Moving on to number three in our impact players list for Temple football in 2017- we look at strong safety Delvon Randall. There is definitely controversy on this pick- not from the position group, but which of the players in the secondary to choose. My take is, you can choose any of the four, probably starting with Sean Chandler, and you can’t go wrong. Corners Artrel Foster and new transfer Mike Jones is as strong of corner duo the Owls have had in the Rhule era, and that will make the jobs of the safeties even easier. Throw in the fact both safeties Randall and Chandler have another year starting under their belt; let’s just say quarterbacks will have problems against this unit.
The most popular pick of the group would probably be Sean Chandler. The guy who’s starting for his fourth straight season (despite a lagging knee injury last season), the guy who’s on four preseason award watch lists, and the same guy who was arguably second in MVP voting in the conference championship victory last season behind Phillip Walker. Not him.
Then, we examine the corners. Two fifth-year seniors with plenty of game experience. Look at returning senior Artrel Foster who started in 12 of his 13 contests last season alongside current Indianapolis Colt Nate Hairston. On the 2016 secondary that finished third in the country in opposing pass yards per game. Now see Mike Jones, a player who came to Temple with Geoff Collins this season looking to maximize his value on his fifth year of eligibility. Had Jones declared for this year’s draft in Philly, he was a likely 5-7 round pick at corner according to cbssports.com. It seems as though he’s shooting bigger. As havoc-wreaking as this duo will be come gamedays, they are still not the most impactful players on this secondary.
We finally turn to newly awarded single-digit tough, #2 Delvon Randall. A guy who skyrocketed up the depth chart in just his sophomore season last year, emerging early as the starting strong safety on Temple football’s conference champion defense for all 14 games. The guy who the SportsDesk decided will have the most impact on this season among the secondary.
Randall was the most consistent of Temple’s efficient pass defense last season, and he didn’t miss a college game in just his second year out of high school. Revisiting last years stats- he was 3rd in the AAC with 6 takeways (4 INT, 2 FF). Had crucial fumble recoveries at Penn State and Cincinnati, and also tied Haason Reddick for second most tackles on the team (65) for the season. You can watch Randall’s impact in both the pass and run game in this video made by Temple linebacker Jeremiah Atoki from the 2016 season:
Anyone can see from last year’s stats how involved Randall is on the football field, and he will be put to work this season. Ultimately, it seems as though he will be tested the most in the position he’s in- making him a safe pick in this year’s senior-laden secondary. All three of the seniors on this year’s group have their eyes on the NFL after the season ends and Randall looks to be headed on that same path. There’s an opportunity for the Temple secondary to have all future NFL defensive backs starting on one unit, which is pretty notable for a non power-5 program.
Side Note: Let’s not forget- a good pass rush is a forgotten part of a secondary’s success, and something the Owls have been blessed with in recent years. Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike are in the NFL, Avery Ellis is in the CFL, and this year’s defensive line will have to rely on some familiar program names to step up. Sharif Finch and Jacob Martin are both back looking healthy on the ends, and Michael Dogbe will be looking for some tenacious company at DT in order for the unit to keep producing this season.
Continuing our top-5 count down, our 4th most influential Temple Owl of 2017 is redshirt senior right tackle Leon Johnson. Johnson recently represented the Owls in Newport, RI for the American Conference Media Day, and he’s poised to lead an offensive line unit who will have a major impact on the success of this team. Johnson has appeared in 32 games on the offensive line in his first three seasons, including 26 starts. He’s coming off of a 2016 season where he started all 14 games, producing the only pair of rushers with 800 yards and 12 TDs each (Jahad Thomas & Ryquell Amstead).
He’ll bring the most game experience to this offensive line, making him the most impactful of the group. In most cases, the left tackle is the overall best lineman on a given football team (take last year’s Dion Dawkins for example), but the reasoning in this case for most impactful relies on the expected boost in rushing offense, and slight drop off in passing. That of course has to do with the first year starter at quarterback, and with Johnson on the strong side of the line, he will be propelling the run game most often. Without a productive offensive line to help ease in a quarterback, the Owls will most certainly take a big step back from last year’s 7-1 conference record and AAC Championship. This unit however, seems on paper like they can handle the pressure.
