  • Casey Cochran. The Huskies won their final three games last season, putting up 28 or more points in all three contests. Cochran passed for a school-record 461 yards in the finale, and seeing how he and the rest of the quarterbacks develop under this new staff will go a long way toward determining what UConn can do next season.
  • Defensive replenishments. For all of their struggles in recent years, the Huskies haven't lacked for talent or effort on the defensive side of the ball. That shouldn't change under Diaco, who won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator in 2012. But replacing standouts such as Shamar Stephen and Yawin Smallwood won't be easy.
USF

Spring start: Feb. 26

Spring game: March 29

What to watch:
  • QB battle: Penn State transfer Steven Bench was named the starter at midseason in 2013, but he found himself behind freshman Mike White after an injury. Both quarterbacks turned the ball over way too much last season, and increased production from that position is crucial if Willie Taggart wants to get this program turned around in his second season as head coach.
  • Running backs: The battle to replace Marcus Shaw is on after his 765-yard season in 2013. Mike Pierre, Willie Davis and Darius Tice are the men being counted on now in the backfield, but no player from that trio carried the ball more than 41 times or topped 141 rushing yards for the season.
  • Jamie Byrd: Byrd enrolled at USF this January following a stint at Iowa Western Community College, and he has two years of eligibility remaining. He had 53 tackles, two interceptions, seven passes defended and a fumble recovery last season, and the hard-hitting speedster could make an early impact with the Bulls in the secondary.

Video: UCF 39, Temple 26

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
4:55
PM ET


Blake Bortles threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns to lead UCF to a 39-36 win over Temple.

Video: Louisville 30, Temple 7

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
4:10
PM ET

Teddy Bridgewater threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns as he guided No. 7 Louisville to a 30-7 win over Temple.

Temple season preview

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
4:30
PM ET
Temple Owls

Coach: Matt Rhule (first year as a head coach)

2012 record: 4-7

Key losses: RB Montel Harris, K Brandon McManus, PR Matt Brown

Key returnees: HB Chris Coyer, LB Tyler Matakevich, WR Jalen Fitzpatrick

[+] EnlargeTyler Matakevich
Cal Sport Media/APTemple's defense will be led by Tyler Matakevich, last year's Big East Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Newcomer to watch: QB Connor Reilly

Biggest games in 2013: at Notre Dame (Aug. 31), Army (Oct. 19)

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Who is Connor Reilly? After being listed as the fourth-string quarterback last season, Reilly is now at the top of the depth chart and the projected starter. Rhule has moved last season’s starter Coyer to halfback, making it an open competition between Clinton Granger and Reilly in the spring. Though Reilly has the edge, it’s not etched in stone. In Rhule’s first year as a head coach, his offensive experiment could make or break his season.


Forecast: When Rhule makes his head-coaching debut against Notre Dame on Aug. 31, the Owls will look like an entirely different team. Wanting to move away from a ground-and-pound offense, Rhule has limited to time to install his pass-heavy offensive system with two quarterbacks who have little experience. Replacing 1000-yard rusher Harris, Coyer will be responsible for the running game this season after he rushed for 444 yards and two touchdowns last season.

“We're excited about our quarterback,” Rhule said of Reilly. “And no one's really talking about him, and rightfully so. There are a lot of guys in this league that can spin it.”

Reilly will have the benefit of three seniors on the offensive line. But Temple will have to replace key members of its special teams in McManus (14-of-17 on field goal attempts) and Brown (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year).

Defensively, the Owls are anchored by Matakevich, last season’s Big East Defensive Rookie of the Year. Sophomore linebacker Nate D. Smith joins him, and Temple returns starting cornerbacks Zamel Johnson and Anthony Robey.

Picked in the preseason media poll to finish next to last in the conference, Temple has an advantage in hosting both American Athletic heavyweights Louisville and Cincinnati. Despite the low expectations, Rhule isn’t shy about his goals for the Owls.

