Tight end hauls in halftime award, TD

The sun came out in full force Saturday for the annual Cherry and White intrasquad football game and Kevin Armstrong could feel the difference.

“It was hot,” Armstrong said as he stood near the 50-yard line on a field at the Ambler Sports Complex. “The weather changed, but we all had fun.”

Sure enough, the spotlight shined a little
brighter on Armstrong during the spring exhibition game. But the junior tight end refused to wilt under the glare. Armstrong, a former outside linebacker who has seen most of his Division I action on special teams, was named the Owls’ most improved offensive player of the spring during
halftime of the Cherry and White Game.

Armstrong, whose Cherry squad fell, 17-10, to the White team, was caught off guard by the honor.

“I didn’t even expect that,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t know about it. But I’ve had a good spring. I’ve learned a lot from my coaches, my head coach and my position coach [Tight End and Offensive Tackles coach Andrew Dees]. I’m looking forward to a good season.”

Armstrong made the transition from outside linebacker to tight end near the end of last season and recorded the first and only reception of his collegiate career against Clemson Oct. 12.

“The hardest thing was catching up,” Armstrong said about the transition from defense to offense. “Just figuring out everything I needed to do.”

After seeing action in all 11 games as a freshman, Armstrong got on the field just four times last season.

That shouldn’t be the case this season. After wearing No. 41 last year, Armstrong is sporting a more receiver-friendly No. 88 this spring.

And there are other not-so subtle changes, also.

Armstrong said he is spending more time in the film room and with his playbook. Furthermore, he said he is learning the ins and outs of the offense first-hand from Dees and offensive coordinator George DeLeone.

So far, Dees said he has noticed the difference.

“For a kid that came over to play tight end late last year, he’s done a pretty good job as far as learning the offense and competing at a high level,” Dees said.

“He’s a very athletic player and we think the sky is the limit [for him].”At this rate, Armstrong is “definitely in the mix to be a starter once camp starts,” Dees said. After being honored at halftime, Armstrong showed fans why he received the most improved player award. The 6-foot-3, 250 pound tight end hauled in a six-yard touchdown reception that put the Cherry squad ahead temporarily, 14-10, with 8:49 left in the fourth quarter.

“Nobody was covering me, so I ran a hot route,” Armstrong said. “[Cherry quarterback Adam DiMichele] threw it a little bit behind me because he didn’t know. But it was OK because I caught it for the touchdown.”

The touchdown catch, one of Armstrong’s
two receptions for the game, wasn’t enough to help the Cherry squad pull out the victory. His touchdown would suffice. And with the exception of a false start penalty on the second-to-last play of the game, Armstrong “had a pretty good day,” Dees said.

Armstrong, redshirt junior Travis Manger
and sophomores Steve Maneri and Marcus
Brown round out the Owls’ tight ends. Maneri and Brown each saw a significant
amount of playing time for the Owls’ last season.

Maneri caught a two-yard touchdown pass for the white squad, while Brown also finished with one reception.

“I think they played pretty well, but I won’t know until I look at the film,” Dees said of his tight ends. “I think the production was there. Now, let’s see how well they block. We have one rule: If you don’t block, you don’t play.”

Tyson McCloud can be reached at tyson@temple.edu.

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