Spring Phenoms Old and New


Great Zamani Feelings shot of Bruce Arians, Geoff Collins and Todd Bowles on Saturday.

Having seen names like Myron Myles and Lou Angelo light it up on Cherry and White Day and disappear a few months later, I’ve come to take a skeptical view of one-day spring wonders.

That said, spring practice is more than a month of hard-hitting and difficult throws and catches so the cream seems to rise to the top over 30 days and this year offers several intriguing candidates. Forget some of what you will see on Saturday in the spring game and remember a lot of what you see below.

From what I’ve been told from people who have been able to see at least one practice every week, these are the guys who are getting the reps that might surprise you (hometowns in parathesis):

Sean Ryan, WR, New York City

After Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright—probably one of the best receiving tandems in the nation—there was a huge dropoff in talent from the first to second unit. Ryan, one of NYC’s top receivers a year ago, seems to be filling the talent void and has made a number of difficult catches with the kind of deep speed that Wright seems to have. Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude likes to use three-receiver packages and do not be surprised if Ryan is able to make an impact right away.


Anthony Russo, QB.  Doylestown

Patenaude said at the end of last year that Russo was “light year’s different” in practice in December than he was in September. Add that to the fact that Patenaude also said early last March that Russo corrected a “looping motion” in his release plus increased playing time with the ones means that Russo could slot into the role Nutile had at the beginning of last year—a guy in the No. 2 slot who is ready to get his chance in a real game. Mix in the fact that the staff is trying to find new positions for Todd Centeio and there is a clear indication that the first and second jobs are Frank Nutile’s and Russo’s. A lot of the Philadelphia area has been waiting to see what Russo can do in a real game and not a practice or a scrimmage and this year could very well be that chance. It took the staff eight games before it finally decided to insert Nutile in there to give him a chance to run the squad and hopefully they will give Russo the same chance this season that Juice got last one.


Jager Gardner, Black Mountain (N.C.)

One thing that has been a relatively accurate predictor of future success at Temple for any player has been eye-popping numbers in high school. Folks here kind of knew Adam DiMichele would have projected as a pretty good quarterback here when he tossed 35 touchdown passes as a senior for Sto-Rox in the WPIAL. As a running back, Gardner had far better numbers than the other guy, Ryquell Armstead, who came in his class. Gardner’s senior year numbers: 2,776 yards and 36 touchdowns on 282 carries. Armstead’s senior year numbers at Vineland (N.J.): 1,488 and 18 touchdowns. Gardner got injured and fell behind and now seems to have caught up. Head Coach Collins said this has been a “break out” spring for him. Since Gardner already owns the Temple all-time record for longest run from scrimmage, that bodes well for this year.

Rock Ya-Sin, DB, Decatur (Ga.)

Already one of the greatest “names” in Temple roster history, Rock looks primed to become one of the great producers on the field in this his first season for the Owls after transferring from FCS school Presbyterian. Last season, playing for a Villanova-level school, Ya-Sin led his team with 49 tackles and five interceptions. More importantly, he has stood out during spring practices in an area of need—defensive back—as the Owls scrape hard to find replacements for three departed starters.


Benny Walls, Safety, Cherry Hill, N.J. and Keyvone Bruton, Norfolk, Va.

Walls was a standout for a great state championship team in St. Joseph’s Prep and clearly the star of Wednesday’s practice when Collins tweeted that Walls had a dominant day. Walls was a two-time first-team All-Catholic playing in one of the best high school football leagues in the nation. Benny has great athletic genes. His dad, also Benny, played basketball at Camden High and his uncle, Kevin Walls, was even more famous–scoring 81 points in a single game for Camden High before going off to Louisville to play his college basketball. Bruton—not to be confused with defensive backs coach Nate BURTON (different spelling) had 18 interceptions for Lake Taylor (Va.) High and is just as likely to be a starter with Delvon Randall as Walls is and this should be a position battle that lasts through the summer.

Wednesday: The Scrimmage

Friday: 5 Things to Watch for at Cherry and White



9 thoughts on “Spring Phenoms Old and New

  1. Like the positive writing and the insight as to what’s been going on with Russo. Given the player stayed all these years, he must have agreed with the assessment from the staff and corrected his deficiencies to the point he’s pushed ahead of other QB’s. Says much for him.

    Great photo. How many programs can point to two NFL coaches as products? TU, the new cradle of coaches?

    Did you notice the Owls spring practice/Arians visit was planted a page in front of the Nitts/O’Brien visit story?

  2. On a tough day to throw, Russo was throwing accurately and with velocity on the ball Saturday. I liked that I saw the “I” formation was used several times. I think Collins realized that he made a mistake last season getting away from Temple Tuff.

  3. the Maryland game will be telling.., Temple should have 7 seniors starters on offense and 10/11 returning starters on offense. with all that experience we MUST be able to put enough points on the board to win every game…., pause for concern is lack of elite talent and depth at the skill positions…,

    before everyone goes ballistic ref elite talent answer this question.., based on what you saw last season, would any of our senior skill position players this year get drafted in the first three rounds? Now, a few have potential which must be validated by their performance this season.

    Bottom line is we must find our identity on offense during the first two games.., last year was mostly trial and error learning by the coaching staff

    • I agree. Wide receivers are elite. Proof of that is that they switched a wide receiver to LB. They have a frosh who is about the size of Matt Brown but faster. He took a punt Saturday and when he started running it was as if he had a jetpack on his back. Also, they will be starting with a QB who is tons better than Marchi. Last season they started the 4th team QB. Talk about coming out of the chute with your feet glued to the ground. Frankly, they were lucky to beat Nova and UMass. Also, Armstead will be healthy and Gardner looks like ex Oregon State and STL Rams RB Steven Jackson.both in size and speed. He hurts defenders when they hit him. The wildcard will be linemen on O. D-line should be ok and d-backs are a mystery.

      • Good report, John. That’s exactly what I was looking for … Collins said the 3 middle guys of his line (Hennessey, Picozzi and Fair) are the best three in those positions he’s ever seen. If we can find two serviceable tackles, away we go.

  4. LOL the idea of a community center proposed to aid with the construction of a stadium is ‘insulting’. You cant make this stuff up guys. I say we give them nothing. They’re playing their hand to heavy, pay the corrupt politicians like always and leave the ‘community’ in the dust. Tired of these delusional ‘neighbors’. Try and imagine North Philly without Temple… I can hear the gunshots and sirens now.

    • Don’t you mean just more sirens and gunshots? LOL. Do not discount the fact that because of the substantial development in the “neighborhood” the couple neighbors who hung in there and took care of their houses now have 1/2 a million dollar plus properties. They do not want anything that might interfere with the substantial increase in the value of their properties.

    • I grew up in the shadows of Temple Stadium in Mt. Airy, and we loved it. Fireworks, concerts, soccer, baseball, and parades. We didn’t need a Pre-K trauma center (smh).

  5. Saturday forecast is superb for a game to watch. Since it will be shorts weather, bring sun block and a brimmed hat/shades.

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