For the second straight year, Temple has an experienced transfer in line to start at cornerback. But Rock Ya-Sin is creating even more of a buzz than his predecessor, Mike Jones.
Last season, Jones came in as a graduate transfer from North Carolina Central and started all 13 games. He had his ups and down but did enough to sign a rookie free-agent contract with the New York Giants.
Ya-Sin (6-foot-2, 190) is bigger than Jones. He is not a graduate transfer but came to Temple in January when his school, Presbyterian College in South Carolina, dropped from the Football Championship Subdivision to a non-scholarship school. This will be his senior season.
Over the last few weeks, a few NFL scouts have said Ya-Sin is on their radar. The Temple coaching staff also sees pro material.
"He is a very good corner and has all the physical tools to have a huge year and to set himself up at the next level," said Owls defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker.
Ya-Sin has made an immediate impression on his teammates, who voted him a single-digit number — 6 — which players earn for their toughness and dedication.
"He got a single digit, he works and he is one of us," said Temple safety Delvon Randall, the Owls' lone first-team all-conference player last season.
Ya-Sin's approach to his job has had a positive impact on his teammates. "Watching him work has made me want to work harder," Randall said.
Ya-Sin is a player with a quiet demeanor until he reaches the field. "Once he got here, he didn't say much, he doesn't talk," Randall said. "But when it comes to the field, he talks trash."
After Ya-Sin made an immediate impression in spring practice, he continued it during training camp. During the periods the media has been able to witness, Ya-Sin has been among the Owls' top defenders.
"I think things are going well," he said after Saturday's scrimmage at Lower Cape May High. "I am trying to get better every day."
The Owls needed an upgrade at corner. In addition to losing Jones, Temple has to replace the other starting cornerback, Artrel Foster.
"[Ya-Sin] played a bunch of downs and had a lot of experience that we felt like we needed at that position," said Thacker, who added, "We love where he is in terms of mentality."
Last season at Presbyterian, Ya-Sin recorded a school-record five interceptions and was a first-team all-Big South selection. He was also fourth on the team with 49 tackles, showing his willingness to mix it up in the running game.
Ya-Sin says one thing that has elevated his game has been facing his new teammates in practice, especially since one of Temple's deepest position groups is receiver.
"The level of competition, competing with guys at a high level every day, has really helped me," Ya-Sin said. "I feel I have gotten better in press [coverage], gotten faster, stronger and I am getting better every day."