NCF Nation: Vaughn Charlton

Temple spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 5-1 (T 1st/MAC East)

Returning starters
9, defense: 7, punter/kicker: 1/1

Top returners
RB Bernard Pierce, DB Jaiquawn Jarrett, LB Elijah “Peanut” Joseph

Key losses
LB Alex Joseph, TE Steve Maneri, DB Dominique Harris, NT Andre Neblett, OL Devin Tyler (all in NFL now)

2009 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: *Bernard Pierce (1,361 yards / 16 TDs)
Passing: Vaughn Charlton (1,390 yards / 10 TDs)
Receiving: *Joe Jones (387 yards / 1 TD)
Tackles: Alex Joseph (49-31-80 tackles / 5.5 TFL)
Sacks: *Adrian Robinson (13 sacks)
Interceptions: *Marquise Liverpool (3 int.)

Spring answers

1. Quarterback competition settled: One of the biggest questions heading into spring was about the starting quarterback. Both Vaughn Charlton and Chester Stewart played a year ago and the competition was heated through the early portion spring. However, as Stewart started to take the edge, Charlton decided to switch to tight end. Charlton is now the team’s top tight end and coach Al Golden expects him to have a big year.

2. Building O-line depth: The starting offensive line was a little nicked up this spring, which allowed several younger linemen to get quality reps and experience. That will definitely pay off, especially if any of the injuries become nagging.

3. Leading the linebackers: Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio took over as the linebackers coach this spring and the change in that position group was almost immediate. Elijah Joseph is the only returning linebacker with quality starting experience, but the Owls have quality players in Tahir Whitehead, Marcus Green, and Jordan Martin.

Fall questions

1. Can Pierce stay healthy? Running back Bernard Pierce had a breakout season a year ago and was largely the reason why the Owls went on a nine-game winning streak. However, he suffered a shoulder late in the season and wasn’t healthy for the rest of the year. Pierce could easily have another 1,000-yard season if he stays healthy.

2. Backup QBs making a push: Chester Stewart is the starting quarterback, but the Owls haven’t used just one quarterback the entire time Golden has been the coach. Chris Coyer and Mike Gerardi both had good springs and they’ll both be competing for reps in the fall.

3. Fixing special teams: The Owls were good on kick and punt returns, but the challenge for new special team coach Sean Desai is getting the punting up with the rest of the conference. The Owls averaged 32.55 yards per punt with Jeff Wathne, but sophomore Brandon McManus has a chance to earn the starting role and make that average better.
Vaughn Charlton opened the 2009 season as Temple’s starting quarterback; he’ll open the 2010 season as the starting tight end.

Charlton, a junior who spent most of the spring in a fierce quarterback competition with sophomore Chester Stewart, was moved to tight end before the spring game on April 17, and has risen to the top spot on the Owls’ depth chart.

[+] EnlargeVaughn Charlton
Mark Goldman/Icon SMIVaughn Charlton would have likely been the No. 2 quarterback if he didn't change positions.
"He [Charlton] wanted to do it," coach Al Golden said during the Mid-American coaches teleconference Tuesday. "He saw there was a need there. We weren't getting the production that we wanted … He thought it was a good move for him, and in the end it was like we grew as a team because he’s supporting Chester and Chester’s supporting him.”

Last season, Charlton played in 12 games at quarterback and completed 94 of 190 passes for 1,231 yards and nine touchdowns. He has no tight end experience at the collegiate level, but Golden said what Charlton lacks in technique he makes up for in willingness to work hard and learn.

"This isn't a stopgap measure,” Golden said. “This is a kid that runs well, that’s 250 pounds at 6-5, he’s got excellent hands, a great concept of how to run routes and when to sit down in zones because of his days at quarterback. So, he’s someone we’re really excited about.”

Golden said that as spring progressed it was clear that Stewart, who had come on late last season as a threat to Charlton’s starting role, had moved into the starting spot. Last season, Stewart started three games and won all three. He completed 26 of 65 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

“I thought clearly he comes out of spring as the No. 1 quarterback,” Golden said. “He finished the last three or four practices completing over 65 percent of his throws and was clearly the guy making the most plays. And most of them were with his arm and not his feet, which we know he can do. So, I was really pleased with him.”

