Temple Football added some much needed depth during the early signing period on Dec. 20, but Wednesday’s National Signing Day may have been more important for the future of the program. The Owls added 19 players, including 12 transfers listed in The Temple News’ 2023-24 Offseason Transaction Tracker.
Several freshmen signed their letter of intent as well, and all could make an immediate impact in positions that need more depth.
“With the freshmen we have coming in, we know if they come in and drink the Kool Aid the right way that they’re going to develop into some really, really good football players,” said Temple head coach Stan Drayton in a press conference Wednesday.
TTN Sports analyzed each freshman that committed to Temple during National Signing Day and how they could fit on the roster.
QB CHRIS DIETRICH
Dietrich committed to the Owls on June 11 but de-committed in late November. After fielding some more college offers and weighing his options, the three-star quarterback officially re-committed to Temple on Signing Day.
“Let me tell you, it’s agitating as hell,” Drayton said. “It’s nerve-racking when that happens, but often enough when they’re coming back to you, they’ve had some time to think about their decision. It happened with one of my great ones– Bijan Robinson. They’re young, and there’s so much going on. You have to give them space.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound incoming-freshman threw for more than 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season at Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta, New Jersey. He will slide into a now-crowded quarterback room but could compete for a second or third-string spot.
WR JAMAR TAYLOR JR.
Taylor played football at Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Florida, and won back-to-back state championships in his final two years. The three-star recruit also had offers from Charlotte, Liberty and Colorado.
Taylor is one of the biggest wide receivers on the roster at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. His size could pair nicely with speedy receivers like Dante Wright in the passing game.
OL GIAKOBY HILLS
Hills played both offensive and defensive line at Morristown High School in Morristown, New Jersey, and earned first team all-county for his efforts. He had 84 tackles and four blocked kicks but will stick to the offensive side of the ball at Temple.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound lineman has a chance to compete for a starting role. Temple’s offensive line was a weak point last season, and several players rotated in and out of the lineup. If Hills shows out in camp, he could make a significant impact.
OL DAVRAY VENU
Venu earned offensive lineman of the year twice while playing for John Abbott College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. He was named most outstanding athlete for his work on the football field, rugby pitch and basketball court.
“There’s some spots you can see where development wasn’t quite where it needed to be,” Drayton said. “He has great awareness of where his weaknesses are and wants to get better. We’ve been successful with guys like that.”
Like Hills, Venu has a chance to revitalize a depleted offensive line unit. Venu is listed at 6-foot-5 and 295-pounds, but he is athletic enough to play along the line. His versatility could be an enticing trait for offensive line coach Chris Weisehan, who tends to train his players at all positions on the line.
LB TYREÉ ALUALU
Alualu played high school football at North Allegheny High in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and finished 24-4 across his final two years. The 6-foot, 210-pound son of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Tyson Alualu also played running back, recording five sacks and 900 rushing yards during his senior season.
The Owls lost a lot of depth at linebacker this offseason. Like his uncle, Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu, Alualu is athletic and quick, and he could play an important role in the team’s new 4-3 defense.
“He’s got a long NFL lineage in his family,” Drayton said. “Understanding what it takes to get to that level, the commitment, seeing the sacrifices both of those two individuals had to make to get to that level, that’s huge for the young man. That puts him a step above in that way. I’m very, very excited about him.”
LB WESLEY BROWN
Brown was named an all-region and all-state honoree last season for Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Georgia, after earning 109 tackles and six sacks. Brown’s Saints took home the Class 3A state title last season, and he played a major role in the team’s success.
The 6-foot-2 linebacker lettered in both wrestling and track and provides more athleticism for the position. He and Alualu could be a solid one-two punch in the future.
DL RUSSELL SYKES
Sykes played four years of varsity football at Rolesville High School in Rolesville, North Carolina, and earned 75 tackles, including 12 for loss and 10 sacks. He picked up a first-team all-conference nomination for his efforts.
Temple’s defensive line battled injuries all season, and the unit’s lack of depth hurt its ability to stop the run and rush the quarterback. Sykes adds both depth and much-needed playmaking at the position. He’s not the biggest player in the unit, but he could fill in nicely depending on his performance in the offseason.