If the season started today, the Offensive Line would look like this:
LT Cole Boozer, LG Johvann Fair, C Matt Hennessy, RG Adrian Sullivan, RT Leon Johnson.
The right side of the line will be a scary sight in Johnson and Sullivan, who have a combined 40 starts. Sullivan, another redshirt senior, also started all 14 games last season. On the other side redshirt senior Cole Boozer will be interesting to figure out this season, as he is a converted tight end who made the switch to offensive line last season. Boozer’s 6-5 275 lb frame is at his advantage, and he spent last season as the primary backup to all-conference LT Dion Dawkins. At center and left guard are two promising talents in redshirt freshman Matt Hennessy (Don Bosco Prep) and redshirt sophomore Jovahn Fair. Unlike Hennessy, Fair saw action in every game last season, starting in all but 1. Hennessy will get his first taste of college football after a redshirt season with loads of positive praise surrounding him.
(If you missed the honorable mentions to the countdown, click here for the list.)
LB William Kwenkeu, Sophomore
Counting down from 5 impact players for Temple football in 2017- we start with William Kwenkeu. The 6’1 205 lb. Maryland native is poised to keep the stingy, run-stopping tradition of recent Temple linebackers alive for 2017. When factoring in the impact of all players, Kwenkeu comes to mind immediately since he will likely be handling the middle linebacker duties for the defense. If we were to conduct this list at the end of last season, Avery Williams would have arguably made the cut. This year, just like Williams, Kwenkeu will be around the football on almost every play, and playing with such a strong secondary, puts more pressure on the interior front 7.
This year’s linebacker corp will feature a lot of inexperience, as three starters departed from last season. Names competing right now include Shaun Bradley and Chapelle Russell who have little game experience, but have been highly touted during this year’s offseason. Jarred Folks returns the most experience, compared finally to redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Atoki who was in last season’s mix at linebacker. There is plenty of bodies to fill the roles, but expect a noticeable dip in production early in the season compared to the last two seasons with the unit figuring things out. Along with Atoki, Kwenkeu is the most game-productive ready, and he will be leading a LB group with promise but little experience.
What’s interesting is Kwenkeu isn’t proven as an every down contributor. As a true sophomore, he just has all the tools to be a successful run-stopper at the collegiate level. This past season, he was a stand out on special teams, while logging valuable snaps on defense in place of an injured Stephaun Marshall. Kwenkeu finished the year with 14 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 fumble recovery on the kickoff coverage team which came against Memphis in a crucial point in the game. Even in Temple’s spring game, he was all over the field chasing down running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers. Expect William Kwenkeu’s game to step into the next level this season once he’s able to get comfortable in a starting role.
Stay tuned every Wednesday for your continued countdown of Temple Football’s Top-5 impact players for 2017. Look out for player profiles, projected depth charts, and extended Notre Dame preview reports leading up to the opening game on September 2nd.
Alas. We’ve made it. The start of a heaping helping of football coverage in coach Geoff Collins’ first season from the SportsDesk. Since we will be counting down the top-5 impact players for the season, it is only fair we include our honorable mention players who didn’t make the cut. Remember, these are the players we project to have the most impact, not the top-5 best.
Disclaimer: All of the players on this honorable mention list are NFL prospects. 3 are seniors. There are a bunch of pro prospects on this team (roughly 15 jr./sr.’s).
FS Sean Chandler, Senior:
Champ is in my opinion the best player in the Owls secondary, and many NFL scouts would agree. The reason he isn’t featured in our top-5 most impactful is because we feel there is another defensive back who has his nose in more plays and usually sees more action in game situations. Chandler is coming off of a 2016 season where he missed 4 games with a knee injury (SMU, Memphis, UCF, USF). The Owls were 3-1 in that span, and in their one loss to Memphis, Tiger’s QB Riley Ferguson had a field day en route to a 34-27 victory. Moving forward Chandler comes into this season featured on several award watch lists, including the nation’s best defensive player (Bednarik Award) which current Pittsburgh Steeler and Temple faithful Tyler Matakevich brought home in 2015. Expect a lot of good to be said about Chandler throughout next season, as he’ll be anchoring one of the top secondaries in the nation.
