While his teammates scrimmaged against each other on Saturday at Franklin Field, Ventell Bryant stood behind the end zone talking to teammates.
He hadn’t practiced, despite wearing his pads. The redshirt-junior wideout has been nursing a hamstring injury that has been bothering him intermittently since spring camp. Bryant will return to practice at 100 percent tomorrow. Wide receivers coach Stan Hixon expects him to be ready for Sept. 2 against the University of Notre Dame.
Bryant led Temple with 54 catches last season, despite playing in 11 of the team’s 14 games. He ended the season with 11 catches for 151 yards against Wake Forest University in the Military Bowl.
He did not drop any passes last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I’m just ready to be back, man,” Bryant said. “Get on the field and play with my brothers, you know. Whoever the quarterback is at the time, I’ll be in there, getting reps with the first team. I’ll just make sure that I keep my head straight and do what I gotta do and find that connection.”
Last single-digit jersey up for grabs
On Tuesday morning, Temple announced junior running back Ryquell Armstead will wear No. 7 this season.
Armstead is the fourth player this season who earned a single-digit jersey, meaning that he’s one of the toughest players on the team voted on by the players. When redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sharif Finch earned the No. 6 jersey on Aug. 11, former linebacker Stephaun Marshall — who wore the number from 2014-16 — came to Edberg-Olson Hall to present Finch his new uniform.
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick, who wore No. 7 last season, couldn’t travel to Philadelphia to give Armstead his new jersey number. Instead, he sent the team a video in which he congratulated Armstead.
In the spring, junior safety Delvon Randall and redshirt-senior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood earned single-digit jerseys. There’s only one single digit left, No. 8, previously worn by former starting quarterback Phillip Walker.
The players held a vote for the final single-digit jersey, and redshirt-senior cornerback Artrel Foster and senior wide receiver Adonis Jennings seem to be the frontrunners for the number.
“There’s a lot of players on the team that have a good shot of getting that last single digit like Artrel Foster,” redshirt-freshman wide receiver Freddie Johnson said. “I voted for Artrel, I split points between [him and Jennings] so whoever gets it, I’ll be happy.”
‘Seasoned’ wide receiver talent a strength
Temple returns its top two leaders in receptions from last season in Bryant and Kirkwood.
Jennings, who caught the fourth most passes for the Owls, will also return to the outside.
On top of that, the Owls also have several underclassmen who have been getting reps with the first-team offense during preseason camp, including sophomore wideout Isaiah Wright.
“To me, he’s been the jewel of my position,” Hixon said. “He’s probably one of the better athletes. He’s very explosive, he’s a touchdown waiting to happen.”
Hixon added the Owls have almost a dozen receivers that can contribute for the season opener.
Freshman wideouts Jadan Blue and L.J. Holder have also stood out and made plays throughout preseason camp.
But Hixon said given the depth the Owls have at the position, he doesn’t expect either of them to play this season.
“We have so much talent that’s seasoned and ready to go, but never say never,” Hixon said. “It’s a long season.”
Receivers and quarterbacks developing chemistry
During a portion of today’s practice when the first-team offense faced the first-team defense, redshirt-senior defensive back Mike Jones jumped a route and picked off redshirt-junior quarterback Frank Nutile’s pass and returned it about 60 yards to the end zone.
As the coaching staff evaluates its four quarterbacks to find a potential starter, it has plugged its signal callers into different offensive units. Redshirt-junior wide receiver Brodrick Yancy said it hasn’t been tough to develop chemistry with the quarterbacks.
During the portion of Saturday’s scrimmage at Franklin Field open to reporters, a couple of receivers dropped passes. Bryant said it is a matter of focus, not comfort with the quarterback.
“It’s being lazy with your eyes and your hands, you know, ‘relaxing on the catch,’ is what our coach always says,” Bryant said. “‘Don’t relax on the catch. Catch the ball first. You don’t catch the ball until you actually catch the ball.”