Temple unveils its revamped offense in spring game

Temple unveils its revamped offense in spring game

April 20, 2013, 8:15 pm
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Last year's tight end is playing left tackle, the starting quarterback is now an H-back, they no longer huddle, and somebody remembered that the forward pass was introduced to football in 1906.

Four-and-a-half months into Matt Rhule's tenure as head coach, the Temple offense is unrecognizable.

But in case you've forgotten how things worked last year under Steve Addazio, let sophomore wide receiver Khalif Herbin explain:

"I mean, I'm 5-foot-7, 170 pounds," Herbin said, "and he'd put me in the game to block."

The White topped the Cherry, 34-28, in Temple's spring game at the Edberg-Olsen football complex on Saturday. In the process, the two teams combined to throw the ball 87 times, completing 52 passes for 771 yards and seven touchdowns.

That's a pretty sharp departure from last season, when the Cherry and White combined for 247 passing yards on 37 attempts. Temple went on to finish the 2012 season with the fifth-fewest passing yards per game in the country (120.8) -- ahead of only Army, Navy, Air Force and New Mexico -- while averaging 42.5 rushes per game. All four of those schools, it's worth mention, ran the triple-option.

Over the course of 11 weeks, the 2012 Owls completed 116 of 221 passes for 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns.

And over the course of three hours on Saturday, the Cherry and White teams combined for roughly half of that season-long total.

"That's the way we're going to play," Rhule said. "We're going to put the ball in the air.

"We're going to run the ball, too. ... I kept telling the running backs, 'Relax, we're going to run the ball, too,' but we're going to be aggressive."

Temple's gone from having its old head coach position a 5-foot-7 slot receiver as a blocker to its new head coach apologizing to his running backs.

Beyond the change in philosophy is the switch at quarterback. Rising junior Connor Reilly, who won the team's spring award for most improved offensive player, completed 10 of his first 12 attempts on Saturday, finishing 25-for-41 passing for 366 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. His first play under center was a play-action throwback that saw him connect with receiver Ryan Alderman 50 yards down the field.

Reilly spent last season as an afterthought, buried on the depth chart behind Chris Coyer, Clinton Granger, and even transfer Kevin Newsome. But after a month of spring football, he's now positioned himself as the starter, while Coyer, who started nine games last season, has been moved to H-back (see story).

Although Reilly, like Rhule, emphasized that the new, no-huddle offense will balance itself between the run and pass, he clearly enjoyed the opportunity to air it out.

"I love to throw the football," he said. "But us throwing is really going to open the lanes for the running backs. ... I think 10 of those pass plays were run plays that we pull if we see a receiver open."

Coyer, meanwhile, spent his afternoon assisting Reilly in the passing game, catching three passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. His first score came when Reilly hit him on an 11-yard crossing route and his second when Reilly found him behind the safeties for a 65-yard TD.

"He has the arm strength to make any throw," Coyer said. "And as far as the actual scheme, [last year] we were coming out of the huddle, running the ball a lot, and now we're much more up-tempo, as you saw today ... a lot of passing the ball, moving it around the field."

"[It's] more fun, more shots down the field and more hits in the pocket than last year, when it was more hits in the open field," added Granger, who finished 26 for 44 for 302 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked five times.

To that end, left tackle Cody Booth is an amusing case study. The rising senior was Temple's second-leading receiver last year with 17 catches for 137 yards as a tight end, but spent most of his time, like everyone else, as a run blocker.

He'll spend this summer continuing to gain weight and learning how to protect his quarterback.

Then again, so will the rest of the line.

"We're not used to [pass blocking]," Booth said. "Nobody is in this offense."

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