Temple University’s football team will have its second off-site practice on Saturday when it scrimmages at Penn’s Franklin Field.
Redshirt-junior linebacker Chapelle Russell won’t play, but he is close to reaching another milestone in his recovery from an ACL tear last November.
On Monday, he’ll start participating in live drills. Up to this point in preseason camp, Russell has done tackling circuits, seven-on-seven drills and individual work.
“I think he’s ahead of schedule, and we’re excited to get him back,” outside linebackers coach Larry Knight said. “He’s always been providing leadership, whether he’s been on the field or off the field.”
Russell said he should be ready for Temple’s season-opener against Villanova on Sept. 1 at Lincoln Financial Field. He led the team with 70 tackles before he sustained the second ACL tear of his college career.
“Personally, I feel ready to go,” Russell said. “Like I feel 100 percent. When I’m in tackling drills, everything feels normal. I move normal. And it’s just a matter of time. I’m just waiting on my time.”
“It’s always frustrating, especially [since] this is my second time going through this process,” Russell added. “So me just being away from the game so long and as much work as I’ve put into this, it hurts not being out there all the time, regardless if I’m out for a day or as long as I’ve been.”
Even with Russell still recovering from injury, Knight said this year’s team is one of the deepest he has seen at linebacker. There are more players “above the line,” or ready to play, than in the past, he added.
Redshirt-freshman linebacker Audley Isaacs has moved up the special teams depth chart because of his practice performance, Knight said. Isaacs produces some of the higher effort statistics on the team as measured by Catapult, which is wearable technology that tracks athletes’ speeds and other metrics, Knight added.
“He’s going to able to contribute this year, as well as a lot of those other young guys playing that may have not seen last year,” Knight said. “Those guys have done a really good job out there, and it’s looking as if they’re going to be heavy contributors with us with our depth at the linebacker position as well as special teams.”
Redshirt-sophomore linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley will be a “huge” contributor on special teams, Knight said. Graham-Mobley made 26 tackles in 11 games last season.
Junior linebacker Sam Franklin will have a similar role to what he had last year, when he made 59 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Franklin also broke up six passes, finishing one behind former cornerback Mike Jones’ team-high seven. Franklin has played some inside linebacker and safety during practices, Knight said.
Junior linebacker William Kwenkeu will play both inside and outside linebacker, Knight said. Kwenkeu played in every game last season and started in the Owls’ Gasparilla Bowl win.
While the linebacker group didn’t lose any starters from last season, the defensive line lost Sharif Finch, Jullian Taylor and Jacob Martin. All three are on NFL rosters this preseason. The trio combined for 139 tackles and 36.5 tackles for loss last season.
Taylor played 32 snaps, including time with the first-team defense, in the San Francisco 49ers’ preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 9.
#49ers rookie DT and Temple alum Jullian Taylor played 32 snaps vs DAL… Actually got the start and played with lots of 1’s and 2’s. Better as pass rusher than run defender… Can play a variety of spots on the DL. Heavy handed, has powerful/bulky lower half… pic.twitter.com/0dBuEh54ql— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 14, 2018
Finch had a sack and pressured the quarterback several times in the Tennessee Titans’ first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.
ACT 1: Our hero lines up in a two-point stance outside right tackle and uses a nice dip and rip to soften the edge on Bell and flush Kizer from the pocket. pic.twitter.com/TnQlZVis0D— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 12, 2018
As Temple replaces Finch and Martin at defensive end, defensive line coach Jim Panagos said redshirt senior Zach Mesday, redshirt freshman Arnold Ebiketie and redshirt junior Dana Levine have done well as edge pass rushers.
Levine has the most in-game experience of the three. He recorded 25 tackles and forced two fumbles last year.
The Owls have experience at defensive tackle, including fifth-year players Freddie Booth-Lloyd and Michael Dogbe. Both were in cold tubs at the end of Thursday’s practice and had their plays reduced, Panagos said. Dogbe and Booth-Lloyd each played 12 games last season.
“With the defensive tackles we have in this program, I feel good about the inside push,” Panagos said. “So it’s been an everyday moment, teaching moment, continuing to work that pressure off the edge, so when he steps up our tackles are right there to make the big play.”
Former four-star recruit Karamo Dioubate is playing at an “elite level,” Panagos said. The junior defensive tackle played in 11 games last season, recording four tackles.
“Since last season, he has worked harder than anybody on this team in taking care of his body, getting looser, getting more flexible and it really shows in the film,” Panagos said.
The newcomers to the defensive line group include graduate transfer Jimmy Hogan. Panagos coached Hogan at Rutgers University in 2014 and 2015, and has noticed improvement in his “football IQ.” Redshirt sophomore Quincy Roche has also improved his awareness and can now predict the type of play an offense will run based on the offensive line’s stance, he added.
Freshmen like Evan Boozer, Khris Banks, Antonio Colclough and Tyreke Young have shown good toughness, Panagos said, but they have to improve their speed and strength to adjust to the college game.
A new NCAA rule passed in June allows players to participate in any four games and still redshirt, so freshmen could play if needed.
“If they keep working, keep getting better, game nine, game 10, game 11, if we have some injuries, we can throw one of those guys in,” Panagos said.