“For me, now it's my charge and my job to get us to win a conference championship,” Rhule said. “So that's what we're doing, that's why we're here.”

Future American Power Rankings

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
9:39
AM ET
You've seen the college football future power rankings. Let's take that to another level here, using the eye test to look at how this conference is set up in the years to come.

1) Cincinnati. With at least a share of four of the past five conference titles, and with a proven coach in Tommy Tuberville aboard, the Bearcats are the class of the conference.

2) UCF. The most ready-made of the conference newcomers this fall, the Knights have the ideal talent, recruiting tools and coaching to compete for the conference crown year-in and year-out moving forward.

3) USF. Like rival UCF, USF is ideally located to land top talent. The Bulls have had that talent in recent years, but the hope is that new coach Willie Taggart can make the most of it and thrive back on the recruiting trail in Tampa, Fla.

4) Tulsa. Three straight eight-plus win seasons show that this program is on the rise, as the Golden Hurricane, much like UCF, look ready to compete with the league's elite upon their arrival.

5) UConn. The last of the "old guard" of the old Big East is in need of a turnaround following consecutive 5-7 seasons under Paul Pasqualoni. A Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010 and five draft picks this past April show that there is potential here.

6) SMU. June Jones and Hal Mumme together will be a fascinating experiment to watch this year. But with their history and an always-strong nonconference slate, the Mustangs can put themselves in position to be a conference contender only if the breaks fall their way.

7) Navy. The Midshipmen won't be aboard until 2015. But eight-plus wins in nine of the past 10 seasons against a solid independent schedule suggests the triple-option can give its new conference brethren problems upon its arrival in two years.

8) Houston. Kevin Sumlin had a great run in 2011. Tony Levine still has some work to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball, after a down season in 2012. But landing big-name receivers like Deontay Greenberry and Markeith Ambles shows that there is promise for the Cougars moving forward.

9) Temple. The Owls started off 2-0 in the Big East last season, but then received a rude awakening. New coach Matt Rhule seems perfect for the role, but the cupboard is bare as he tries to turn things around in Year 1.

10) East Carolina. The Pirates always face their share of tough nonconference opponents, but Ruffin McNeill seems to have the program trending upward after going bowling in two of his first three seasons.

11) Memphis. Justin Fuente won't let the Tigers get too high on themselves after a three-game winning streak to end last season. By opening up key spots -- including quarterback, where Jacob Karam returns -- he has shown that he is set on taking this program to another level as it enters a new conference and tries to put the Conference-USA era behind it. Still, Fuente faces an uphill battle.

12) Tulane. The Green Wave haven't won five games in a season since 2004. They have their work cut out for them, as they move up to a better version of the C-USA they have struggled in.
Three first-year coaches will open the season in the future American Athletic Conference. What are the biggest challenges they face?

Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati. The Bearcats have had more consistent success in this league over the past five seasons than any other program. So challenge No. 1 is maintaining their standing at the top of the league in Year 1. Many coaches have said maintaining a program is much more challenging than rebuilding a program. Tuberville certainly has the coaching background to ensure the Bearcats continue winning championships, but once again Cincinnati goes into the season without much national love. That brings us to challenge No. 2 -- taking down Louisville, its cross-state rival and the favorite to win the Big East. As for some of the on-field challenges, Cincinnati has to get adjusted to a slightly different offensive scheme while finding some playmakers at the skill positions. Figuring out a running back rotation is a top priority, along with developing a deep threat at receiver. Defensively, Cincinnati has to answer some questions up front and in the secondary.

Matt Rhule, Temple. Several challenges await Rhule. First and foremost, getting the Owls back to a bowl game after slipping to a losing record last season in Year 1 in the Big East. He may not have all of the pieces in place to get there in 2013, but Rhule has been a part of a winning Temple program and knows exactly what it takes to get things going in the right direction. There are some pieces in place but this is a young team without a lot of depth, particularly at the skill positions. The entire offensive scheme has been changed. Temple will now play more of a pro-style spread offense, so the Owls have made a change at quarterback. They have nobody proven at running back or receiver, so that is a major challenge heading into fall camp. Defensively, there are question marks in the secondary and depth has to be built up front. Temple also lost terrific punter/kicker Brandon McManus and special teams player of the year Matt Brown, so there are challenges all over the field for this team.

Willie Taggart, USF. Like Rhule, Taggart has to find a way to get the Bulls back into a bowl game. But the hard times have lasted a smidge longer in Tampa, where USF has now gone two straight seasons without making the postseason. There will be pressure on Taggart to deliver a long-anticipated league championship based on his track record and all the resources USF has to be able to bring in quality talent in the area. But there are challenges everywhere in Year 1. Right at the top of the list is the offense, which has major questions at every single position. There is no starting quarterback right now; the running backs did not show much in the spring and there is not much depth at the position. The offensive line had its share of problems last year and the receivers are unproven behind Andre Davis. Defensively, the secondary was abysmal last year and depth has to be built at linebacker. The nonconference schedule has two big challenges, too, in games at Michigan State and home to Miami. In addition, Taggart is working to change the culture around the program. He is trying to instill a different mindset and different demeanor, and to get players to believe in themselves again. That could be the biggest challenge of all.

First-year players to watch

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
9:00
AM ET
There are plenty of first-year players to watch in the soon-to-be renamed Big East this fall. Here is a quick look at those with the potential to have breakout seasons.

[+] EnlargeLouisville Cardinals Red Team running back Brandon Radcliff
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY SportsLouisville Cardinals running back Brandon Radcliff really stepped up in the spring game.
Brandon Radcliff, RB, Louisville. With Senorise Perry out this spring, Radcliff got an opportunity to show what he can do. Radcliff ended up with 56 yards on five carries in the spring game and seems poised for more. Perry's status for the start of the season remains up in the air, so watch for Radcliff and Dominique Brown to carry the load early on.

Prescott Line, RB, SMU. His brother, Zach, was a constant in the Mustangs' backfield over the last several seasons but now he's gone. That leaves big shoes to fill. Line is next in line to help carry the load, as he had a good spring and should see plenty of action this year with Traylon Shead in the backfield.

Chris Muller, RG, Rutgers. Muller was a huge get for Rutgers when he signed back in 2012, and now he is poised to see some serious game time as a redshirt freshman. He is listed on the post-spring depth chart as the co-starter at right guard with veteran Antwan Lowery.

Averee Robinson, DT, Temple. Robinson, the younger brother of former Owls standout Adrian Robinson, enrolled in January and made his presence known in the spring, earning reps with the second team. He had a great performance in the spring game (four sacks) and certainly will be in the Owls rotation come fall.

Luke Adams, DE, UCF. Adams was easily one of the bright spots for the revamped Knights' defensive line in the spring and finished camp penciled in as the starter.

100-day checklist: Big East

May, 21, 2013
5/21/13
12:00
AM ET
We have officially reached the 100-day mark until the college football regular season kicks off. There is still plenty of business to tend to until then -- much of which is being discussed this week at the Big East's spring meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. -- so here is a checklist of five things that the conference needs to accomplish between now and Aug. 29, when three league teams (UConn, Rutgers and UCF) will be among the 34 to start their 2013 campaigns before everyone else.

1. Release a new logo: The league will officially become known as the American Athletic Conference at the conclusion of the 2012-13 college sports season. A new logo is on the way, but is not expected to be revealed during this week's conference meetings, though we could see it in the next couple of weeks.

2. Get QB answers: Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, USF and Temple all exited the spring with open competition under center, though some seem to have a lot more clarity (Cincinnati, Houston, Temple) than others (Memphis, USF). For the other five teams, the summer is about continuing the growth of returning starters, all of whom took big steps this spring to build off their 2012 campaigns (particularly Rutgers' Gary Nova and UCF's Blake Bortles).