WR Ventell Bryant, RS Junior:
I know what you’re thinking- let me explain. When choosing just 5 impact players, some position groups are left out, and it just so happens there are no wide receivers on this list. That has to do in part with the uncertainty at quarterback, and our predicted level of production from RB Ryquell Amstead. Not to mention, the receiving corp is very good (Adonis Jennings, Keith Kirkwood, Broderick Yancy), and whoever is targeted from one of the young quarterbacks will likely come down with it. I do project Bryant to be the leader of this group in terms of stats, as he did last season with 895 receiving yards on 54 receptions. He did that in just 11 games compared to Jenning’s and Kirkwood’s 14. In terms of predictions for this season, If he does, I don’t see him eclipsing last season’s receptions or yards by too much due to both a new arm behind center and a more even spread to the receivers. Good news- just last week it was announced Bryant is a nominee for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver.
CB Mike Jones, RS Senior:
Here’s a name that come March and April of 2018 you will be hearing a lot of. That is his plan anyway. Mike Jones is a graduate transfer from D1-AA North Carolina Central. His decision to come to Temple for his final eligible season was a risky one, but it comes with high reward. He was already a projected draft pick (5th-6th round) in the 2017 draft before he withdrew his name and decided to come back to school to join Geoff Collins. His logic is he can perform well and raise his draft stock which will help his professional career. He’s part of the reason it is no stretch to refer to Temple as one of the top secondaries in the country. For more on his bio, read my article from the day Temple signed the cornerback.
DE Sharif Finch, RS Senior:
Here’s someone I consider a huge sleeper on this Owls unit, and someone who will have their hands on a lot of stops for the Temple defense this season. Last year chronic knee injuries plagued Finch as he played in only Week 1 and Week 2- which led to a granted NCAA medical redshirt. In last year’s opener he blocked a punt vs. Army, which ups his total of blocked punts to a nation’s best 5 for his career. I can’t find records online but I would bet no other active player has more than 3. Rewind to 2015’s home opener where Finch returned an interception for a touchdown to swing the momentum vs. Penn State- some analysts were arguing he was one of the best players on the field for the Owls that afternoon. The word around the team is that he’s healthy and ready to be a force around the end for opposing quarterbacks.
With training camp starting on Monday July 31, Temple football and first year head coach Geoff Collins are set to defend their 2016 conference title with a revamped unit in 2017. Released last week were the AAC media poll rankings, and the league has Temple falling two spots in the Eastern conference behind UCF (2nd) and USF (1st).
The media hesitation with the Owls largely lies in the mystery at Quarterback. Not to mention a new offensive coordinator in Dave Patenaude, who actually is no stranger to an open QB battle. Last year, he trotted out five signal callers in Coastal Carolina’s impressive 10-2 season. Training camp will likely show more of the type of offense Patenaude will be running, and that will narrow the “two horse race” for Temple at QB in Logan Marchi and Anthony Russo. The returning leaders on last year’s AAC Championship
team will undoubtedly have winning on their minds, and starting September 2nd in South Bend, IN, they’ll have the chance to make it happen.
With that being said, myself along with SportsDesk writers/reporters Larry O’Connor and Adam Miller will be compiling a top-5 list in regards to each player’s impact on the team this season. Ryquell Armstead and Sean “Champ” Chandler are of course returning producers, but with three spots open it will be a tough race to the finish.
Disclaimer: expect a lofty “honorable mention” section.
Starting this Wednesday August 2nd, we will count down from 5 in counting the predicted most impactful Owls in the 2017 season. The fifth report, ranking the SportsDesk’s most impactful player of 2017 will be released August 30, just three days before kickoff against Notre Dame.
Make sure to follow @TU_SportsDesk for additional football insight before gameday including a deeper look at the quarterback battle, projected depth chart overview, a season schedule outlook and more.
Looking for energy? You got it here in the final edition of the SportsDesk for the 2016-2017 school year. In his debut, Brian Roche recaps the three Temple selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, as well as the six others who went on to sign unrestricted free agent deals with NFL teams. You won’t want to miss the SportsDesk’s top 5 athletes of the year, and much more. Make sure to keep with the SportDesk all summer for lots of football coverage here on TempleUpdate.com, and on Twitter at @TU_SportsDesk.
