5 Potential Punt Return Candidates


Unfortunately, this Khalif Herbin TD in 2014 was the last for the Owls on a PR.

One of the most frustrating things to Temple football fans coming out of the 2014 season was the lack of a punt return game. After Khalif Herbin got hurt, the Owls’ top returner was John Christopher, averaged 2.0 yards per return. Last year, things improved significantly as Sean Chandler was the top punt returner with a 12.2 average as he returned 16 punts for 195 yards. Robby Anderson was next with nine returns for a 5.9 average. Neither scored a touchdown on a return.

Still, those numbers could not compare to Delano Green’s 2009 season, when he had 20 returns for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Chandler, though, seems to have that explosive first step needed but he is a valuable starter and the Owls might want to consider other options in the return game.

The possibilities are endless, and these are just five:


Nate L. Smith

  1. Nate L. Smith

The leading punt returner in the history of high school football in the state of Pennsylvania, Smith has never been given a long look at the position at Temple and maybe this year deserves it. Playing for Archbishop Wood, he had a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown in the state title win over Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt. He was given only one chance to return a punt with the Owls and that was a 21-yard return that set up a game-tying field goal against AAC champion Memphis.

  1. Kareem Ali Jr.

Ali, a four-star recruit, is the son of a couple of speedsters, his mom, Tasha, a track star at Temple, and his dad, Kareem Gilliard, a speedy slot receiver at Temple. He put that speed to good use last spring as he was the team’s top punt returner in practices. Yet because he would not start, he was awarded a redshirt year. If he can duplicate the explosive returns of a year ago, he should be the guy.


  1. Cortrelle Simpson

He was two-time Scout Team player of the week in 2015 (prior to Penn State and East Carolina) and has run a 4.33 40 at the Ohio State camp. He had an amazing 795 kick return yards as a high school player, almost all amassed over his junior and senior seasons at Lackey High in Indian Head, Md.

  1. Freddie Johnson

If the above three do not work out in the spring, the cavalry arrives in the summer in the form of North Ft. Myers’ product Freddie Johnson, a dynamic punt returner who is the county 200-meter champion.

  1. Randle Jones

The special teams MVP at North Miami High (primarily for kick returns), he is also a track star who plays wide receiver, like Johnson.

Friday: Early Architectural Drawing of New Stadium

5 thoughts on “5 Potential Punt Return Candidates

  1. There are fewer bigger plays than a kick-off or punt return. Matty Brown proved that on many occasions. TU has to takes steps to assure that such returns are more than memories.

  2. Anthony Young was the best punt returner I ever saw at Temple, but guys before me say Paul Loughran was better. Also, other great punt returners like Delano Green, Timmy Brown, Bobby Mizia. I get that you want ball security, but 2.0 per return in 2014 was unacceptable. That’s got to be an offensive play. If they have to use Chandler to flip the field, they should, but they should try to see if other guys can even be more explosive.

    • flipping the field and giving the offense momentum before they even take the field is huge…, we need to find ‘that guy’, fearless like Delano Green…, perhaps one will show up before the PSU game

  3. Kick off and punt returns can lead to injuries unless the returner is small, quick, and nimble. One specialist like Matty Brown, who was Too Temple Tuff Times Two, may be best. A good return man is worth his weight in gold in the NFL.

  4. We’ve certainly seen the difference special teams can make on a season as Owls fans. The 360 degree spin in our kicking game over the past five years had a profound impact on results. The same is true of the return game and I believe for the Owls to compete at the next level (i.e. Consistently beat PSU, Maryland, Rutgers, etc) we’re going to need to fire on every cylinder and accept some risk.

    Matt Brown as a return man was a great example of a good risk/reward scenario. Perhaps not leveraging Robbie Anderson in that capacity was also a good call. It didn’t seem to cost us any winnable games but that’s the point in that big special teams plays are momentum shifters. I hope as MR and his staff are more comfortable with winning and the program advances we start playing to win with the return game rather than not to lose.

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