As a redshirt-senior linebacker with 23 games of experience in his college career, it wouldn’t be farfetched for Avery Williams to assume he has one of the Owls’ starting linebacker spots locked up for this season.
He’d prefer someone snatched the role from him.
“I’m not here just to let you be a rookie,” Williams said of his message to the younger players. “You’re not a rookie anymore. Once the first day of camp is over, you have to come take my spot.”
Williams has gotten his wish so far this summer.
Coach Matt Rhule has strayed away from a traditional depth chart in the first week of training camp as he and his coaching staff are trying to find the best way to evaluate their players, specifically the younger ones.
Rather than matching the same group of offensive ones, two, threes, fours, etc. against their defensive counterparts, Rhule and the coaching staff have kept rolling different units against each other during the multiple segments of practice.
“We think that we need to do that to see who can operate against who,” Rhule said. “If you just have ones, twos and threes, and threes always go against threes, then you don’t have a true sample. We’re going to try to keep mixing up the depth chart.
Rhule said he will have a better idea what the depth chart will look like in about a week.
There are about 8-10 true freshman Rhule thinks could potentially help the Owls in the short term.
Wide receivers Branden Mack and Isaiah Wright, offensive lineman Matt Hennessy, defensive backs Sam Franklin and Linwood Crump, who sprained his ankle, were a few names he mentioned.
“With the freshman, it’s how long can I sustain this,” Rhule said. “They get here. They start doing it, and then all of the sudden they’re like, ‘When does this end?’ It’s just a matter of who can hang in there the longest. … It’ll come down to how consistent they can be over the next week, two weeks.”
Crump is one of the young guys who has caught junior defensive back Sean Chandler’s eyes in the Owls’ first few practices. Benny Walls was another name he mentioned at the defensive back position.
“A lot of guys, they’re starting to get the hang of things, and they’re really coming along,” Chandler said.
Coming into their own
When Sean Chandler moved to the safety position, a spot opened up at cornerback.
Artrel Foster was one of the benefactors. Rhule said the redshirt-junior defensive back has been the best corner so far in camp. Foster played in all 14 games last season as a reserve defensive back and on special teams, recording 10 total tackles.
“We need [Chandler] at safety, so I knew I have to step up and play boundary,” Foster said. “It’s a hard position. That’s one of the positions that get targeted the most, so I have to step up and play.”
Another player who may see his role expand with Chandler’s move to safety is redshirt freshman Kareem Ali.
The Pennsauken, New Jersey native came to Temple as a local kid with high expectations last season. The former Rivals.com four-star recruit redshirted last year.
“It is definitely nice to seem him finding his role, seeing him fit into the defense,” redshirt-senior defensive back Nate Hairston said. “He does have the tools and like me just needs to put it together and he’ll be ready.”
While temperatures approached 100 degrees in Philadelphia on Friday, Chodoff Field might have felt hotter. Rhule said the RealFeel temperature was closer to 119 degrees.
“We have to do a great job on our end of safety,” Rhule said. “You see them carrying jugs all over. We send them in. We make them drink three Powerades and come back out. … Our training staff did a great job over the summer. They’re in shape. They’re running around, they’re flying around.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue