Owls turning to young players to fill starting linebacker spot

Potential starting BUBOs Thomas Joe-Kamara and Yvandy Rigby are both redshirt-freshman.

Sam Franklin carries the ball during Temple's game against the University of Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 11, 2019. Franklin's departure leaves an open starting linebacker spot on the team. | J.P. OAKES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University football has to replace another starter on defense after former linebacker Sam Franklin graduated in the spring and made the Carolina Panthers’ roster as an undrafted free agent on Sept. 5. 

Franklin, who played the unique BUBO position at Temple, recorded 68 tackles,  7.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and two pass breakups last season. 

“I’ll be honest with you, [Franklin] was special,” said outside linebacker coach and special teams coordinator Brett Diersen. “I give Sam a lot of credit because we were only with him for one year. It was impressive what he did.” 

The BUBO position is similar to a traditional outside linebacker except BUBOs are given more responsibility in pass coverage, Diersen added. 

Here’s an overview of two players who will be competing for Franklin’s spot this season. 

Thomas Joe-Kamara

Thomas Joe-Kamara, a redshirt-freshman, only played in two games last season while recording one tackle and 0.5 tackles for loss. 

He played safety in high school which helped him adapt to playing the BUBO position because he was comfortable in coverage, Joe-Kamara said. 

“In practice, when they call man coverage plays, sometimes I have an option to either cover a tight-end or a speed slot receiver like [Jadan Blue],” he added. “Every chance I get I try to cover Blue in every man coverage they throw my way, so I can actually enhance his game and enhance mine as well.” 

Joe-Kamara spent time this summer learning the playbook and watching film, which he believes will help him play faster on the field, he said. 

“To me, it is the guys who watch the film and study the film that play fast,” Diersen said. “I just believe if a kid studies the film and buys into that and understands the why of it, they will play fast.” 

Joe-Kamara is ready to take on more responsibility this season despite limited experience because he was in a similar situation in high school, he said. 

Yvandy Rigby

Rigby, a redshirt-freshman, played in four games last season but did not record any stats. Like Joe-Kamara, Rigby also spent time playing safety in high school. 

Before Temple, Rigby went to prep school at Milford Academy in New Berlin, New York, where he recorded 57 tackles, four sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. 

Although Rigby is listed at linebacker on the team’s official roster, he has been getting cross-trained at the BUBO position and hasn’t had trouble balancing the two, he said. 

“I feel like the coaches have done an amazing job putting me in a position to be successful,” Rigby added. “Now I’m playing BUBO. It is a new position but it is a very fun position. Coach Diersen has done an amazing job teaching me.” 

The BUBO position isn’t too different from playing inside linebacker except BUBO requires players to operate in open space more often, Rigby said. 

The coaching staff is optimistic about Joe-Kamara and Rigby starting this season despite their lack of experience and limited practice reps this summer, Diersen said.

“As a group, they have done a great job,” Diersen added. “It is tough when you Zoom meet, you got distractions. So I give those guys a lot of credit, and the group, they are locked in on those meetings and they are asking questions. A lot of times, I have them run the meeting.” 

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