3. Find a true No. 2 to Louisville: No, the Cardinals have not already won the AAC in their final year in the conference before moving to the ACC. But the early Heisman Trophy and NFL draft hype surrounding quarterback Teddy Bridgewater -- coupled with preseason top-10 appearances in every major forecast, a favorable schedule and the overall brilliance of its athletic department this academic year -- has the hype at previously unforeseen levels on campus. Louisville still has 12 games to deal with once the first ball is kicked this fall, but it is the only team in the conference that, this far out, seems to have most of the answers it needs heading into the season. Who will make the biggest strides in the next 100 days to close that gap and emerge from the pack of relative unknowns in the league? This is, after all, the conference's last year with a guaranteed BCS bowl berth.

4. Make the rounds: Matt Rhule does not need to meet and greet all that many new people in the Philadelphia area since he was a longtime Temple assistant, but he is stepping into his first career head-coaching job. Willie Taggart has been a hit back in his home area of Tampa, Fla., but he is taking over a roster that has vastly underachieved the past two years, and he is entering recruiting battles with local rival and Big East newcomer UCF. Tommy Tuberville has had great success on the recruiting circuit so far at Cincinnati, but he has a big standard to live up to in following the footsteps of the school's past three head coaches. How will each new head coach in the conference further establish himself in the dog days of summer?

5. Houston must figure out several game locations: One of the more overlooked aspects of one of the conference newcomers this season is the Cougars' need to determine where they will play all of their home games. Four of them have been slated for Reliant Stadium, but the school's Oct. 12 game against Memphis and Nov. 23 tilt with Cincinnati still need locations. Rice Stadium and BBVA Compass Stadium are the options, according to the Houston Chronicle.
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Louisville coach Charlie Strong is attending ACC spring meetings this year as the Cardinals face the uncomfortable position of playing one more year in their old conference while planning a future in a new conference.

Pitt and Syracuse did the dance last season. Louisville gets a turn now.

But not everything is new around here. Strong obviously knows Pitt coach Paul Chryst and played against Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, whose defense last year completely befuddled the Cardinals. He faced Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher during his time as a Florida assistant. And Strong also has good friend Steve Addazio with him in meetings. A year ago, Addazio and Strong sat in a room in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., during Big East spring meetings.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley"We haven't been a program that's been consistent each year," Louisville's Charlie Strong said. "Is complacency going to set in? Are we good enough or mature enough to take that next step?"
Now here they are at different league meetings, as the Cardinals have changed conference allegiances and Addazio left Temple for Boston College. Not surprisingly, the two former Florida assistants walked out together during the first day of meetings. Strong said the biggest reason he was here was to get acquainted with the other league coaches and commissioner John Swofford.

Louisville reps will not attend Big East spring meetings next week.

Given everything the Louisville program has accomplished over the past year, the Cardinals are joining their league at the right time.

When asked what it has been like watching virtually every program on campus have success this year, including his own, Strong said, "Our athletic director, Tom Jurich, is amazing. Just to watch how he’s been able to be the mastermind behind all the success in the program, with football, basketball, soccer, our baseball team, our softball team. It’s good we’re having the success. Now for us to take a step into another conference at least we bring some credibility with us."

Expectations are high once again for Louisville headed into this season. What does Strong make of the hype?

"The main thing for us is consistency," he said. "We haven’t been a program that’s been consistent each year. Is complacency going to set in? Are we good enough or mature enough to take that next step? We’ll find out this season."

Though Louisville will be playing under the American Athletic Association banner in 2013, there is no doubt how the Cardinals do will impact the ACC's perception. It certainly won't hurt matters if the Cardinals make an undefeated run and have a Heisman contender on their hands headed into Year 1 in their new league home.
The start of Evan Regas' college career was anything but ideal.

The Temple offensive lineman began his first fall camp just two months removed from news that his mother, Susan Untoria, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The ordeal spanned the length of his first four years with the Owls, tragically culminating in Susan's death two weeks into the semester last fall.

