|Location||North Philadelphia, PA|
|Head Coach||Matt Ruhle|
|2012 Record||4-7 (2-5)|
2012 In Four Sentences Or less
Last season was the Owls first season back in the Big East after being booted in 2004. They opened the year pretty strong, beating Villanova for the Mayor's Cup, losing closeish contests to Maryland and Penn State before beating USF, who was not yet fully on the struggle bus, and UConn. The bottom then dropped out and the Owls fell to Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers and UC in four straight weeks by an average of 40-14. The Owls hung 66 on Army before losing the finale to Syracuse and Steve Addazio to Boston College.
Who Is Coming Back?
Not a whole lot for an offense that was statistically one of the worst 20 or so in the country in just about every metric. Chris Coyer was coming back at QB, but he has moved to full back/H-Back. That moved paved the way for Conner Reilly to rise from 4th on the depth chart to 1st.
Coyer will be counted on to use his athleticism for an offense that was largely bereft of big plays. The Owls were among the worst in the nation at producing plays of 10, 20 and 30 yards. Take away the Army game, clearly an outlier, and one of the Owls had arguably the most inept offense in the country a year ago. Oh and all their play makers at the skill positions either didn't exist (receivers) or moved on ( RB's Montell Harris and Matt Brown graduated).
The defense is in better shape talent wise. Much better shape. The top two tacklers from a year ago are back, and both are just sophomores. Tyler Matakevich and Nate D. Smith were both revelations as freshmen. They were really the only positive things about a defense that matched the offense for ineptitude. The only real thing the defense has over the offense at this point is knowing who the play makers will be, but there are only two of them.
What Will They Run?
Matt Rhule is a branch picked from the Al Golden tree. Like Golden he played for Penn State before launching his career. As such he comes with his own ideas about what football should and shouldn't be. I would expect the Owls to forgo the spread predilections of Addazio and play with a more conventional approach. The obvious parallel is with Miami, though Marcus Satterfield will have his own ideas.
Defensively Phil Snow is a veteran guy who have bounced around the NFL, but has extensive experience as a coordinator, particularly in the PAC 10. He was the coordinator at Arizona State from 1992 to 2000, he then bounced from UCLA to Washington before taking an assistant job with the Detroit Lions. He was in Detroit from 2005 to 2008 before taking a year off. He then went to work for Ron English at Eastern Michigan. Snow is primarily a 4-3 guy. That was his base at ASU, and he clearly wants it to be his base. But the MACtion made him adjust his approach, and he did some interesting things with the Eagles. He did some over fronts, and he experimented with a hybrid rusher/linebacker position. EMU was bad against the run, but they performed pretty well against the pass. It will be interesting to see how he approaches building his defense around those two linebackers. He did not have that kind of talent in Ypsilanti.
Can You Wrap This Up? I Have Things To Do
The Owls shouldn't be demonstrably worse this year than they were a year ago. Last year they were a team that was just flailing around trying to find something, anything that would work. They really didn't have anything or anyone to build around, so they threw as much stuff at the wall as they could to see what worked. This year they have clear building blocks to work around. Reilly looks like a real quarterback, something that wouldn't have been said about Coyer. and Matakeivch and Smith are real talents at linebacker. Those are the building blocks, this season will be about finding the pieces to fit around those three. The record might be the same, but there should be a purpose and direction that was absent a year ago.