This time last year, P.J. Walker was the third quarterback on the depth chart, trying to win the open competition he would eventually lose to Connor Reilly.
Walker eventually gained the opportunity to play due to an injury and Reilly’s shaky performance and has been the starter ever since.
The sophomore kicked off his first training camp as the No. 1 quarterback on Temple’s depth chart Friday, a camp in which coach Matt Rhule said he and his staff will be preaching tempo and encouraged competition with the goal of integrating more players into the first-team offense and defense.
Yet, Walker is heading into his first camp as the incumbent starter, and acknowledges the heightened responsibilities of being a leader.
“I think it’s important that I show a lot of poise,” Walker said. “I have to show the team that they can believe in me by leading the guys and being a vocal leader. I want to play faster and get guys in the right places.”
Rhule also has high expectations for his returning starter.
“I want him to absolutely dominate practice, I want him to play at an unbelievably high level,” Rhule said. “Every year I have my thumb on someone. I think this year it’s P.J. He’s going to have to play at a really high level.”
Less two-a-day sessions
Temple’s staff has utilized its research of various college football programs in deciding to hold less two-a-day practices in this camp, and will instead use many of the afternoon sessions as walk-through periods to insert new plays and schemes.
“We’ve studied everybody, we’ve taken a look at Baylor,” Rhule said. “We’re going to take an alternate approach, there aren’t many two-a-days to be had in the first place, so it’s not a major drastic difference. The one-a-days are long and they’re physical and hard but we’re having less two-a-days.”
The Owls will have three two-a-day practices in the next three weeks prior to the regular season.
Herbin a player to watch
Rhule doesn’t watch a lot of professional football during the season, but he did get a chance to watch the Philadelphia Eagles’ playoff game late last year against the New Orleans Saints. While observing the Saints’ 26-24 dispatching of the Eagles, Rhule saw a player he considered comparable to one of his own, wide receiver Khalif Herbin.
“I’m expecting him to be a dynamic playmaker,” Rhule said. “I hope he can be like a [Darren] Sproles. You know, line up in the backfield and we’ll try to do the same things that [Eagles coach Chip Kelly] is trying to do with [Sproles],” Rhule said. “He was as exciting a high school player as anybody, we took him and we’ve loved him since he’s been here.”
Having played with the Owls in 2012 before a back injury sidelined him for the entirety of last season, Herbin will enter his redshirt sophomore year as a player with experience and versatility.
E.J. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ejsmitty17.