Robby Anderson’s connection with P.J. Walker began on the scout team in 2013.
The then-sophomore wide receiver and freshman quarterback were teammates for a scrimmage before the Owls played Houston Sept. 7, 2013.
The first time the duo lined up together, Walker connected with Anderson on a long touchdown pass.
“It’s a natural chemistry,” Anderson said. “When I mess up, he tells me what I did wrong.”
During the season, the rapport continued. Anderson caught 44 balls for 791 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games. His nine touchdowns and 54 scoring points were second on the team behind then-junior running back Kenny Harper.
Anderson was dismissed from the university following the 2013 season for academic reasons. He returned to the team in June and became eligible in August after the completion of his summer classes.
“Physically and mentally, I feel like I am 10 steps ahead of where I used to be,” Anderson said. “I had a whole training camp, a good camp. I’m on top of my plays and more mature. I feel more ready than before.”
Joining Anderson at the wide receiver position is transfer Adonis Jennings. The Sicklerville, New Jersey native spent one year at the University of Pittsburgh, where he caught six passes for 55 yards in six games.
Walker, a junior, said adding Jennings and Anderson will help a passing attack ranked 86th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in yards per game last season.
“[Robby] adds a big aspect to the team,” Walker said. “Just to go out there and take the top off a defense and run by guys. And same with Adonis. They can run by people and make plays.”
Wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick, who graduated last spring, was the only Owls receiver to total more than 400 receiving yards and more than three touchdowns in 2014. In last season’s 30-13 loss to Penn State, Fitzpatrick was the only Temple receiver to total more than 30 receiving yards.
“I feel that we are a year older at the wide receiver position, which will be huge,” ofensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said. “At times last season, P.J. looked like he was struggling more than he was just because we didn’t have the full component of our wide receiver position. … We struggled to get open.”
In addition to the two wide receivers, the Owls added three freshmen running backs this summer. T.J. Simmons, Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead are all in the mix for playing time at the position this season.
“Ryquell and Jager, those guys have stood out the most to me,” Walker said. “Even T.J. who’s been banged up all camp, he’s a guy that will go out there and show a lot of great things. But Ryquell and Jager are competitive and they are good football players.”
Last season, the Owls’ rushing offense ranked 115th in the FBS and Walker led the team in rushing.
This season, Temple will put a priority on improving the run game.
“We are going to have to run the football,” Satterfield said. “That is a goal of ours, to me more physical … We’ll put some formations out there that will give us an advantage that we didn’t have last year.”
In 2013, the Owls had two runners surpass 500 rushing yards. Last season, the Owls had zero.
In 2014 matchup with Penn State, the Nittany Lions stifled the Owls run game, holding the team to 69 rushing yards on 20 attempts. Junior running back Jahad Thomas said the new additions at wide receiver will help the run game this season.
“Now, you can’t put seven or eight in the box,” junior running back Jahad Thomas said. “You have to truly defend those guys on the outside. They have been a great addition to our offense.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.
Bud Knapp contributed reporting.