[+] EnlargeTemple's Evan Regas
Courtesy of Temple UniversityEvan Regas with his mother Susan Untoria, who died of breast cancer last fall. Regas and his Temple teammates are honoring her this Sunday.
Regas, a redshirt senior, has chosen to honor her this Sunday, his first Mother's Day without her, by participating with 14 of his teammates in the 1-mile fun walk as part of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Philadelphia.

"It's a very humbling experience from my point of view, because I've been in charge of putting the player aspect of this together," Regas said. "It's very humbling to me to see how the team has come to support this cause and myself and the other players on the team who have gone through something similar. It's just a very awesome feeling."

Regas spent nearly every morning these past four years on the phone with his mother, and they would communicate throughout the afternoon and evening to see how each other's day was going, with Susan peppering him with reminders to not lose his focus in class or on the field because he was worrying about her.

Susan loved Temple when the Toms River, N.J., natives visited back when Evan was in high school. She even made it to Lincoln Financial Field for his first college game, against Villanova on Sept. 3, 2009, just two weeks removed from a double mastectomy.

Radiation treatment and chemotherapy followed for roughly a year afterward. Susan went into remission before the cancer reappeared in the form of stage 4, triple-negative breast cancer that spread to her liver. Early detection led to more chemotherapy, but by last August it had made its third appearance, spreading to her chest and into her femur and her neck.

"The coaching staff actually sent me home for a weekend to go see her after practice. They actually told me, 'You're going home. There's no arguing with us,' " Regas said. "That just shows how much they care about the players and the families, and how that came first before football."

Susan lost her battle on Sept. 15, 2012.

"When she passed it felt like a sucker-punch to the gut," Regas said. "Losing your mother is never easy, and especially just watching her go through everything she went through, it made it harder just to experience it. But her passing was in some ways a blessing, because doctors said she wasn't going to get better. So she was no longer in pain, she was peaceful now."

An only child, Regas is close with his father George and his stepfather, Arnie, who married Susan in 2009 before her diagnosis.

With the support of his teammates by his side, Regas and a large Temple contingent will take part this weekend in an event geared at raising funds and awareness in the fight against breast cancer, and he is hoping to encourage others to be proactive about the disease.

"Just the players, everybody here, all my teammates, all my brothers — they've helped me through every little bit of this," Regas said. "From when I was a freshman when she first got diagnosed, to her passing, they've been here every step of the way. They showed up at the wake, phone calls, text messages and even some of their families sent me 'Thinking of You' cards and flowers to the wake and everything. So without them I don't know how much of this I would've been able to do as well as I have."
Former Temple coach Wayne Hardin was one of 14 men Tuesday to be named to the College Football Hall of Fame, emerging from a pool of 77 candidates and joining Colorado's Bill McCartney as the only coaches to make it this year.

The winningest coach in Temple history, Hardin led the Owls to an 80-52-3 record during his tenure, from 1970-82. The 1979 team's Garden State Bowl win over Cal was the first bowl win in program history, giving it a record 10 wins for the season. (The Owls finished 10-2.) The team finished ranked 17th in both the AP and UPI polls, also marking school records for the highest ranking in program history.

Temple won a school-record 14 straight games from 1973-74 under Hardin, who won the 1974 Kodak District II coach of the year and was inducted into Temple's Hall of Fame 20 years later.

“This is a great day for Temple University,” interim athletic director Kevin Clark said in a statement. “Wayne Hardin is not only a Hall of Fame football coach, but a Hall of Fame person. The entire Temple community is grateful that he has been selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.”

Hardin is the third Temple player or coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, joining former coaches Ray Morrison (1940-48, inducted in 1954) and Glenn S. “Pop” Warner (1933-38, inducted in 1951).

Before he entered Philadelphia, Hardin was Navy's head coach from 1959-64, coaching two Heisman Trophy winners (Joe Bellino, Roger Staubauch) and twice leading the Midshipmen to top-5 rankings.

He will be inducted Dec. 10 at the 56th annual NFF awards dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

The other former Big East player and coach candidates -- Memphis coach Billy Jack Murphy, SMU running back Eric Dickerson and Temple running back Paul Palmer -- did not make the Hall on Tuesday.
Outgoing Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw admits this is not the way he envisioned going out. He had a few good years left in him, a few good plans that would have grown the Owls program even stronger.

But you cannot always plan for life. Bradshaw is needed at home. His sterling credentials as an athletic director will have to rest, while he steps aside to tend to his family.

He feels good about this decision, yes. But a part of him longs to keep going, too, because this is all he has known over the past 36 years. The past 11 at Temple have provided him some of the biggest challenges of his career. Yet Bradshaw met every challenge head on, never shying away from difficult decisions or difficult hires.

It was, in fact, the difficulty of the job that appealed to him. He turned down the opportunity to interview once, then accepted when he was asked a second time.

[+] EnlargeBradshaw
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IITemple athletic director Bill Bradshaw kept the football program alive and returned it to the Big East.
"In my mind, Temple had a lot of problems," Bradshaw recalled in a phone interview. "I finally said I would interview, and I got home and my wife said, 'How did that go?' and I said, 'You know maybe those problems are challenges. Maybe they’re not problems.' And then I looked at Temple differently."

When he arrived in July of 2002, the football program had no home. It bore no resemblance to a bona fide football program, either, the constant losing, off-the-field problems and character and academics issues taking their toll year after year. Bradshaw had never been the athletic director at a school with a football program, serving at LaSalle and DePaul previously. Most believed he would come in and axe the football team.

Bradshaw did nothing of the sort. He stood up for the football program, lobbied for the football program, understood the importance of the football program. In 2004, a vote was held to determine the fate of said football program. Bradshaw begged the blue ribbon panel to vote in favor of football.

Temple football survived.

By one vote.

Bradshaw then went about finding the football program a conference home, and then a head coach he believed would bring the program back to respectability. He recognized something in Al Golden the first time they met. Golden ended up turning the worst program in America into a bowl team.

During this time, Bradshaw was confronted with another tough decision to make regarding a coach, though on the opposite end of the spectrum. Hall of Famer John Chaney decided to retire in 2006. That retirement press conference is one Bradshaw will not soon forget. He stayed up all night coming up with the right words to explain what Chaney meant to Temple. What Chaney meant to him.

Bradshaw eventually hired Fran Dunphy, who remains head coach today. Golden left for Miami. His successor, Steve Addazio, just left after two seasons but delivered the second bowl win in school history.

Addazio also happened to be the head coach when Bradshaw delivered another seminal moment -- a move back into the Big East last year. Though the league looks vastly different today than it did when the move was made, there are no regrets. None at all. Bradshaw did what he believed best for Temple. Then, now, always.

Thanks to that move, Bradshaw was one of five finalists for the Sports Business Journal's athletic director of the year award. But he did more than that. In that 2011-12 year, Temple set department records for academic success (15 teams earned above a 3.0 cumulative grade point average) and in revenues with $11.4 million generated through tickets sales, corporate sponsorship and fund-raising.

He made change happen. It was not easy. But he did it, and for that, Temple fans should be forever grateful.

"It’s the people I would mention more than the accomplishments, the teams, the wins," Bradshaw said. "The people made that all happen. I’m honored and blessed and lucky to get those people to Temple."
Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw will retire in June after 11 years leading the Owls athletic department.

Bradshaw says he has to turn his full attention to unspecified family issues. He begins a leave of absence on Friday.

"My last 11 years [at Temple] were the most challenging but the most satisfying I had in this business," Bradshaw told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Being a part of that bumpy, rocky ride was the most satisfying."
Tonight kicks off a weekend-long celebration of college players turning into professionals, as the NFL draft kicks off at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

There is a solid chance for several former Big East players to hear their names called in Round 1, but for now, we'll look back at how this conference has fared in the past 10 drafts, and especially in the first round.

