The first thing that stands out about the Owls’ wide receivers in 2015 is their size.
Pittsburgh transfer Adonis Jennings and senior Robby Anderson, who is returning after missing last season due to academic ineligibility, are two literal big additions to the group. With the presence of Jennings and Anderson, Temple has eight wide receivers listed at 6-foot-3 inches or taller on its roster.
“It gives us depth because you need depth to be able to play the entire year,” coach Matt Rhule said. “And it gives us a lot of competition…We’re excited to have Robby and Adonis, but you know they’re not crowned.”
In their second practice of the summer both Anderson and Jennings looked at home at the Edberg-Olson practice facility.
“I feel real comfortable,” Jennings said. “I’m going to a school where I grew up down the street. I know a lot of people and we bonded really well, so I’m fitting in pretty good.”
After a year away from football, Anderson showed no signs that his skills have regressed. He said the rust has already been kicked off.
“My first couple of days during the summer, 7-on-7, those were a little rough,” Anderson said. “But now, I feel good. I feel better than I’ve ever felt before.”
First few days for freshman
Temple’s practices can get a little loud. Rhule and his assistant could be heard barking orders at veterans and young players alike on Friday.
Rhule said while the upperclassmen are used to all of the hollering that goes on, it is important to let the freshman know it has a purpose.
“The hardest thing is you get here the first day and all of the sudden you got coaches yelling and screaming and the older guys are yelling and screaming at you and you don’t know how to take everything,” Rhule said. “But we just try to develop them and tell them hey this is out on the practice field we’re all in this together off the field we’ll have a lot of fun, so they seem like they’re adjusting pretty well.”
The Owls’ coach said he doesn’t ask for too much out of his freshman in their first training camp.
“All I want to see them do is just acclimate themselves to how we do things,” Rhule said. “Like I challenged some of them. I said ‘don’t worry if you’re not going to play. Don’t worry about which position. Just worry about being the hardest working guy in your group and being the toughest guy you can be.”
A number of players saw time practicing punt and kick returns at practice. Junior running back Jahad Thomas, redshirt-junior wide receiver Samuel Benjamin, senior wideout John Christopher and senior defensive back Tavon Young were only a handful of the group fielding punts and kicks.
The Owls’ punt returners combined for 221 yards and three touchdowns last season. Temple’s kick return average ranked 90th in punt return average last season at 19.76 yards per return.
Narrowing the returner position down is something Rhule said he wants to happen sooner rather than later.
“That’s not a good thing,” Rhule said of the number of players taking repetitions at the position. “We want to have a punt returner. We always look at what areas we’re not very good at. We are not a good punt and kickoff return team and we really haven’t been. In 2011, it was coach [Steve Addazio], the year we went 9-4 we were 25 yards a kick return…The last two years we’ve been very pedestrian kick return and punt return. So we’re trying some guys out but then we have to make a decision soon. We have to get back to being a really good return team.”
New additions, Jennings and Anderson, also saw time returning kicks in practice. Anderson had four punt returns for 17 yards and 11 kick returns for 233 yards in 2013 for the Owls.
“I’m working right now to be the number one returner, kick and punt,” Anderson said. “I did returns my sophomore season. I only got a couple of punt returns that season, but I’m really trying to take that spot. I’m trying to help the team in as many ways I can and achieve things that Temple’s never done. I want to contribute in any way possible.”
Martin-Oguike sits out
Second-team All-American Athletic Conference defensive linemen Praise Martin-Oguike was a non-participant in most of the drills at Friday’s practice.
When Rhule saw the redshirt-junior on the sidelines, he said he reminded Martin-Oguike about the amount of talent the team has at the defensive line position.
“I think he pulled his hamstring or something,” Rhule said. “Praise has the tendency to get injured a lot. We’re doing the best we can to get him healthy and make sure he understands we have a lot of very good players.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue