Kicking competition still wide open

Senior Austin Jones and sophomore Aaron Boumerhi are in a ‘dead heat,’ tight ends and special teams coach Ed Foley said.

Running backs coach Tony Lucas said if the Owls were to start the season Friday, junior Ryquell Armstead would be on the field for the first snap.

Armstead played 11 games as a freshman in 2015 and finished last season 81 rushing yards shy of 1,000. His 14 rushing touchdowns led the team in 2016.

The Owls lost Jahad Thomas, who ranks third in school history in all-purpose yards, but have three experienced backs.

Junior running back Jager Gardner averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his first two seasons. Redshirt junior David Hood, the smallest of the three as a 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pound back, has accumulated 329 yards on 72 carries in his career.

“He’s a good change-of-pace guy,” Lucas said of Hood. “He’s seeing the holes better. I’m pleased with where he is right now. …the challenge for him and Jager and eventually [Armstead] is getting enough touches to all of those guys.”

Jones’ ‘bionic leg’ helping him in kicking battle

Senior kicker Austin Jones continues to amaze Ed Foley.

The Owls’ tight ends and special teams coach said Jones is kicking the ball farther than he did before he tore the ACL in his left leg, the plant leg for a right-footed kicker.

Jones is competing with the player who replaced him for last season’s final six games, sophomore Aaron Boumerhi, for the placekicker spot.

“It’s a dead heat as of [Friday],” Foley said. “And they’ve both done a really good job, and they’ve both been really accurate. So we’re going to continue to collect data, and it’s not going to be an easy decision.”

“When you look at the quarterback battle, it doesn’t always come down to percentage, but the kicking battle really does,” he added. “So you have to factor in what are the percentages of the makes, where are they making them from, how are they striking the ball when they’re kicking off, where does the ball land and what’s the hang time.”

Boumerhi and freshman punter Connor Bowler are both punting in practice. Senior punter Alex Starzyk, who was suspended indefinitely in the spring could rejoin the team soon.

“We’re expecting Starzyk to be back here any day, and then we’ll let him get involved in the competition as well,” Foley said. “But that’s another one that’s going to be a competition that we’ll keep right up until the Notre Dame game.”

Myarick providing leadership to tight end group

Redshirt-junior tight end Chris Myarick hears from Kenny Yeboah every time the redshirt freshman comes off the field.

Yeboah asks Myarick about different coverages and other aspects of playing the position. The two have grown closer since last year, Yeboah said.

“Myarick can catch, he can block, he can do it all,” redshirt-freshman tight end Kenny Yeboah said. “And I’m just learning from him because he’s been here for three or four years, it’s only my second year here. So I’m pretty much just learning.”

Myarick, a former walk-on, earned a full scholarship during the Cherry and White game in April. He played in all 14 games last season and made his first and only career catch on Sept. 17 against Penn State. Myarick said he feels faster this summer, which will help him make plays down the field.

Finch awarded single-digit jersey

The players and coaching staff gathered on the second floor of Edberg-Olson Hall Friday night to watch redshirt-senior defensive lineman receive a single-digit jersey number, signifying his teammates voted him as one of the Owls’ toughest players.

Finch will switch from No. 56 to No. 6. Former linebacker Stephaun Marshall, who wore No. 6 from 2014-16, presented Finch with his new number.

Finch took a medical redshirt last season. Knee injuries limited him to four games. Finch enters this season as the Football Bowl Subdivision active leader in blocked punts. He recorded his fifth career block in last year’s season opener against Army West Point.

Numbers seven and eight, respectively worn last season by NFL first-round pick Haason Reddick and Indianapolis Colts undrafted free agent Phillip Walker, still are unassigned.

Former Owls play in NFL preseason

The first of four weeks of NFL preseason play began on Wednesday. Former linebacker Avery Williams made two tackles and forced a fumble for the Houston Texans in their loss to the Carolina Panthers.

2017 second-round pick Dion Dawkins made his preseason debut for the Buffalo Bills on Thursday. Former Temple defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike made a tackle for the Miami Dolphins against the Atlanta Falcons.

Kyle Friend and Tyler Matakevich suited up for the Pittsburgh Steelers against former Temple tight end Colin Thompson and the New York Giants on Friday. Matakevich made two tackles.

Former Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson will play for the New York Jets in Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Titans. He has become the team’s No. 1 receiver after an injury to Quincy Enunwa, who had 58 catches for 857 yards last season.

Reddick and the Arizona Cardinals will face the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, and 2017 fifth-round pick Nate Hairston and former Owls quarterback Phillip Walker will make their professional debuts for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

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