Temple University’s football team practiced at Lower Cape May Regional High School instead of Chodoff Field on Saturday.
The Owls made the 93-mile trip to the southernmost point on the Jersey Shore for a “change of scenery,” coach Geoff Collins said. He wants his players to get accustomed to traveling before their first road game against the University of Maryland on Sept. 15.
During Saturday’s practice, Temple participated in a scrimmage-like atmosphere where it simulated game situations like 80-yard drives, red-zone opportunities and two-minute drills.
Redshirt-junior linebacker Chapelle Russell and graduate students wide receiver Brodrick Yancy and safety Jyquis Thomas did not dress for practice.
Collins said they were held out of practice for precautionary reasons so they can be ready for Monday’s practice at 10th and Diamond streets.
“We wanted to give those guys the extra day to rest up,” Collins said. “They had today off and will have another off day Sunday. We want them to fully participate in team drills and competitive situations on Monday. The extra day off will ensure that.”
Russell is inching closer to a full return from an ACL tear in his right knee that he suffered on Nov. 2, 2017 against Navy. Russell sat out team drills that put him at risk for contact during Thursday’s practice. Russell led the Owls with 70 tackles at the time of his injury last season.
Both Thomas and Yancy played in seven games before suffering season-ending injuries in 2017.
Collins said Thomas will return to practice on Monday from an injury to his Lisfranc joint, which is in the middle part of the foot. Thomas will wear a special pair of shoes to alleviate pain and discomfort from his injury, Collins said.
Thomas is in a category of “great defensive backs” Collins coached last year, he said. Last season, Thomas made eight tackles, including one tackle for loss.
“Physically, his feel for the game is great,” Collins said. “When watching film from last year, when he played, there were a lot of times he was the best player on the football field.”
Quarterbacks compete for backup job behind Nutile
Both coaches and players have praised redshirt sophomore Anthony Russo’s performance during camp.
On the final play of Saturday’s practice, Russo lobbed a pass that traveled at least 40 yards and fell right into redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Braden Mack’s hands. Russo made a handful of throws, both deep and across the middle, on Thursday and Saturday that hit receivers in stride.
Senior safety Delvon Randall said Russo is one of the offensive players who has caught his eye this summer. Russo is a more mature football player this year than in 2017, Collins said.
Redshirt freshman Todd Centeio and freshman Trad Beatty have also looked sharp.
During Thursday’s practice and the portion of Saturday’s practice open to reporters, Centeio and Beatty scrambled to keep plays alive and find the open receiver.
At Lower Cape May, Beatty drove the offense 70 yards downfield and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Isaiah Wright.
Starting quarterback Frank Nutile said his teammates, especially Russo, are inspiring him to be better.
“Russo has been playing really good, and he had a great spring camp,” Nutile said. “Russo has been making a bunch of plays. Everyone pushes each other in the quarterback room, so it’s great that everyone is playing at a high level.”
Temple has spots to fill at defensive back
Three of the six defensive starters Temple has lost from last year’s team are defensive backs.
Both Mike Jones and Sean Chandler started all 13 games last season. After Jones signed with the New York Giants on Saturday, both are on the team’s preseason roster. The Owls also lost Artrel Foster, who made 26 tackles in 13 games.
Collins said the Owls will have good depth at safety when Thomas returns from injury. He’ll join junior Benny Walls, redshirt sophomores Amir Tyler and Keyvone Bruton and Rodney Williams, a graduate transfer from Syracuse University.
Syracuse ran a different defensive scheme than Temple did last year. The Orange used two safeties who split the field, while the Owls run a scheme where they have one safety line up in the middle of the field, Collins said.
Last season, Williams played 11 games and made six starts at free safety for the Orange. He made 46 tackles, which ranked second among Syracuse defensive backs.
“Looking at practice, Rodney is a highly competitive guy,” Collins said. “We run an NFL-style defense where we move safeties down into the box, move them into the middle from different angles, and he has done a really nice job picking that up.”
Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker is pleased with the freshmen in the secondary and how they have performed in practice.
Against an offense featuring mostly upperclassmen on Saturday, freshman cornerback Elijah Clark tipped the ball up into the air, and freshman safety DaeSean Winston came in for the interception, Thacker said.
“DaeSean is a very serious and mature kid for a freshman,” Thacker said. “He has the best contact speed in the back seven right now in the class of freshmen coming in. It’s not just tackling but the force of which he tackles with. He’s got a long way to go, but he stood out.”
Senior safety Delvon Randell says the Owls have plenty of depth at defensive back. Also, Randell talks about Rock Ya-Sin and how he was able to fit in quickly with the team. pic.twitter.com/KFvNjMqp4X
— Temple News Sports (@TTN_Sports) August 11, 2018