Position battle continues at safety for Temple football

Coach Geoff Collins compared redshirt sophomore Keyvone Bruton to former Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins after Saturday’s practice at Chodoff Field.

Redshirt-sophomore safety Keyvone Bruton (right) pushes freshman wide receiver Sean Ryan out of bounds during Thursday's practice at Chodoff Field. | EVAN EASTERLING / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Senior safety Delvon Randall watched Saturday’s spring practice from the sidelines with a minor injury, coach Geoff Collins said. He expects Randall to be ready for Temple’s Cherry and White Game on April 14 at the Temple Sports Complex.

With Randall out, redshirt-sophomore defensive back Keyvone Bruton had an opportunity to take reps with the first-team defense. On one play, Bruton intercepted a pass thrown by redshirt-freshman quarterback Anthony Russo across the middle of the field.

Collins compared Bruton’s play during spring practice to a former Philadelphia Eagle who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

“He wears that number 20, and there’s times he’s looked a lot like Brian Dawkins this spring,” Collins said. “That’s not a small statement. He’s just been coming downhill. He plays with great technique. He’s physical, he’s tough. Everything that we coach him how to do, he does exactly that.”

Temple will have a starting safety spot to fill after losing former defensive back Sean Chandler to graduation and the upcoming NFL Draft. He started all four years of his career at Temple. Chandler totaled 265 tackles, which ranks 14th in program history.

Junior safety Benny Walls, along with Bruton, will have a chance to fill the void at safety. Walls has recorded 33 tackles in 23 career games and forced two fumbles.

Redshirt junior Anthony Cruz has converted from wide receiver to safety this spring. Defensive backs coach Nathan Burton compared the position change to redshirt freshman L.J. Holder’s transition from wideout to linebacker. Both Cruz and Holder transitioned to the defensive side of the ball because of depth at wide receiver.

Walls said he has felt comfortable playing in the second year of Collins’ defense.

“The safeties are the quarterbacks of the defense,” Walls said. “We have to make sure everybody is prepared, everybody is on the right side, everybody is on the same page and make sure we all execute the play correctly.”

Former walk-on builds off 2017 game experience

Senior linebacker Todd Jones (right) tackles redshirt-junior running back Jager Gardner during Saturday’s practice at Chodoff Field. | EVAN EASTERLING / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Senior linebacker Todd Jones, who walked onto the team in 2015 after he graduated from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School on Girard Avenue near 17th Street, got thrown into the fire last season because of Temple’s depleted linebacker corps.

Redshirt-junior linebacker Chapelle Russell tore his ACL prior to Temple’s 35-24 victory against Cincinnati on Nov. 10. In that game, redshirt-sophomore linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley suffered a concussion that kept him sidelined until Temple’s 28-3 win in the Gasparilla Bowl against Florida International University.

Jones entered the Cincinnati game and delivered. He had a career-high seven tackles in the contest and started the last three games of the season. He said the in-game experience helped him get more comfortable with the defense.

Jones’ play help him earn a scholarship, but that hasn’t changed anything about the way he approaches practice, he said.

“I just want to keep getting better,” Jones said. “Studying the film and knowing what we have to do on defense. I was lining up at both [middle linebacker] and [weak-side linebacker], so I can be in there at either position.”

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