Golden said he also was pleased with the play of redshirt freshman Chris Coyer, Stewart’s primary backup, and junior Mike Gerardi, which gave him enough confidence to move Charlton from under center.

Golden acknowledged that he would have liked to have moved Charlton to tight end a couple of years ago, but because the program was changing and the Owls didn’t have the depth at quarterback, a move didn't make sense. Now, Golden said, he thinks the move will pay dividends for his program.

“It’s a much more comfortable position for him in terms of his leadership and his personality,” Golden said. “I think it’s a match … Now we're going to have two leaders in the huddle instead of just one.”

What to watch in the MAC this spring

February, 16, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each team in the MAC heading into the spring:

Akron Zips

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" New head coach Rob Ianello takes over an Akron squad that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005. The Zips struggled last year averaging 19.25 points per game on offense and gave up 28.75 points per game on defense. This spring's goal will be to find playmakers to bring both sides of the ball on par with the rest of the league.

" The Zips had a running back by committee system last year, but none of their backs had more than 250 yards. Two of the team’s top three rushers are gone and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. Ianello signed five tailbacks in his first class.

" The defense struggled to put pressure on the quarterback as the Zips finished with 11 sacks. Opponents scored touchdowns on 66 percent of opportunities inside the red zone. Shoring up the defensive line and the linebackers will be an emphasis this spring.

Ball State Cardinals

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" Sophomore quarterback Kelly Page tries to regain the starting role after missing the second half of the season with thumb surgery. The Cardinals were winless with him in the lineup, but he improved as the season progressed. Redshirt freshman Aaron Mershman will vie for the role in the spring before highly-touted recruit Keith Wenning joins the competition in the fall.

" Running back MiQuale Lewis and tight end Madaris Grant are both awaiting word from the NCAA about a possible sixth season. Both are team leaders and are the top players at their respective positions.

" Losing defensive coordinator Doug Graber is a blow to the Cardinals. Although he was only with the team for a season, the defense was one of the team's bright spots and got better as the season progressed. The Cardinals have yet to name a replacement.

Bowling Green Falcons

Spring practice starts: March 19

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Replacing quarterback Tyler Sheehan will be one of the biggest chores since he took 95 percent of the snaps for the past three seasons. Aaron Pankratz was the backup last year and the leader heading into spring. But redshirt Matt Schiltz, walk-on Kellen Pagel and December enrollee Caleb Watkins will all be in the mix.

" Freddie Barnes was the Falcons best offensive weapon and it will be hard to find a replacement. Overall, the Falcons lose three of their top five receivers, and one of those returning is running back Wille Geter.

" Rebuilding the defense will be a priority after losing seven players, including the entire line backers corps and three-fourths of the secondary. There is a lot of young talent waiting, it is just a matter of gelling during spring ball.

Buffalo Bulls

Spring practice starts: March 20

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" Losing quarterback Zach Maynard, who decided to transfer last month, hurt their offense. He would have been the starter heading into the season, but now sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will duke it out this spring before two freshmen arrive in August.

" The Bulls have to replace top receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin and have several candidates to do so. Juniors Terrell Jackson, Marcus Rivers and Ed Young, and redshirt freshmen Fred Lee and Alex Neutz will compete for playing time.

" New head coach Jeff Quinn is going to install a more wide-open offensive system at Buffalo, however finding the right guys to play it will be a challenge. There are athletes remaining at Buffalo, but the loss of players such as Maynard and Roosevelt will make the transition slower.

(Read full post)

The Pac-10 went 2-5 during the bowl season, so it wasn't difficult to find many "worsts."

But there were some good things that shouldn't be overlooked.

Best performance, defensive player: Oregon's undersized but quick defensive end Kenny Rowe set a Rose Bowl and Oregon bowl record with three sacks in a losing effort against Ohio State. He finished the season with 11.5 sacks, which led the Pac-10.

Best performance, offensive player: In his final game in a USC uniform, receiver Damian Williams caught 12 passes for a season-high 189 yards in the Trojans' 24-13 win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. It's fair to say that Williams was USC's most consistent player over the entire season.

