Five takeaways from spring football which just concluded with the Saturday’s Cherry and White practice:
Offensive line getting thin
Usually, you don’t think about offensive linemen being thin but, certainly, the ranks of the offensive line thinned considerably with the loss of former Chestnut Hill Academy standout Darien Byrant to a transfer on Monday. New OL coach Joe Tripodi said last week that his primary concern was getting eight offensive linemen ready to play and that he had eight. We hope he wasn’t including Byrant among the eight because he now only has seven ready offensive linemen going into the season. Byrant could not crack the starting lineup in two years but the Owls have an outstanding first-team group of center Matt Hennessy (6-4, 295), guards Jovahn Fair (6-2, 300) and Vince Picozzi (6-4, 295) and tackles Isaac Moore (6-7, 305) and Adam Klein (6-5, 264). This might be an area to scour the JUCO ranks for an immediate signee as Bryant’s departure has freed up a scholarship.
Russo on a different level
Defensive backs know who the good wide receivers and quarterbacks are so, when Keyvone Bruton was asked on April 6th what player on the entire team has stood out the most, his mention of quarterback Anthony Russo was an eye-opener: “I know he was good last year but, this year, he’s just on a different level as far as throwing the ball, knowing the offense.” Toss in the fact that new head coach Rod Carey has said backup Todd Centeio has established himself as reliable and Trad Beatty is just behind him makes the Owls much more solid in this position than they have been in years. Russo’s TD/Int ratio should improve by getting away from Dave Patenaude, who used the pass to establish the run. Carey’s offenses have always used the run to establish the pass and that’s where Russo’s skill set should shine.
Waiting on Wright
Carey also said that wide receiver Isaiah Wright would be “moved around a lot” to utilize his explosiveness. A lot of people have interpreted that to 15 carries a game and a couple of pass receptions but, to me at least, putting Wright full-time at running back makes the most sense. Up that to 20 carries a game and the Owls will be that much more explosive because they have the luxury of play-makers at wide receiver like Branden Mack, Jadan Blue, Freddie Johnson, and Randle Jones. The Owls have no such depth at running back although Jager Gardner and Tyliek Raynor should be able to split the remaining carries. A guy who came out of nowhere this spring is Valley Forge Military Academy product Trayvon Ruley, where he was a two-time conference MVP.
Open competition at corner
While there is an open competition for the starting cornerback position, Temple is the only team among the 130 in FBS with two returning cornerbacks who have had returned interceptions for touchdowns (Christian Braswell versus UConn and Ty Mason versus Tulsa) and they might not even be the best cornerback on the team because Linwood Crump Jr. has the most experience. Baylor transfer Harrison Hand will be in the mix if he gets the OK from the NCAA clearinghouse.
Defensive Line is set
If you thought the defensive line was good last year, it just might be better this one and that’s despite losing NFL draft choice Michael Dogbe and underrated interior run defender Freddy Booth-Lloyd. Starting ends Quincy Roche, Dana Levine and Zack Mesday return but will be pushed by JUCO phenom Nickolos Madurie (6-6, 230), who had 17.5 sacks in his last full season. Interior is solid with Karamo Dioubate (6-3, 295) and Dan Archibong (6-6, 285). Depth here, like on the OL, could be an issue but that’s something the coaching staff has time to address between now and summer camp. Departures have freed up a couple of scholarships and this might be the time to grab a couple of JUCO impact linemen.
Even without that kind of insurance policy, you have to feel sorry for Bucknell and maybe even Maryland and Georgia Tech.
Friday: Checking The Boxes
(Back to a Tue-Fri-Sun rotation until summer practice)
Tuesday: What’s Next?
Friday: Gauging the Competition