Temple, starting practice Friday, has big holes to fill on defense

Posted: August 05, 2011

Temple's biggest concern might not be the uncertainty at quarterback.

Having to replace six defensive starters could be the Owls' biggest shortcoming.

Just don't tell that to them.

"Of course, we lost great players," said senior defensive end Adrian Robinson whose squad opens training camp Friday at the Edberg-Olson Football Complex. "But that wasn't what made our team. What made our team were not those six players. On a defense, you have to have 11 people."

Perhaps. But Temple didn't lose players who were lucky to stumble upon starting positions.

Three of the losses - safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and defensive tackles Muhammad Wilkerson and Elijah Joseph - were first-team all-Mid-American Conference selections. Joseph was second-team all-MAC.

And all of the former Owls are participating in NFL camps.

Wilkerson was selected by the New York Jets in the first round of April's NFL draft. Jarrett was drafted in the second round by the Eagles. The others were free-agent signees.

"But I still think we are going to be competitive in every game," senior linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. "We are going to come out tough. We are going to come out swinging.

"I think we are still going to be a good team."

Whitehead and Robinson could have a say in that.

Robinson, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound pass-rushing specialist, was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list. The award, named after the former Chicago Bear, annually goes to the nation's top defensive player.

The 2009 MAC defensive player of the year, Robinson had 38 tackles, 31/2 sacks, and three forced fumbles last season. The Harrisburg native has compiled 104 tackles, 171/2 sacks, and eight forced fumbles in three seasons as a starter.

Though undersized at 6-2 and 228 pounds, Whitehead is a candidate for the Butkus Award, which goes to the top college linebacker.

The Newark, N.J., native is the team's second-leading returning tackler, having made 56 stops in 2010. He also had two sacks and an interception in his first season as a starter.

Perhaps the most scrutinized new starter will be Kevin Kroboth, a 6-0, 198-pound senior who replaces Jarrett at free safety. Kroboth is making the switch from strong safety, where he started four games last season (31 tackles).

"Each year, a team is reborn," Whitehead said. "Once good players leave, other players come in. Everyone gets a chance to show what they got. And everyone develops more."

Owls Camp Primer

Last season: 8-4 overall, 5-3 MAC (3d in MAC East).

Returning starters: Eight on offense, five on defense.

Key returners: Bernard Pierce (running back), Rod Streater (wide receiver), Evan Rodriguez (tight end), Adrian Robinson (defensive end), Tahir Whitehead (outside linebacker), Justin Gildea (strong safety).

Question marks: The Owls must find a starting quarterback and replace six defensive starters. Senior Chester Stewart and junior Mike Gerardi appear to be the leading candidates at quarterback. That could change, depending on how Chris Coyer and Clinton Granger perform in training camp. There will be plenty of new starters on Temple's defense, a unit that must mature quickly for the Owls to live up to expectations.

- Keith Pompey


Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939, kpompey@phillynews.com, or @pompeysgridlock on Twitter. Read his blog, "Owls Inq," at www.philly.com/owlsinq


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