It was a night to remember for former walk-on Haason Reddick, who with the 13th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft was selected by the Arizona Cardinals. He’ll join former Temple coach Bruce Arians and a team who’s accrued 10 wins in three of the last four seasons. Reddick was the fourth ever Temple first-round pick, and his #13 selection is the second highest in program history.
This past season, the Camden native led the country in tackles for loss with 22.5, and his 10 sacks was second in the American Athletic Conference. With 46 tackles for loss in his career, that’s good enough for second all-time at both Temple and in the AAC.
As you can imagine Reddick was all smiles all night, starting with the pre-draft festivities on the iconic NFL Draft red carpet. Accompanied by his mother and father, he told OwlSportsUpdate’s Jared Phillips during his celebrity strut, “It’s great man, the environment, the feel, the crowd- when I came out it was beautiful and where we’re at right now is a beautiful thing.”
When Reddick was asked about if he expected all of this this when he came to Temple his response was special. “Someone told me a couple days ago that dreams do come true.”
He’s been living this dream now for the past couple of weeks. Guest appearing on shows on NFL Network, ESPN and FoxSports to name a few, he has been elevating his status before he was called to walk across the stage in his college city of Philadelphia. He also received “The Key to the City” of Camden in a ceremony on the Camden Battleship earlier this week- and just three days later, he shook NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand for a national audience to see.
Reddick is the highest former walk-on selected in the NFL Draft since 2011 when Detroit selected BYU’s Ziggy Ansah with the fifth pick. Other notable former walk-ons are Texans’ J.J. Watt and Packers’ Clay Matthews.
The full first round shaped out like this:
1. Cleveland Browns- Myles Garret, DE (Texas A&M)
2. Chicago Bears- Mitch Trubisky, QB (North Carolina)
3. San Francisco 49ers- Soloman Thomas, DE (Stanford)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU)
Temple University’s record 4 players at the 2017 NFL combine put on quite the performance this past week. Headlined by DE/LB Haason Reddick and OL Dion Dawkins, the duo successfully elevated their NFL draft stock on the biggest stage. CB Nate Hairston and RB Jahad Thomas rounded out the Owls’ participants, and they will both hope to remain in the first 7 round conversation to NFL scouts.
Reddick finished among the top three at his position group in three events: the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump. Haason Reddick’s 4.52 40 is fourth-fastest in last 10 combines at his position, and it makes him the fastest Temple participant of this year (over Thomas and Hairston). A 4.52 40 is faster than current NFL superstars Le’veon Bell, Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown.
In addition, Reddick had the longest broad jump at the combine (since 2003) by a defensive linemen.
Bleacher Report released an article on Monday naming Reddick as the top linebacker in the draft. That is serious praise for this past season’s AAC leader in TFLs, and he will likely find himself off of the big board fairly quickly come draft day in in April on Ben Franklin Parkway. “As a result, the former walk-on is now in position to become a potential top-15 selection.”
Dawkins received 10th best NFL.com Offensive Line grade, a graded total factoring all of the combine measurables in one score. The first team All-Conference LT ran the 2nd fastest 3 cone drill time among offensive lineman. Dawkins is still retaining his draft status somewhere in the mid second round area.
NFL.com added this about Dawkins’ current draft stock:
“Quality tackle who operates with good balance and solid technique. Shows some good initial quickness and a smooth kick-slide out of his stance, but might be better in short areas as a guard rather than in open space as a tackle. He’s athletic enough to operate in space, but power appears to be his calling card. His wide-hand approach in pass protection could be a difficult habit to break, but he has the natural power to withstand bull rush that might come with that. Dawkins is a well-schooled, three-year starter who has chance to transition into an early starter.”
Thomas’ performance at the combine didn’t exactly wow NFL scouts at the combine, and none of the 2nd leading scorer in conference combine test results landed in the top-10 of 2017 RBs. This is the same player who came into the NCAA with as an underdog without many other big time division 1 offers (Boston College, Monmouth).
