Owls set to face new-look Vanderbilt.

In order to prepare for Vanderbilt’s new coach Derek Mason, a former Stanford defensive coordinator, coach Matt Rhule and his staff inadvertently learned more about Pac-12 than the Commodore’s conference itself.

“I’ve been studying Stanford a lot,” Rhule said. “I probably know more about the Pac-12 than any other conference watching Stanford.”

The Owls will be the first to match up against the new-look 3-4 defense that was so successful underneath the regime of Mason and now NFL head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Much like the 2013 Owls, the Commodores began training camp with an open competition for quarterback, eventually claimed by top 2013 contributor sophomore quarterback Patton Robinette.

Robinette, a dual-threat quarterback, will test the Owls defense, which allowed 473.6 yards per game in 2013.

Players to watch


 Offense: P.J. Walker QB

Heading into the year as an incumbent starter, Walker has set the bar for himself higher as a passer. With the third highest passer efficiency rating (150.8) in the American, Walker has already shown the ability to deliver the ball.

Despite only throwing seven interceptions to twenty touchdowns in his six games, Walker appeared careless with the football, with seven fumbles on the year.

Walker will also have the advantage of starting the season against a Commodore’s defensive backfield that is returning none of its starters from last year and set to start three underclassmen at both corner spots as well as strong safety.

 Defense: Sean Chandler CB

                Coming off an impressive camp with numerous interceptions in scrimmage play, slot cornerback Sean Chandler could very well prove to be a playmaker.

                While being the slot corner behind senior Anthony Robey and junior Tavon Young,Chandler should see plenty of playing time facing up against the Commodore’s West Coast style offense.


Offense: Patton Robinette QB

                Robinette, who recorded  four touchdowns and five interceptions in limited time, will look to use his big 6-foot-4, 214-pound frame to exploit a relatively inexperienced Temple secondary.

Robinson, who spent his 2013 season mostly as a backup, will need a strong performance in order to retain the starting position he won during camp.

Defense: Caleb Azubike

Azubike, who is coming off a season where he posted 31 total tackles, is expected to flourish in Mason’s 3-4 scheme.

Expected to line up as a 6-foot-4, 260-pound outside linebacker with 4.65 40-yard speed, Azubike’s physical tools mixed with Mason’s unknown scheme for him will make for an interesting matchup against Azubike and offensive tackles Eric Lofton and Dion Dawkins.

O’Donnell newest addition to women’s rowing staff

Alyssa O’Donnell will be the newest addition to the women’s rowing coaching staff, serving as an assistant coach, it was announced Monday.

O’Donnell arrives to the program with a wealth of experience. This past summer, O’Donnell was the coach of the Vesper Boat Club Junior Women’s summer program on the Schuylkill River.

Prior to that, O’Donnell spent last two seasons as the assistant coach of the Grand Valley State University rowing team, for which she earned much of her success. She helped to coach the varsity and junior varsity teams to bronze medals at the Dad Vail Regatta, while her team later swept the varsity events at the American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championship in May.

In the 2012-2013 season, O’Donnell highlighted her coaching career as she assisted her varsity eight team to a gold-medal performance and in turn winning the Women’s Point Trophy at the Dad Vail Regatta. That summer, O’Donnell had the opportunity in coach her team through to the final of the Women’s Henley Regatta in the England.

In addition to O’Donnell, last year’s coaches, Mariana Folco and Taylor Wasserleben, will also accompany Rebecca Grzybowski on the coaching staff.

Travel-heavy schedule awaits cross country

After a tumultuous eight-month period highlighted by the men’s indoor and outdoor track & field teams’ inclusion in the July 1 athletic cuts and a summer head coaching change, the men’s and women’s cross country teams are set to unveil its season next week.

The Owls will start their season at the Appalachian State University-hosted Covered Bridge Open in Boone, North Carolina on Aug. 29. The teams’ next meet will be the Big 5 Invitational on familiar grounds in Philadelphia’s Belmont Plateau.

The Owls will run in four meets before the American Athletic Conference Championships, hosted by Tulsa University on Oct. 31, followed by the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional at Penn State on Nov. 14, for any who qualify.

This year’s eight-man men’s team is compiled of five juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen.

The women’s team has more depth, featuring 12 runners including seniors Kiersten Brown, Jenna Dubrow and Andrea Mathis. The women’s team also features five true freshmen.

-Ed LeFurge

Forde hired as Temple track & field coach

Athletic communications confirmed Wednesday evening that Elvis Forde has been hired as Temple’s head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country programs, as well as the women’s indoor and outdoor track & field teams.

Forde spent the last 12 seasons as the Director of Track and Field for Illinois State University. The school opted not to renew Forde’s contract after the 2013-2014 season.

“We would like to thank Elvis for his dedication to our cross country and track and field teams,” Illinois State Director of Athletics Larry Lyons told WJBC Radio in Illinois. “While we have had some special individual performances during Elvis’ term, overall team results were not where we expect or need them to be.”

Forde will replace former coach Eric Mobley (2008-14), who resigned effective June 30.

“I am very excited to be selected to lead the Temple Track and Field/Cross Country programs,” Forde said, via press release. “I want to thank [athletic director Kevin Clark] along with [senior associate athletic director Joe Guinta]. Temple University is a highly-regarded academic institution and it has the potential to be a tremendous track program.”

“It also is in its second year in the highly competitive American Athletic Conference,” Forde added. “That combination should help attract quality student-athletes that will make for a successful program.”

Mobley’s six-year tenure as head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country and track & field programs was highlighted by his leading the women’s track & field team to its first-ever Atlantic 10 Outdoor Track and Field Championship title. Mobley also won A-10 Coach of the Year that season.

-Ed LeFurge