On a team filled with potential weaknesses, the football team’s defensive line hits the gridiron this season as a potential strength. Armed with four seniors, the Owls’ coaches and players said they are confident the front four will harass opposing quarterbacks throughout what promises to be a trying season.
Senior defensive end Mike Mendenhall, a 2004 Second Team All-Big East selection, is expected to play a big role this season. Last season, he started all 11 games and made 41 tackles and nine tackles for a loss. Mendenhall said he was looking forward to this year because of the experience and leadership alongside him.
“This season, I think our defensive line is really going to make things happen on the field and put our offense in a position to score,” Mendenhall said.
Senior Antwon Burton returns at defensive tackle. Although Burton was sidelined with a broken foot last year, he said it was not an issue in spring practice or preseason camp.
“It was a hard time for me when I broke my foot, but I definitely feel I’m prepared now,” Burton said. “Our summer workout program was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I did that pretty well. I’m in the best shape of my life right now.”
Senior defensive end Rodney Wormley missed all of the 2003 season and part of the 2004 season with a knee injury. He made nine starts last season, making 25 tackles and one sack.
“I’m feeling good now,” Wormley said. “Last season, I was still affected by my injury. But this season, I think I will be more productive.”
Senior defensive tackle Adam Fichter completes the foursome. Last season, Fichter sat out with a leg injury that dates back to his high school career and required surgery.
“I’m feeling very confident,” Fichter said. “We look to dominate every game and that’s all we have to do.”
Senior defensive tackle Randy Johnson will be the primary backup. Johnson made 11 tackles last season as a second-year junior.
Phil Zacharias was officially announced in early August as the Owls’ new defensive line coach, following the departure of Rubin Carter. Zacharias comes to Temple with 23 years of coaching experience, including three years with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
The members of the D-Line said Zacharias brings a fresh look.
“He’s a smart guy and he’s got that NFL mentality,” Fichter said. “He knows how to break everything down and knows the game well.”
“It’s definitely a change,” Mendenhall added, “but it’s a good change.”
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.