For Saledeem Major, the finer details matter most.
The junior tight end, who joined the team in the fall of 2013 and redshirted last season, said he worked on perfecting the minuscule parts of the position this offseason that are vital to getting on the field.
“I need to master by technique blocking, first of all,” Major said. “That’s when you become a big attribute to your team.”
Major, who is known more for his hands, has enlisted the help from tight ends coach Ed Foley and senior Wanemi Omuso, in order to take his game to the next level.
“I have natural awareness for the ball,” Major said. “I’m still working on my technique, route running and reading coverages but when the ball comes to me I’m most likely going to catch it.”
Major credits Omuso specifically for taking leadership and helping him get better. The two have been working together all summer on blocking technique and route running.
“He’s been here and he knows the system,” Major said. “He helps everyone with plays. He’s a great blocking tight end and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Omuso, the oldest and most experienced member of the tight end group, said he realized the unit was missing a leader after Chris Parthemore graduated.
“I try and be a mentor because I’m the most senior person in the tight end room,” Omuso said. “I try to help them with pretty much everything…I’m willing to take accountability for the tight end group because I’m the senior tight end. I should harness that role.”
Coach Matt Rhule likes the flexibility the tight ends bring.
“I think our tight ends are really versatile,” Rhule said. “I think they have the ability to be spread out, to be on the line of scrimmage and the third component to that is to be like a fullback.”
“Tough guys” selected
For the second year in a row, John Christopher is a “tough guy.”
The redshirt junior wide receiver was once again selected by his teammates to wear a single digit number, which are given to the toughest players on the team. The tradition, which was started by former Owls coach Al Golden, was brought back last season by Rhule.
“It’s a great honor to be chosen as one of the toughest by your teammates,” Christopher said. “I’m proud and want to represent it well. I won’t let them down.”
Sophomore Avery Williams, christened with a single-digit number himself, agrees.
“It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Williams said. “I’m glad my teammates saw that in me and gave me that privilege.”
Williams, who started as a running back last season and was then later converted to linebacker, spent all summer working on mastering the defensive playbook.
Learning Temple’s defensive concepts, which were new to Williams, was a facet of his game he said he needed extra work with after last year. Williams met with coaches five times per week regarding the playbook in the offseason, and spent hours studying, which did not go unnoticed by teammates.
“I had the toughness factor and I had the conditioning, but one thing they wanted me to do was learn the playbook more,” Williams said.
Even though Christopher was selected as a “tough guy” last season, he, along with the others selected, had to earn the single-digit numbers again. For this reason, Christopher said he was able to stay motivated and work hard all summer.
“You have to earn it back,” Christopher said. “Some people might get content once they have it once but you have to stay hungry and keep wanting it.”
Christopher was also motivated by his family, who already went out and purchased shirts to celebrate his selection.
“They were happy but they were more relieved than anything,” Christopher said. “They bought t-shirts with seven on it so they were like, ‘You’d better get this.’”
Offensive linemen Kyle Friend and Dion Dawkins were selected, but are not allowed to wear single-digit numbers, per NCAA rules.
The full list of the Owls’ single-digit wearers this season are listed below.
No. 1: Open; will be a rotation of players
No. 2: Redshirt sophomore linebacker Avery Williams
No. 3: Freshman defensive back Sean Chandler
No. 4: Senior running back Kenny Harper
No. 5: Senior Wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick
No. 6: Redshirt sophomore linebacker Stephaun Marshall
No. 7: Redshirt junior Wide receiver John Christopher
No. 8: Junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich
No. 9: Junior defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis
Thompson working toward game-shape
Former Archbishop Wood High School tight end Colin Thompson, who recently transferred from the University of Florida, began running routes for the first time this summer on Tuesday.
Thompson, whose medical waiver was cleared by the NCAA, began running after practice two weeks ago with Foley. With the addition of more stop and go work, Thompson is happy with his progress.
“I’ve gotten better,” Thompson said. “I feel real good. This is probably the best shape I’ve been in a while. It’s been nice to get out and run a lot.”
The coaching and trainers are assimilating Thompson slowly. With his injury history, the last thing they want to do is help draw another setback.
“That’s why I picked Temple,” Thompson said. “That’s why I’m happy I’m here because they were one of the few schools willing to really take the time with me and let me develop as a player and get healthy.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MikeG2511.