After practicing at Penn’s Franklin Field on Saturday, the Owls returned to 10th and Diamond streets as they begin to prepare for their opener on Sept. 1 against Villanova at Lincoln Financial Field.
Above the line tight ends
The Owls have four tight ends — redshirt sophomore Kenny Yeboah, graduate student Chris Myarick, redshirt junior Jake Robinson and freshman David Martin-Robinson — who are “above the line,” or ready to be in-game contributors, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Ed Foley said.
Myarick and Yeboah have gotten the majority of first-team reps during training camp. Foley is pleased with the skill sets that those two offer.
“For me, I have two starters at the tight end position,” Foley said. “They’re two different personalities. Chris is a little bit more of an experienced run-game guy, but he can also catch. Kenny is more of a primary catching tight end, so the two compliment each other very well.”
Foley has seen significant improvement in Yeboah’s game since the start of camp, especially his pass-catching ability in the red zone. Myarick has been more of a physical tight end, but he has also shown that he is capable of playing as a slot receiver, Foley said.
David Martin-Robinson has been in the special teams room for the entirety of camp, and is “learning it all,” Foley said.
“[Martin-Robinson] is learning the protection, routes, and blocking, and he is very smart so he is able to pick up on stuff so quickly and perform at such a high level for being a first-year guy,” Foley said. “I expect him to be able to do a lot for us.”
“Exotic” special team schemes
Foley expects Temple will use a couple of different special team schemes in his second season with coach Geoff Collins.
“We’re more comfortable with each other, and I’m more comfortable with what Geoff is used to running,” Foley said. “We’re going to come out with a lot more exotic stuff than we have in the past. …We are going to have all kinds of different motions, fakes and reverses this year.”
Foley expects junior wide receiver Isaiah Wright to be the starting punt and kick returner for the Owls when they face Villanova.
“In my time here as a coach at Temple, I feel like this is the best our return game has ever been,” Foley said. “Isaiah has a chance to be the best in our conference, and if for some reason he goes down, we have so many guys who can step into that role. So this is the best I’ve ever felt.”
Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Freddie Johnson has also been a stand out at camp on special teams, Foley said. Johnson can return both punts and kickoffs, plus his ability to block separates him from other players, Foley added.
Redshirt-freshman wide receiver Jadan Blue has also impressed during the past couple of practices with “eye-opening returns,” Foley said. He added that Blue has had a big impact in his short time as an Owl on special teams.
Ryquell Armstead is embracing a leadership role
As a senior, running back Ryquell Armstead has taken the role of a vocal leader.
In past years, Armstead was more of a “get your job done guy,” redshirt-senior fullback Rob Ritrovato said. But this year, Armstead has been more vocal, especially with younger players.
“This year, we have really seen him going a step beyond with teaching the young guys,” Ritrovato said. “Me and him have had different coaches through our years here, and I feel like he has done a great job of picking up different coaching philosophies that has helped him become a smart teacher, and a great leader.”
Armstead didn’t participate during Temple’s practice on Saturday, but he was still on the field during the second half.
When the offense’s third and fourth strings were on the field, Armstead was behind the running backs helping them get lined up and run the play. With freshmen like Kyle Dobbins and Layton Jordan learning the offense, Armstead has played the role of an “extra teacher in the classroom,” running backs coach Tony Lucas said.
During running back meetings, Lucas said he is able to split the room up into two groups. Lucas leads one group, while Armstead guides the other during meetings.
“Leadership comes with experience and playing time,” Armstead said. “Whenever I see a problem, my first instinct is to address it right away so it doesn’t pile up and makes everything easier on the coaches.”
Ritrovato earns single-digit number
Ritrovato switched from No. 45 to No. 4 after he received the single-digit number on Tuesday morning. In Temple’s program, wearing a single-digit number signifies toughness.
Ritrovato said former wideout Ryan Alderman, who joined Temple’s roster as a walk-on, played from 2009-13 and earned a single-digit number, told him before coming to Temple that if he is willing to “stick it out” and work hard he will be rewarded.
Alderman, who also wore the No. 4 during his senior season, was one of the main reasons Ritrovato chose to attend Temple. Ritrovato joined the Owls’ roster as a walk-on in 2014.
“When you come to a place like this, this is an honor you strive for,” Ritrovato said. “I am really happy I get to represent guys like [Alderman], [former running back] Kenny Harper and [former fullback] Nick Sharga.”
In 2017, Ritrovato recorded career-highs of 37 carries for 178 yards and scored a touchdown. He also contributed on special teams units.
This season, Ritrovato is expected to have an expanded role. The coaches see Ritrovato as a potential No. 2 running back behind Armstead. Armstead didn’t practice Saturday partially because the coaches wanted to see how Ritrovato would fit into the offense as the feature back, Lucas said.
“Nitro is one of those guys that leads by actions,” Armstead said. “He has a positive impact on the team. …Nitro is my security blanket, and he truly embodies Temple Tuff.”