Worst performance, period: There was nothing good about Arizona's 33-0 loss to Nebraska in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Nothing. Feel free, though, to look at this box score and try to find something.

Best play: With UCLA trailing Temple 21-20 in the fourth quarter, and the Owls pinned on their 8-yard line, Bruins outside linebacker Akeem Ayers -- after falling down on his initial pass-rush burst -- leaped into the air and intercepted Vaughn Charlton's pass and gamboled 2 yards into the end zone.

Worst play: Trailing 19-17 in the Rose Bowl, Oregon faced a second-and-2 from Ohio State's 18-yard line. A huge hole opened. But running back LeGarrette Blount couldn't handle a high handoff from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. The Buckeyes recovered the fumble and dominated the rest of the game.

Worst play, II: After BYU tied Oregon State 7-7 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, the Beavers took over at their 40-yard line. On second down, running back Jacquizz Rodgers couldn't handle a backward pass from Sean Canfield, and Matt Bauman returned the loose ball 34 yards for a touchdown. That was the first fumble of Rodgers' career, and the Cougars dominated the game from then on.

Best performance under tough circumstances: Oklahoma knew Stanford had no passing offense without quarterback Andrew Luck. So it ganged up on running back Toby Gerhart. Nonetheless, the Heisman Trophy runner-up rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a rugged effort in the Sun Bowl loss.

Worst pass defense: California made Utah true freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn look like an All-American in the Poinsettia Bowl. Against what was supposed to be one of the nation's best secondaries heading into the season, Wynn completed 26 of 36 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns. He shook off an early pick-six to run the Bears ragged.

Best second-half defense: UCLA held Temple to 41 yards and zero points in the second half of the EagleBank Bowl.

Worst performance you didn't see coming: Canfield, Oregon State's quarterback, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors this season. He has been invited to the Senior Bowl and is going to have an NFL career. Nonetheless, he had a horrible Las Vegas Bowl and was outplayed by BYU's Max Hall, who threw three touchdown passes. Canfield completed just 19 of 40 passes for 168 yards with an interception and no touchdowns, and he seemed completely befuddled by a strong wind and the Cougars' secondary.

Best unsung performance: USC fullback Stanley Havili always seems to sneak up on folks. In the Trojans' win over Boston College, he caught six passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns, including a 53-yard jaunt on a screen pass. He also had a critical tackle after one of Matt Barkley's two interceptions.

Instant analysis: UCLA 30, Temple 21

December, 29, 2009
Temple’s miracle season didn’t end the way it wanted to. The Owls put up a nice fight against UCLA, but still came away with a 30-21 loss in the EagleBank Bowl. The Mid-American Conference remains winless this bowl season. The conference didn’t win a bowl last year, either.

How the game was lost: Temple led 21-10 at halftime, but imploded in the second half with poor passing and an inept offense. After amassing 241 total yards of offense in the first half, the Owls managed just 41 in the second. The Owls had two turnovers and a turnover on downs in the second half.

[+] EnlargeVaughn Charlton
AP Photo/Evan VucciTemple quarterback Vaughn Charlton completed only one pass in the second half.
Turning point: Up 21-20, Temple quarterback Vaughn Charlton threw a pick-6 on his own 8-yard line with six minutes to go in the game. That gave the Bruins their first lead of the game and they never looked back.

Stat of the game: Charlton threw more complete passes to UCLA players than Temple players in the second half. Charlton threw just one complete pass, which came in the third quarter, and threw two interceptions. Charlton had completed 12-fo-15 passes in the first half.

Second guessing: Star running back Bernard Pierce left the game early in the second half after re-injuring his left shoulder. Coach Al Golden said he thought Pierce was 100 percent healthy and that he thought he could handle the bulk of the carries. If he had split carries with backup Matt Brown, Pierce might have been available for the entire game.

What it means: Although this was a tough loss, Temple still has to be proud of the season it had. It won nine games and went to a bowl game for the first time since 1979. After losing its first two games of the season, the Owls rattled off nine consecutive wins and were a game away from playing for the Mid-American Conference title game. This year will be yet another building block for a Temple team that returns most of its players next year.