If there’s one player in coach Al Golden’s mind who embodies the envisioned turnaround of Temple’s football program, it’s Alex Derenthal.
And if there’s one aspect that might be the key to the offense, it’s the offensive line Derenthal leads. A line that features four new starters.
“Alex is a leader and a winner,” Golden said. “He’s tough. He should be the guy that really leads this turnaround.
He’s paid his dues. He’s done everything right. I expect him to be one of the best linemen in the league.”
The Owls are going to need one of the better offensive lines in the Mid-American Conference for everything to click. With untapped potential resting at each of the skill positions, the offensive line might just be the key to the offense’s success.
“We have a lot of explosive players on our team that at any point in the game can break it open,” Derenthal said. “If the offensive line can give one of the quarterbacks enough time to get the ball down the field, something big is going to happen. If we can open up a hole for the running back to hit, something big is going to happen. It’s very important for us to click and work together and perform.”
Quarterback Adam DiMichele wouldn’t mind having a bit more time to find an open receiver. Temple quarterbacks were sacked 48 times last season, third most in Division I-A football. Many of DiMichele’s 12 interceptions came as he was scrambling around the backfield.
“If they give us time and they know what they’re supposed to do on each and every play, there’s no way possible that we can be stopped,” he said. “That’s how I feel, personally. We’ve got the weapons and if those guys up front can come to play every week, offensively I think we can be a force.”
That wasn’t the case last season. Though the offensive line certainly can’t be blamed for all of the offense’s woes, it had its share of struggles. Golden attempted to address this last winter, bringing seven freshmen linemen to Temple. He also added Andre Douglas, a junior college transfer expected to start at right guard.
“Andre Douglas has the potential to be a dominant player in this league,” Golden said. “He’s that good. He’s 308 pounds and can move. And he’s smart and he’s tough.”
Joining Douglas and Derenthal on the line are left guard Lloyd Codada, left tackle Darius Morris and right tackle Jabari Ferguson, who was used as a blocking tight end last season.
Morris, a sophomore, appeared in 10 games last season. He was one of 22 true freshmen to do so for the Owls. Codada, a freshman, was named to the New Jersey Third Team by The Newark Star-Ledger while playing for West Orange High.
But the Owls didn’t just add fresh bodies to the line, they also added weight. At times last season, Elliot Seifert was the only lineman checking in at 300 pounds. Now, the line features four 300-pounders in Codada, Douglas, Ferguson and Morris. Derenthal, who gained 15 pounds, weighs in at 294.Derenthal said lacking size hurt the unit last season.
“We may have been a little bit quicker than most offensive lines around the country, but I think that weight turns into strength once you start putting it on the right way,” he said. “That may have played to a little bit of a disadvantage.” The additional strength should help the line with another problem – finishing plays.
“Our motto for this year is finishing,” said freshman reserve lineman John Palumbo. “We want to finish every play. We’ve been working on our technique. When you get tired, keep doing the things you learned. Don’t stop the technique, the little things.”
If the line does those little things, it’s more likely the offense will make the big plays that win games.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.