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.