Two devastating losses into the season, the Owls’ defensive line has yet to show its mettle. After losses to Virginia and Maryland, two teams loaded with all-America candidates across the offensive line, coach Bobby Wallace lamented the play of his defensive front four.
Opposing quarterbacks are rarely hurried and ballcarriers have accumulated 489 rushing yards so far.
There is no single solution for the Owls’ defense, but getting injured defensive tackle Antwon Burton back would be a start.
“We really needed him the last two games,” Wallace said.
A senior and preseason all-Big East candidate had high expectations coming into this year. He was the Most Valuable Player at the Cherry and White spring game as well as the recipient of the team’s most improved defensive player award. The Owls expected Burton to be a veteran leader on defense after he dropped 40 pounds.
“I really wanted to prove myself to a lot of people,” Burton said. Unfortunately for Burton, his season has not begun.
On the first day of practice, while doing pass rushing drills, Burton was coming around the corner, sprinting to a practice cone on the soft grass when his left foot gave out. He had broken his fifth metatarsal bone.
Now, after four weeks of healing, Burton will return to practice next week and could be back in the lineup next weekend against Toledo, the coaches hope.
“It’s no big secret that I’m the best lineman [on this team],” Burton said. “It’s no big secret you definitely can use me.”
“It was really tough watching,” said Burton, referring to his time on the bench.
After weeks of rehabilitation that included bike riding and cardiovascular work, Burton said he should be ready to play on Sept. 25.
Burton, a Sociology major, hails from Buffalo, NY, where he was all-Conference and all-State at Cleveland Hills High. In 2001, he enrolled at Erie Community College in Orchard Park, NY, a school starting its inaugural football season.
In the first game of that season, Burton made the first tackle in team history. While the Kats were going 8-2 that season and the next, Burton was working towards earning his Associates Degree in Business.
When he first came to Temple, like many transfers, he wasn’t annointed a starter. But after playing in the first four games of last season, Burton was starting by the fifth. Last year, against nationally ranked Miami, he recorded five tackles.
The opportunity to play football in the competitive Big East Conference is what convinced Burton to attend Temple.
“I really slipped through the cracks of the football world,” Burton said, “I’ve always been a good player, but somehow, some reason I really never got the media [attention].”
Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 315 pounds, Burton does not have that problem anymore.
In August he represented the Owls at the Big East Media Day and in September was chosen by Athlon Sports as second team all-Big East. Burton feels he will continue to prosper at Temple.
“Coming here, I really got a chance to reach my potential,” he said.
Strength-wise he is the highest bench presser on the squad at 550 pounds, the second-highest squatter at 750 and the second-highest power clinger at 335.
Much of Burton’s success is accredited to his mother.
“My main focus is to take care of my mom,” Burton said.
Burton has scouts looking at him as well as agents talking to him and he is hoping he can take care of his mother sooner than later. But for now he just wants to get back onto the field as soon as possible.
Donnell Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.