According to NFL.com here is the low-down on his draft value as of today:
“Productive running back lacking in NFL-caliber size and strength but who makes up for it with his quickness and ability to help as a pass catcher and return man. While it’s hard to imagine him handling more than just a few carries per game as an NFL runner, his roster flexibility could work in his advantage. With his ability to operate from the slot and as a jet-sweep runner, he could be an interesting toy for a creative play-caller.”
Hairston was recruited as a wide receiver, and even logged offensive snaps under coach Matt Rhule for two seasons before converting to defense his junior year. The Frederick, MD native’s 4.53 40-yard dash was 8th best for a corner. Hairston’s quality performance in the East-West shrine game brought attention to in-game impact of the CB, but NFL scouts are uneasy with the low targets Hairston received from opposing QB’s during the Owl’s 2016 championship season.
NFL.com pegged Hairston’s bottom line as the following:
Raw but very moldable prospect. Hairston shows good awareness from zone and his physical style and willingness to come tackle make him an immediate fit for primarily zone cover teams. However he may have the tools to eventually become a solid bump-and-run cornerback as he becomes more experienced at the position. Hairston is a projection-based talent who should become a much better player in two years than he is today.”
As signing day has came and went on North Broad street, Temple Football has welcomed Mike Jones of North Carolina Central, and 16 high school athletes to the team. Headlined by three 3-star talents, Geoff Collins has done what he can in his first year, in a quick turnaround recruiting process for the Temple coaching staff. Meet your new faces for the Owls:
QB Todd Centeio [6’1” 205lbs] – West Palm Beach (FL)
Centeio is one of two recruits who is currently enrolled at Temple and has started taking classes as a freshman. Centeio is a pro-style quarterback who threw for 2,344 yards and 31 touchdowns his senior season at William T. Dwyer under head coach Ron Jack Daniels. The poised passer was a Lou Groza award finalist, as well as a two-time Sun Sentinel Super 11 pick. Other notable offers: Miami (FL), Nebraska, NC State.
OL Griffin Sestili [6’3” 260lbs] – North Allegheny (PA)
A versatile lineman on the offense, Sestili played tight end and racked up 12 catches for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns during his high school career. Earned first-team all conference honors as a senior. Other notable offers: Pitt, West Virginia, Virginia.
DL Malik Burns [6’2” 220lbs] – Lackey (MD)
Arguably the most decorated of all 16 high school recruits signed by the Owls, Malik Burns was the 2016 All-Southern Maryland Athletic Conference most outstanding player. In addition, Burns was an all-conference selection at 2 positions (DE,RB) his senior year, and all county player of the year. Had 68 tackles senior year including 4 fumble recoveries. As a running back, rushed for the most yards in the state of Maryland in 2016 with 2,290 yards and 26 touchdowns. Shares the same high school as current Owl Cortrelle Simpson. Other notable offers: Toledo, Monmouth, East Carolina.
WR LJ Holder [6’3″ 205lbs] – Manalapan (NJ)
Played wide receiver for an 11-1, NJSIAA CJG5 championship runner up Manalapan High School Braves. Ranked #10 on the Super 60 Shore Conference recruits in the 2017 class. Compiled 644 yards and 9 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons.
DE Arnold Ebiketie [6’4” 205lbs] – Albert Einstein (MD)
A three sport athlete at Albert Einstein high school, Arnold Ebiketie played linebacker and wide receiver, and earned co-defensive player of the year for his 21.5 sack, 36 TFL performance his senior year. Also caught 3 touchdowns for 298 yards as wide out.
TE/DE Emil Moody [6’5” 210lbs] – Neumann-Goretti (PA)
A local pick up for the Owls, Emil Moody set a school season record with 17 sacks, also led his team in receiving in both his junior and senior seasons. A player with experience on both sides of the ball, coach Geoff Collins stressed the importance of position flexibility.
DB Dearage ‘Ty’ Mason [5’10” 170lbs] – Blake (MD)
A national record holder in the track and field long jump at indoor nationals with a jump of 23’5, Ty Mason finished his senior year with 8 interceptions and 36 solo tackles for coach DeShawn Anderson at James Hubert Blake High School. Was selected to compete in the 2016 Maryland Crab Bowl, also chosen to the All-MOCO and All-Met football teams. Will join a deep secondary unit that led the conference in pass defense last season.