Obviously, the conference has gone through change after change in the past two years alone, so to limit any confusion, we narrowed the pool of players to those whose college experience came on any of the 10 teams that will make up the American Athletic Conference in the 2013-14 season.

Some noteworthy items?
  • Four teams have not had a player taken in the first round in the last 10 years.
  • Rutgers leads the way in first-round picks during the past 10 years, with three, while Louisville leads in total picks, with 29. Again, given those teams' futures, you can look at that as a positive or a negative as a Big East fan, depending on your mood or point of view.
  • In total, current conference schools have had a total of 11 first-round picks in the past 10 years, and 150 players from these 10 schools have been drafted during that time.
  • Defensive back has been the strongest position among these schools, with 30 cornerbacks and safeties in total selected during this stretch.
FIRST-ROUND PICKS SINCE 2003:
Rutgers: 3
Louisville: 2
USF: 2
Memphis: 2
UConn: 1
Temple: 1
Cincinnati: 0
UCF: 0
SMU: 0
Houston: 0

TOTAL PICKS SINCE 2003:
Louisville: 29
Cincinnati: 24
Rutgers: 17
USF: 16
UConn: 16
UCF: 15
Temple: 9
SMU: 9
Memphis: 8
Houston: 7

Breakdown of Big East draft picks over the last 10 years by position:

Defensive backs: 30
Defensive linemen: 23
Offensive linemen: 19
Running backs: 16
Wide receivers: 15
Linebackers: 14
Tight ends: 8
Quarterbacks: 8
Punter: 2
Kicker: 1
Fullback: 1

Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl, meanwhile, have a complete, seven-round mock draft here.
Connor Reilly has never started a game for Temple, but Reilly made his mark on the Owls in every single contest over the past two seasons.

It was Reilly who led his teammates onto the field before kickoff, waving an American flag his father flew with as a squadron commander in the Army on several missions in Afghanistan. After the euphoria of each moment, Reilly retreated to the sideline, clipboard in hand, headset on to signal in the plays.

[+] EnlargeConnor Reilly
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Connor Reilly has led Temple onto the field before games. Now it appears he'll be leading the Owls in the huddle, too.
He never got much of an opportunity to win the starting job. For one, Reilly was relatively new to football, having picked up the game during his sophomore year of high school. For another, former coach Steve Addazio emphasized dual-threat quarterbacks in his spread system. Reilly was more of a pro-style kinda guy with a rocket for an arm, thanks to his baseball background.

Indeed, Reilly continued to play both sports last spring as Chris Coyer took the starting quarterback reps. And he continued to play both sports this year, too (though he has taken a two-week hiatus to focus on football). A new offensive emphasis under coach Matt Rhule, finally gave Reilly his opportunity.

Reilly's rise from last on the depth chart to first has been one of the biggest spring surprises in the league.

In the spring game this past weekend, Reilly went 25-of-41 for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Coyer -- the guy who used to get the signals from Reilly -- caught two of them in his new role as tight end/H-back.

Those are quite impressive passing numbers, when you consider just how poorly the Owls threw the ball last year. Yes, Temple was a run-first team. But when the Owls needed to pass the ball, they simply could not find any consistency. Temple ranked No. 116 in the nation in passing, and its quarterbacks completed an average of 52.5 percent of their passes. Only nine teams had a worse percentage.

Run-oriented Navy and Air Force posted better completion percentage numbers.

Perhaps more impressive, though, are these comments about Reilly from Rhule following the game Saturday: "I think what you see is, you see our team when he's out there kind of rallying around him and believe he's going to make a play."

Quarterback was one of the biggest question marks on this team headed into the spring, but it appears as if a guy who was not even in the discussion back in March has solidified his status atop the depth chart. Whether he continues to carry the U.S. flag onto the field this season remains to be seen.

But there seems to be little question that Reilly is a guy to root for when the season begins.

SPONSORED HEADLINES