The Temple football team will open training camp Friday in preparation for its Sept. 1 opener at Lincoln Financial Field against Villanova. The Owls are coming off a 7-6 season in which they won four of their final five games, including a 28-3 victory over Florida International in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
As coach Geoff Collins prepares for his second season, here are some of the key things to look for as training camp begins:
Temple's deepest position is receiver. Redshirt senior Ventell Bryant, who fell out of favor last year, appears intent on making the impact he did as a sophomore, when he caught 54 passes for 895 yards and four TDs. Junior Isaiah Wright might be the most talented receiver and is an explosive return man. Redshirt senior Brodrick Yancy has battled injuries but appears ready to contribute. Junior Randle Jones and redshirt sophomores Freddie Johnson and Branden Mack have excelled on special teams and are competing for bigger roles. Redshirt freshman Jadan Blue and freshmen Sean Ryan and Kadas Reams had big moments during the spring. All of these receivers can't play, so this will be the most competitive bunch in camp.
Last year, Ryquell Armstead, a senior from Millville appeared in every game but was never 100 percent. He rushed for 604 yards (3.9 average) and five touchdowns. But that was a far cry from his sophomore year (919 yards, 5.9 avg., 14 TDs). If healthy, he would be the key to the offense because he provides both power and speed. He also has great toughness, refusing to miss any games despite the lingering injuries. The return of veteran Jager Gardner from injury will give the running backs depth. But the offense will go to another level if Armstead can escape injury and flash the form of his sophomore year.
Similar to the receivers, the linebackers will be battling like crazy to get on the field. Just a year ago, this was the youngest unit on the team and one with many questions. Now, the sophomores of a year ago have matured. Junior middle linebacker Shaun Bradley is one of the team leaders and has the athletic ability and instincts to play at the next level, although his size (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) might make him more of a strong safety in the future. Junior William Kwenkeu played in all 13 games and classmate Sam Franklin, a speedster, started eight. Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Graham-Mobley and senior Todd Jones, who has improved as much as anybody on this unit, each appeared in 11 games.
That isn't counting redshirt junior Chapelle Russell, who had 70 tackles in nine games before suffering a second ACL injury in November that ended his season. Collins said Russell will be back for the opener and he expects Russell to contribute eventually. Athletic redshirt freshmen Audley Isaacs and L.J. Holder could also emerge.
Last year, the biggest question was who would start at quarterback. Logan Marchi was named the starter. But he was injured in the seventh game and never regained the job as Frank Nutile took the ball and ran with it — and threw it. Now, Nutile is the undisputed No. 1. But with the importance of the position, the backup QB becomes vital. Temple doesn't have a depth chart, but it appears redshirt sophomore Anthony Russo will enter camp at No. 2. Redshirt freshman Todd Centeio, who appeared in two games last year, is clearly the best running threat, and there likely will be packages in games for him. Freshman Trad Beatty is a touted recruit who enrolled early and didn't look out of place in the spring game.