Football notes: Strength up front on both sides of ball

Whether trying to reach the endzone or prevent the opposition from doing so, the Owls expect to draw their biggest advantage along the line of scrimmage. The offensive line and the defensive front four appear

Whether trying to reach the endzone or prevent the opposition from doing so, the Owls expect to draw their biggest advantage along the line of scrimmage.

The offensive line and the defensive front four appear to be the team’s strongest units going into the 2005 season.

Coach Bobby Wallace acknowledged the skill and experience among the front four on defense, mentioning three of them as possible NFL prospects. Senior nose tackle Antwon Burton’s physical traits-6-foot-3, 315 pounds-show obvious pro potential, while senior ends Mike Mendenhall and Rodney Wormley’s futures may be at other positions.

When asked about the number of future pros playing in front of him, junior linebacker Ryan Gore went a step farther than his coach.

“All four of them” have NFL talent, Gore said. “Rodney Wormley, Adam Fichter, Antwon Burton and Mike Mendenhall, and then with Randy Johnson coming off the bench, it’s just a tremendous group of talent up front.

“That’s what a linebacker needs,” Gore continued. “That’s like our offensive line. If they can keep the [offensive] linemen off us, it’ll mean tremendous success for the linebackers.”

Meanwhile, position coach Phil Zacharias is just getting acquainted with his personnel since being hired August 4. Zacharias, an assistant on the Baltimore Ravens’ staff from 2002 to 2004, admitted there are technical terms and players’ personal tendencies he is not yet comfortable with.

All four defensive linemen are seniors and largely free of injury. That is a key for Burton, who missed all of last season with a broken foot, and Wormley, who lost all of 2003 to a knee injury but came back to start nine games last season.

Center C.J. Blomvall is the only member of last season’s troubled offensive line no longer on the roster. The other four return, though only three of them are currently expected to start. Senior John Gross and junior Eliot Seifert are back at the tackles, and senior Stephen Bell should start at right guard.

Junior Tariq Sanders was bumped down the depth chart, with junior Sam McNaulty moving into the No. 1 slot at left guard. The starting center spot is currently redshirt freshman Alex Derenthal’s to lose.

The O-line’s most immediate responsibility will be keeping quarterback Mike McGann out of harm’s way. Save for a nagging elbow injury, quarterback Walter Washington stayed relatively injury-free last season despite being sacked 28 times. McGann, four inches taller and 20 pounds lighter than Washington, could be in trouble if he receives that type of abuse.

“There’s always pressure to keep the quarterback safe,” Seifert said. “We do only have one starter right now, but the freshmen that came in are putting in the work and they’ll be there if we need them. But we’ll keep Mike safe.”

Wallace defers talk of contract until end of season
Coach Bobby Wallace declined to address the status of his contract, which expires at the end of this season, at Owls media day Aug. 10.

“I’m not going to talk about that until the end of the season,” Wallace said. “Win, lose or draw, I’m going to maintain that stance because I feel like it’s unfair to the players. This is not about me. We’ve got 30 seniors on this football team.

“If we win five of our first six games I’m not going to talk about it; if we lose all of our first five games I’m not going to talk about it until I’m forced to by the administration. That’s how I’m going to leave it, and I appreciate [the question] so I can get that over with.”

In Wallace’s seven years at Temple, the Owls have a win-loss record of 19-60 (10-38 Big East). They have lost nine or more games four times.

Getting into it
Senior defensive end Mike Mendenhall had a rather blasé reaction to an article on Temple’s difficult schedule in the Aug. 24 issue of Sports Illustrated. Of a slate that includes eight 2004 bowl teams and five top-25 teams from a year ago, Mendenhall said simply, “There’s a reason you want to play Division I football, and it’s teams like those.”

“I look at it as a challenge, and the whole team feels that way,” Mendenhall added. “We only try to control what we can control. We can’t control who we play or people’s predictions.”

Seven Temple football games will be televised this season. The Owls’ first game on TV will be Week 2 at Wisconsin on ESPNU/ESPN Plus at noon. The home opener Sept. 17 against Toledo will be broadcast at 1 p.m. on CN8. In total, four games will be on CN8, one on Fox Sports Net, one of CSTV and one on an ESPN affiliate. … The team unveiled a new look for 2005, eliminating black from the uniform entirely in a true cherry and white retro design. The Owls have changed their uniform or helmet styles four times in the past five years. … Eight of the Owls’ 11 opponents played in bowl games last season. Four games are against Mid-American Conference schools as the Owls ease into full membership to the MAC in 2007.

Ex-Owls progress report
Zamir Cobb (2000-03), who holds the school record for receptions in a career (165) and a single season (74), is trying to earn a spot as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fourth or fifth receiver after spending all of last season on injured reserve. writer Bob Labriola reported that Cobb, 24, who signed last year as an undrafted rookie free agent, does not appear to have lost any speed or explosiveness.

Wide receivers coach Bruce Arians was impressed by Cobb’s ability and energy.

“He was impressive last year. He had a great camp,” Arians told Labriola. “It might have been a blessing that he broke his leg and got to sit around and watch good players for a year.”

In two preseason games with the Pittsburgh Steelers, linebacker Rian Wallace (2002-04) has six tackles and two forced fumbles.

Arians was the Owls’ head football coach from 1983-88. …

Rian Wallace’s cousin, former Owls safety Chonn Lacey (1998-2001), is playing with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. Wide receiver Terrence Stubbs (1999-2000, 2002-03), who spent all of 2004 on the New York Jets practice squad, is currently a backup with the Berlin Thunder. …

Canadian Football League veteran Henry Burris (1993-96) threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns last Thursday to lead the Calgary Stampeders to victory over the Montreal Alouettes. Burris is third in the league in passing “offence” (that’s how it’s spelled on with 2,427 yards and 12 touchdowns. …

Offensive lineman Don Klein (1999-2002) is still showing off the versatility he displayed at Temple from when he played center, guard and tackle in one game. Klein is in his second season as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League.

Former Owl Charlie Morris (1995-98) is a little more seasoned in the AFL. Morris, now with the Nashville Kats, played in three Arena Bowls with the Arizona Rattlers.

Other ex-Temple players in the AFL include Joe Laudano (2000-03) of the New York Dragons and Keita Crespina (1991-92) of the Philadelphia Soul. #

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