As the Owls wound down their two-and-a-half-hour practice in the 90-degree heat Monday morning with 11-on-11 scrimmaging, Freddie Booth-LLoyd made sure he left everything on the field.
On one of the last plays of practice, the offense ran the ball past the redshirt-freshman defensive lineman, but he did not give up on the play. Booth-LLoyd, who has been battling a foot injury for the past few days, sprinted down the field and chased the ball carrier from behind.
After the play, Coach Matt Rhule halted practice to make sure Booth-Llyod’s efforts did not go unnoticed.
“I made a point to the team,” Rhule said. “Here’s a guy 311 pounds, hasn’t practiced, forcing himself to practice on a bad foot, and he runs 15 yards down the field. Why? Because he cares about the team, cares about winning. When you get guys to run down the ball like that in practice 12, in the heat, then they’ll do it in the game.”
Defensive injuries mounting
Booth-Lloyd is not the only defensive player banged up. Several other Owls on that side of the ball have missed practice time.
“We got some injuries right now that I think could affect us,” Rhule said. “So far Praise [Martin-Oguike] hasn’t done anything. Hershey [Walton]’s been banged up. Sharif Finch has been hurt.”
In order for the defense to maintain its level of play from last season, Rhule said it is imperative that players are able to stay on the field.
“I like our depth right now, but we just have to stay healthy,” Rhule said. “Tavon [Young], Tyler [Matakevich], one of those guys gets knicked and we’re counting on a young player to go out there and play. That’s really not what we’re trying to do right now.”
Zaire Williams moves to defense
One of the horses in the race for the starting running back position has dropped out.
Redshirt-sophomore Zaire Williams, who ran for 533 yards and three touchdowns in 2013, has switched over to the defensive side of the ball.
Williams has seen action at the outside linebacker position for the last few practices.
“Zaire’s a tough, competitive, hard-nosed, physical guy and we think he can be special on defense,” Rhule said. “We’re experimenting with it. Avery Williams was a running back who moved over and he’s been a special player for us on defense.”
The move was brought on by the strong play of freshmen running backs T.J. Simmons, Ryquell Armstead and Jager Gardner.
“We felt like just looking at the depth those other guys have moved beyond him and we wanted to get him on the field,” Rhule said. “Those other guys were getting more reps than him and I wanted him on the field somewhere.”
Battling the heat
With temperatures in the nineties at Monday’s practice, Temple’s conditioning and toughness was tested Matakevich said.
“Coach is always preaching that ‘you gotta be tough, you gotta be tough’ and a day like this is perfect,” Matakevich said. “It’s hot. Coach has us running gassers and going right to snap. Getting right in there for a defensive play. That right there will get you ready for this year.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue