Camp notes: Young wideouts make big plays at end of practice

Freshmen Isaiah Wright and Branden Mack had touchdown catches in Tuesday’s scrimmaging, other training camp observations.

Coach Matt Rhule told The Temple News on Saturday he wasn’t worried about the Owls’ receiving group, and it didn’t take long for that group to perform in Tuesday’s practice.

In scrimmages today with the second team, freshman wide receiver Isaiah Wright hauled in a one-handed 20-yard touchdown pass from redshirt-freshman quarterback Logan Marchi.

In Wright’s senior year at Kingswood-Oxford High School in West Hartford, Connecticut, he caught 25 passes for 697 yards and 10 touchdowns, according to He also rushed the ball for 618 yards on 41 carries.

“Isaiah’s definitely a talented kid,” Rhule said. “But more importantly he’s mature, he’s gritty. That’s one of the things we’ve learned. The guys who play and help us, they are talented obviously, but they’re the guy who are able to give great effort, great concentration, they’re mature. For a young kid, he has a significantly high level of those things.”

Freshman quarterback Anthony Russo also tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass into the hands of freshman Branden Mack.

Mack, a local product from Cheltenham high school in Philadelphia, played quarterback, running back and defensive back in his senior year. As a senior he earned all conference, while passing for 1,500 yards, rushing for 1,050 yards and had 12 career interceptions.

“A young guy, Mack, number nineteen, I’ve seen him make some crazy catches,” redshirt sophomore Derrek Thomas said. “I’ve seen him make some amazing catches. For a freshman, I’m talking one-handed catches … so you know that’s a guy probably in the future who’s going to be pretty good.”

Thomas to open up passing attack

After Marcus Satterfield departed Temple in January to become the head coach at Tennessee Tech University, the Owls promoted then-quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas to become the team’s offensive coordinator.

Before becoming Temple’s quarterbacks coach last season, Thomas was the quarterbacks coach and offensive assistant with the Atlanta Falcons.

Rhule said Thomas will bring more of play-action style of play to an Owls’ passing offense that ranked seventh in the American Athletic Conference with 216.9 yards per game last season.

“I think what you saw in the spring game is who we’ll be,” Rhule said. “Sort of a commitment to play action pass and a little bit more vertical passing game. I think that’s really kind of who Glenn is and I think he’s really done a great job so far. There’s no doubt in the players’ minds who we are and what we’re going to do.”

Looking for returners

On the Owls’ first training camp practice on Saturday, Rhule stressed that he is looking to improve on kickoff returns this season.

The Owls ranked seventh in The American with 20.8 yards per return last season.

As a freshman last season, Jager Gardner returned 16 kicks for the Owls and averaged 22.44 yards per return. Following Gardner, then-senior Robby Anderson returned the second most kicks for the Owls last season, while averaging 14.44 yards per return.

“We’re not there yet,” Rhule said of who the kick returners will be this season. “It’s sort of a teaching install phase. That’s going to be a day-by-day thing as we go on. We’re trying a lot of guys, but we haven’t really gotten to the point yet where we’re actually doing it at such a live rep that we know who sort of the guys are.”

Solid Secondary

The Owls lost three starters in the secondary, but Rhule believes he has enough guys plug-in-play anywhere in coverage.

“I think [cornerbacks coach Francis Brown] and [defensive coordinator Phil Snow] do a really good of rolling guys,” Rhule said. “We don’t stick to a traditional depth chart of ‘Hey you’re the ones, you’re the twos.’ It’s just sort of ‘ this period you go with the ones. This period you go with the twos.’ We think more that way.…There’s some guys on the third and fourth team that’ll end up starting games.”

Some of the players who will be candidates for starting in the defensive backfield this season alongside junior safety Sean Chandler include redshirt junior Artrel Foster, redshirt sophomore Nate Hairston and Thomas.

Hairston, who won the team’s most improved defensive player award in the spring, had 11 tackles for the Owls last season, while Foster had 10.

Thomas said the split practices in the beginning of camp have been beneficial for not only the young players but himself.

“It helps me out because now I’m able to slow down a little bit and look at some calls that I might have not seen or paid as much attention to with the varsity group,” Thomas said.

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