Temple fans know differently, though, because the tradition of single-digit numbers dictates the Owls have plenty of battle-tested leadership returning. Teammates vote single digits to the nine toughest players on the team and five of those single-digit players from last year are returning this season. That’s a solid enough foundation of both leadership and toughness returning for the Owls to make a significant run at the overall title.
Other than the bombshell of three-year starting receiver Romond Deloatch being switched to defense, the Owls had a number of surprising developments coming out of the annual Cherry and White game on Saturday. These five stood out most for head coach Matt Rhule’s team.
5. Jahad Thomas Could Be Switched To Slot
Thomas was named first-team All-AAC tailback with 17 rushing touchdowns and 1,287 rushing yards, but all six of his 100-yard games were in the first half of the season. To maximize his game-breaking talent and preserve his body, Rhule said Thomas could be split out and used as a slot receiver.
4. Ryquell Armstead Leads Tailback War
The war for starting tailback appears to be won by sophomore Ryquell Armstead, whose experience as a high school track star—he ran a New Jersey state-best 10.8 in the 100 meters as a senior—makes him a home run threat. Do not sell another sophomore, Jager Gardner, short. Against SMU, Gardner had the longest run from scrimmage, a 96-yard touchdown, in Temple history.
3. Sean Chandler Moves To Safety
Only two players in the nation had multiple interception returns for touchdowns and one was Temple cornerback Sean Chandler. With the emergence of four-star recruit Kareem Ali Jr. at one corner, Chandler could take those break-on-the-ball instincts to the middle of the field and play safety.
2. Linebackers Strength Of Defense
While Temple opponents can be comforted by the fact that All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich has graduated, Temple fans know the real deal is that three starting linebackers—Avery Williams (2), Jarred Alwan (41) and Stephaun Marshall (6)—return with a total of 40 starts under their belts. “Our chemistry was ridiculous (in spring practice),” Alwan said. That meant ridiculously good, not ridiculously bad.
- QB P.J. Walker Is Difference-Maker
While the focus is on Houston quarterback Greg Ward and USF quarterback Quenton Flowers, P.J. Walker could be the conference’s best quarterback this season. If he makes the same jump from junior to senior year as he did from sophomore to junior season, the Owls could take home the AAC title. Walker jumped from 13 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions as a sophomore to a 19 and eight as a junior. A similar jump should mean a title.
Thursday: Real Key To Season