LB Audley Isaacs [6’1” 210lbs ]- Valley Forge Military Academy
Another local pickup for the Owls, Audley Isaacs played running back and linebacker at Valley Forge Military Academy. During his senior season, selected to the all Southeastern Pa. team at linebacker. Tallied 133 tackles to go along with 1,123 rushing yards in 2016. Selected to the Blue-Gray Regional combine.
WR Jadan Blue [5’11” 175lbs] – Peddie Prep (NJ)
The third Maryland recruit on the list, Jadan Blue played wide receiver and defensive back at Peddie Prep High in Hightstown, New Jersey. Blue finished his senior season with first team honors at receiver in both his conference and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League. Blue played just 5 games and tallied 23 catches for 457 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in 2016.
DL Ifeanyi Maijeh [6’2” 260lbs] – Poly Prep (NY)
A quarterback’s terror from the Big Apple, Ifeanyi Maijeh was named defensive MVP of the Ivy League conference his senior season, as well as being named first-team all city. Led his team with 9 sacks in 2016 and 7 TFL.
DB/WR Collin Washington [6’0” 170lbs] – Central (PA)
The city’s very own, Collin Washington played wide receiver for for Temple WR Rich Drayton of Central High. Also competed in track and field, and was part of first place 4×400 relay team at the Penn Relays during the 2016 outdoor season.
OL James Makszin [6’4″ 285lbs] – Norwalk (CT)
The biggest of the 2017 recruiting class, James Makslin played offense and defensive lines and was named to the Walter Camp all-state first-team for offense in 2016. Also New Haven Register all-state first-team, CHCSA all-state, and All-Connecticut Region first team for defensive line.
DB Christian Braswell [5’10” 160lbs] – Friendship Collegiate Academy (DC)
An addition from the state capital, Christian Braswell led his team to first DCSAA Class 2A title since 2012. Played wide receiver and defensive back, earning 2016All-USA D.C honors in 2016 at DB. Also named to the 2016 Senior Under Armour elite 100 that honors the top high school players in D.C and Maryland.
WR Jeremy Jennings [5’10″ 180lbs] – Downingtown (PA)
Coach Geoff Collins noted the special presence that is Jeremy Jennings in his press conference yesterday, and the 3-year starter at receiver has a record of 34-9 at Downingtown East High under head coach Michael Matta. Hauled in 45 catches for 480 yards and 8 touchdowns his senior season. Also a track and field athlete.
LB Casey Williams [6’3” 220lbs] – South Philadelphia (PA)
Another running back and linebacker duo to add to Taver Johnson’s first year defensive unit, Casey Williams was selected to play in the Philadelphia City all-star game, where he then recorded 15 tackles and 2 rushing touchdowns. Played in just 4 games during his senior season.
Just one day before the NCAA’s February 1st signing day, head coach Geoff Collins and Temple Football added a decorated cornerback and return man to the program. Mike Jones, a native of Baltimore, Maryland- has 11 career INTs and over 600 punt return yards in his 3 seasons at North Carolina Central. In 2016, the team won the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference championship, while Jones was an All-MEAC selection at defensive back.
Jones announced he was leaving NC Central via his Instagram page in December 2016.
With plenty of success in the Mid-East Atlantic Conference also came with NFL draft possibilities. Entering this past bowl season, ESPN Draft analyst Todd McShay said Jones “stands out to me as the best” of a list of late round draft choices. Instead of declaring for the 2017 NFL draft- Jones chose to play for Taver Johnson’s defense under Geoff Collins.
Temple’s defense graduated starting cornerback Nate Hairston after last season, and Jones will be primed to step into a starting role. Complete the secondary with safeties Sean Chandler and Delvon Randall, an opposing cornerback slot will be open for competition in the spring and summer- likely to be last year’s starter Artrel Foster. The unit that last year led the AAC in pass defense, and ranked nationally in opposing total pass yards per game allowed (150.2) and touchdowns allowed (13).
In 2016, Jones made 30 tackles and had two interceptions and five pass break-ups. As a returner, he averaged 22.0 yards per punt return with two touchdowns.