The football team opened preseason training camp with media day on Monday. Three coaches spoke ahead of the first practice scheduled for Tuesday night.
Nine players who practiced on a limited basis during spring camp are fully healthy as the team prepares for its opening game against Notre Dame.
On the defensive side of the ball, redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sharif Finch, senior defensive lineman Jacob Martin, redshirt-sophomore linebacker Chapelle Russell, redshirt-junior linebacker Jared Folks, redshirt-senior defensive back Artrel Foster, redshirt-sophomore defensive back Kareem Ali and redshirt-junior defensive back Jyquis Thomas are healthy and will participate once practice begins on Tuesday.
Finch was granted a medical redshirt for this season after suffering from chronic knee issues and appearing in four games in 2016. Martin had surgery on his foot in December due to a fracture that forced him to miss the Military Bowl against Wake Forest University.
Redshirt-senior offensive lineman Leon Johnson will also be healthy for the Owls after undergoing hip, groin and shoulder surgery this offseason.
Senior kicker Austin Jones will also return healthy to camp after tearing his ACL against Memphis last season. Coach Geoff Collins said senior punter Alex Starzyk’s status on the team will be determined after being suspended indefinitely from the team in the spring.
Defensive coordinator Taver Johnson discusses the pass rush and defensive line. pic.twitter.com/JeccerwTk3
— Temple News Sports (@TTN_Sports) July 31, 2017
Defensive coordinator Taver Johnson touted the depth he has available to him on the defensive line.
Martin and Finch return as veterans among the group. Martin recorded 18 tackles, 2.5 of which for loss, last season. Finch has 89 career tackles and 16.5 career tackles for loss. He recorded 7.5 tackles for loss in 2014.
The Owls lost a combined 32.5 tackles for loss in 2016 from Praise Martin-Oguike and Haason Reddick, who are now both on NFL training camp rosters. Johnson wants to rotate defensive linemen in and out of games to keep players fresh.
“Inside, I think that’s where we can really help ourselves as well,” Johnson said. “This is probably the first place I’ve been that we have six legitimate defensive tackles that can go. You talk Freddie Booth-Lloyd, you talk Karamo [Dioubate], Dan Archibong, [Michael] Dogbe, I mean we have some guys that have done a really nice job this summer as well changing their bodies, getting in shape and ready to play the duration of the game.”
Archibong and Quincy Roche each redshirted their freshman seasons last year. Dioubate, a sophomore, played in 12 games, recording five tackles. Dogbe and Booth-Lloyd, both redshirt juniors, have a combined 55 games of experience.
Johnson said he’d prefer to rush the quarterback with four players more often than with five to keep more defensive backs in coverage. He said he feels “really good” about the cornerbacks on the team and is looking to continue working on improving their technique.
Since Collins arrived at Temple in December, he’s stressed position flexibility.
During the Cherry and White game in April, Kirkwood picked up a sack as a defensive end. Sophomore linebacker Shaun Bradley got reps at running back in the game as well.
But Collins and his staff plan on moving more players around, including sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Wright.
“We got him three spotted on offense,” Collins said. “He’ll play some quarterback, he’ll play running back and he’ll play receiver.
“One of Isaiah’s strong suits is how intelligent he is,” he added. “He’s a very smart kid, knows the offense, knows all three spots at receiver. And we’ve played him at tailback and quarterback so we’re really excited about him as well.”
Collins said Johnson has even been pressing him about getting snaps on the defensive line.
Collins said one of the reasons the team interchanges offensive and defensive players is to help learn new schemes, concepts and prepare them for a possible future in the NFL.
“If we just keep a kid pigeonholed his entire career, what if he was going to be great at something but he never had that exposure?” Collins said. “I think you’re discounting yourself as a coach and saying ‘Oh we have to keep this limited’ and not stressing yourself to do what’s best for the players.”
Linebackers and DBs
Johnson on his linebacker situation: pic.twitter.com/r6vXqHXH5Y
— Tom Ignudo (@Ignudo5) July 31, 2017
Senior defensive back Sean Chandler and junior defensive back Delvon Randall, last year’s starting safeties and two single-digit players, return to play together in the defensive backfield.
“I’ve got to imagine they’re two of the best safeties in this conference, if not the country,” Collins said.
Chandler was named to four preseason award watch lists, including the Chuck Bednarik Award for college’s best defensive player. Former All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich won the award in 2015.
Sophomore linebacker Sam Franklin and redshirt-sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Atoki have practiced at the Sam linebacker spot, Collins said, and can cover receivers down the field. Collins added he’s looking for a player to complement the two in nickel packages with five defensive backs on the field.
Temple allowed the third-fewest passing yards in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season.
“I think that the entire secondary will be a strength for us,” Collins said.
A vote will be held on awarding single-digit numbers tonight, Collins said. No.s 6, 7 and 8 are still available. pic.twitter.com/vDYMEJgqeG
— Evan Easterling (@Evan_Easterling) July 31, 2017
The team will hold a vote on whom to award a single-digit uniform number tonight, Collins said. Kirkwood and Randall have earned single-digit numbers, signifying they’re among the team’s toughest players, during Collins’ tenure.
Numbers six, seven and eight are still available. Matakevich wore No. 8 in 2015 and Walker wore No. 8 last season.