Only two players on the current Temple roster return inheriting their single-digit roster numbers.
One of the byproducts of the next month will be to find seven other guys to join Chapelle Russell (3) and Shaun Bradley (5) as the toughest non-offensive linemen on the squad.
Taking a guess at the other spots is a little like filling out the March Madness brackets next week: A fun endeavor but probably not 100 percent foolproof.
The good news is that there are probably about 20 deserving tough guy candidates out there. Before the players even vote, we’ll take a guess at these seven with the assigned number in parenthesis:
Dan Archibong (9) _ For my money, the toughest and most talented player along the defensive line and ready to take the mantle from Michael Dogbe as the leader on the defensive interior.
Zack Mesday (4) _ Granted a fifth year of eligibility (see above video), this tough guy worked his way from walk-on to starter following the same path of fellow walk-ons to starters Nick Sharga and Rob Ritrovato so we will give him the same number.
Anthony Russo (8) _ Probably deserves P.J. Walker’s former number due to having to deal with the punishment of working with former offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, whose concept of max protect was telling Russo to slide. Russo should thrive under a system with a little less RPO and a little more emphasis on the run game and play-action.
Isaiah Wright (1) _ Anyone who makes first-team All-American as a special teams’ performer is a tough guy. For the first three years of his time at Temple, two coaches have talked about getting the ball “more” in Wright’s hands but there’s only so many plays a wide receiver or wildcat quarterback can get. If Wright moves to tailback, he’s going to get the ball 15-20 times a game more and Temple’s offense should be 15-20x as effective.
Sam Franklin (7) _ Franklin has been a “jack-of-all-trades” for the Owls, playing safety, defensive end and linebacker and effective in all three spots. It takes a tough and smart guy to learn three positions at the same time. He’s been a great leader who will probably slot into a starter’s spot wherever he’s needed.
Branden Mack (6) _ Nobody made more clutch catches in traffic than this former Cheltenham High star, including the catch that tied Cincinnati with 22 seconds left in regulation. Mack rips the ball out of defensive backs’ hands. That’s a tough guy.
William Kwenkeu (2) _ Wearing No. 35, Kwenkeu was the defensive star of the Gasparilla Bowl, a game he registered his first career start and had a pair of sacks. Due to a change in coordinators last year, he did not play as much as he should have but he has both the talent and toughness to reclaim his spot in the lineup.
Saturday: First Impressions