Junior defensive back Sean Chandler, who played cornerback for the Owls last year, is switching over to safety.
Chandler lined up at safety in Saturday’s 7-on-7 drills, usually covering one of the tight ends or inside receivers.
Coach Matt Rhule said plugging Chandler in at the safety position will allow him to make more plays on the defensive side of the ball.
“[Chandler] has a natural sort-of ability to make plays,” Rhule said. “We thought, ‘Hey if you put him at safety maybe he’ll sack the quarterback, make some tackles, knock the ball out, maybe be more of a playmaker.’”
Chandler recorded 65 tackles, one sack and four interceptions last year for the Owls.
Rhule said if needed Chandler can move back to cornerback this season to play man-to-man on the outside. The Owls lost three starters from their defensive backfield last year.
“It’s so hard to tell today, they’re just going through the assignments and all that,” Rhule said. “Tavon [Young] had some injuries down the stretch, so Artrel [Foster] and Nate [L. Smith] went and played and they played really well. We have some young safeties so we’re going have to find out how they fit and what they’ll do.”
Patton out, O’Donnell in
Kip Patton caught 12 passes for 168 yard for the Owls from the tight end position last season. Patton announced that he transferred to Tennessee Tech University last week.
Miami Hurricane transfer Jake O’Donnell, will help boost the position this upcoming season.
“I think he just fits right in with everybody else,” senior quarterback Phillip Walker said. “I think he’s doing a great job, he knows what he has to do. I think you can tell he’s been studying the playbook.”
O’Donnell, a local product from Central Bucks High School East, brings a 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame for Walker to target through the air. He caught one pass for 10 yards in limited action during his time with the Hurricanes. Rhule said O’Donnell is a big, strong, athletic kid who fits into the fabric of the team.
O’Donnell said he’s looking forward to playing with Walker this year, and that it feels good to be back in the Philadelphia area.
Rhule said the team will be splitting apart the practices by dividing the team in half in the first three days of camp.
“Most of the older guys, more experienced guys going in the morning,” Rhule said. “And then we’re really trying to have a focus on developing the young players where the coaches are working with them one-on-one.”
Rhule said they did it last year to an extent, but they’re doing it more this season to speed up the process of developing players.
“The biggest thing for a young player to play is being able to process the playbook and the information,” Rhule said. “So while they look good in drills, how quickly can they learn it? That’s why we’re doing this—trying to help them learn better and get a little more individualized attention.”
Deep receiving group
Robby Anderson, the Owls’ top wide receiver from a year ago, graduated and signed with the New York Jets in May.
Anderson led the Owls with 70 catches for 939 yards and seven touchdowns, but Rhule said the team has a lot of depth at the wide receiver position this upcoming season.
“We’re excited about all of those guys,” Rhule said. “[Keith] Kirkwood coming off of his redshirt year—big physical, fast kid, one of the fastest kids on the team. Ventell [Bryant]… in the middle of the year he was one of the better players in the league. Adonis [Jennings], Marshall Ellick, Brodrick Yancy, so there’s a lot of guys there we feel good about.”
Last season, Bryant caught 39 passes for 579 yards, while Jennings hauled in 14 receptions for 146 yards.
Along with the veterans, freshman wideout Isaiah Wright has also caught the coach’s eye early on.
“Isaiah is a guy that we think will definitely play this year,” Rhule said. “Can’t say that he will, but we feel that. He’s big strong, physical, he’s extremely conscientious.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ignudo5