Not coincidentally, those contests accounted for the team’s eight losses in 2009. So Tiger coach Seth Rogers and defensive coordinator Lynn Rowe got together in the offseason to talk about what had to be done.
They decided some scheme changes were in order. Temple’s defense will play a lot more five-linemen fronts in 2010 than in past years.
But to Rogers, the crux of the Tigers’ defensive struggles was something more elementary than alignment or strategy.
“You can throw scheme out the window,” Rogers said. “People sometimes get wrapped up in that. But if you’ve got 11 people going where they’re supposed to be, you’ve got a shot. If we can get 11 people to the football, we’re gonna be better.”
The problem was, too often, Temple’s defense didn’t do that last fall. The numbers reflect it.
After an encouraging 2-0 start in the third season of Rogers’ rebuilding project, the Tigers couldn’t compete, going 0-5 in their region after falling to local rival Bowdon, 42-13.
“Part of our problem has been tackling and getting to the football,” Rogers said. “Those are things you can correct. We’ve just gotta keep coaching them up, coaching the fundamentals and little things.”
A lot of Temple’s issues had to do with youth, something the coaches hope will turn in their favor in 2010 with eight returning defensive starters.
“These kids have been through the battles and they haven’t quit,” defensive coordinator Lynn Rowe said. “There’s a different effort and a different focus from the kids. It started early in the weight room and in the offseason program and it has continued throughout this heat. We’ve got kids who they’d be over like little turtles ready to get splashed with water, and now they’re not taking themselves out in practice.”
Nose tackle Torrell Patterson could be the foremost example of that trend.
The massive lineman and senior is in better shape than he was last season, according to Rowe.
“He’s very good at the point of attack and has really good feet for a kid his size,” Rogers said.
Steven Rush is a converted linebacker who should be a leader in the secondary. Coaches are expecting solid production from Nathan McCoy, another senior on the defensive line.
Cody Engstrom, a sophomore, switched from the line to linebacker.
“I think he’s got a chance to have a really good future here at Temple,” Rowe said. “I expect him to play hard and play well.”
Those players will help lead a defense that will face Callaway and Carver, Columbus, two Class AA powerhouses, in Temple’s realigned Region 5-AA.
Against teams of that caliber, the defensive improvements Rogers and Rowe say have been made might not be as apparent.
It’s a process, one that Rogers hopes will yield some results this fall. Temple will be able to evaluate where the defense is in a scrimmage on Friday against Bremen.
“They’re growing up. They’re maturing,” Rowe said. “When they get to that point, you’re starting to reach them. All that stuff you preach, it’s starting to have an effect.”