The coming of a new season signals both excitement and wonder. Temple football fans are feeling both of those emotions at the moment. The excitement stems from consecutive 10-2 win seasons and a new expectation of excellence within the program. The wonder is a result of impact players such as Dion Dawkins, Phillip Walker and Jahad Thomas graduating or moving onto the NFL. As these players walk away, it opens a gap for new or under valued to talent to jump onto scene. So, without further ado, let’s check out my offensive breakout candidates.
Ryquell Armstead, RB – 5’11, 205lbs
Okay, I never said every player on this list would be a previously unknown player. As all Owl football fans should know, Armstead was extremely efficient this past season. Jahad Thomas spent the first 2 games of this season dealing with a wrist injury allowing the former 3-star recruit to come onto the scene. He rushed for a total of 919 yards and 14 touchdowns. I’m guessing you’re wondering how he could be a breakout candidate if he already is came close to running for 1,000 yards. The answer? No more Jahad Thomas. When Thomas returned to the team he took over lead running back duties. From that point on Thomas ran the ball 207 times while Armstead only had 126 carries. As the lead back I expect Armstead to burst onto the national stage.
Additionally, the team is rumored to be switching to a zone-read offense. If this holds to be true it only benefits him. While Armstead is a well-rounded back two of his best qualities include strong vision and his ability to make moves in space. The zone read allows him to flash both of these strengths. Not to mention, the uncertainty at quarterback will only increase his usage. I fully expect Armstead to be the focal point of the Owls offense this upcoming season.
Projected 2017-18 Stats – 1,300 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns; 25 receptions, 250 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
Jaelin Robinson, OL – 6’6, 325lbs
This is another case of a senior graduating, so someone needs to step up. Dion Dawkins is heading to the NFL and leaves a huge (both physically and literally) hole in the line. All indications point to Jaelin Robinson being that guy. At a massive 6’6, 325 pounds Robinson definitely fits the mold of an offensive tackle. He’s extremely and athletic for a man his size. This can most likely be attributed to his history as a basketball player. He uses his experience on the court to his advantage. Basketball has helped Robinson develop quick lateral movement and has solid hands on the line. Actually, as a sophomore at Wilbur Cross high school he lead his team to a state semi-final playoff game. According to the Temple News, it wasn’t until his junior season of high school that he began playing football. Even with playing a mere 2 seasons of high school football he was able to gain interest from Syracuse University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin and of course, Temple University.
Don’t just take it from me though. Head Coach Geoff Collins recently was quoted saying that Robinson has been one of the most impressive players in the team’s offseason conditioning program. Also, former first-team AAC All-American offensive lineman Eric Lofton was quoting as saying, “This guy is going to be a f—ing star.” Last season he played in 12 games giving him valuable in-game experience. While Robinson said he was open to playing either of the guard or tackle positions, but it seems more likely he will be slotted in at tackle. At that position, his lead competitors are Leon Johnson and Cole Boozer. I anticipate this battle to go on past the spring, but eventually end with Robinson running away with the starting gig.
2017-18 Projections – Wins the Right Tackle position, eventually makes the move to Left Tackle
Adonis Jennings, WR – 6’3, 205lbs
I know Keith Kirkwood’s name could be here based on the way Geoff Collin raves about him, or even returning leading receiver Ventell Bryant- but I’m going with a different receiver: Adonis Jennings. The University of Pittsburgh transfer flashed potential of greatness last season. In two of his final 3 games Jennings had 6 or more receptions and over 100 yards receiving. Further than that Jennings was a highly rated recruit coming out of high school. 247Sports ranked him as a 4-star wide receiver, so obviously the talent is there. Jennings has just had a difficult time tapping that potential. He’s been buried in a wide receiving core of Keith Kirkwood and Ventell Bryant which has hurt his production. Also, while Phillip Walker improved on his throwing ability in the pocket he lacked of sense of consistency. During this past season, Walker only completed 58.2% of his passes which ranked 74th overall among eligible quarterbacks. This limited the amount of catches Jennings received in a game. With the change in coaching, quarterback and his hot ending to last season one can assume Jennings will get more opportunities with the ball in his hands.
In the film I’ve looked over of Jennings it’s clear he’s a threat every time he touches the ball. Specifically, I looked over the film against Wake Forest in the Military Bowl. Throughout the game Jennings proves to be the most reliable receiver. He shows his ability to track deep balls on his first touchdown and flashes his capability of turning a short out-route into a full sprint to the end zone with his second. He uses his body well to shield off defenders making it easier for him to make contested catches. Besides Ventell Bryant, Jennings is the most athletically gifted wide receiver on the team. What I like most about Jennings is his desire to improve. In an interview in the beginning of last season with Philly.com’s Marc Narducci he said, “I wasn’t satisfied at all with my personal goals…Personally for myself I feel I will do way better than I did last year.” Jennings did just that, tallying over 300 more yards and 2 more touchdowns. I expect Jennings to continue to improve this season and at the very least be the Owls reliable deep threat.
2017-18 Stat Projections: 40 receptions, 800 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
The Owls have spots to fill on offense and need people to step up. At the end of the day, the team is full of talent, so don’t be surprised if someone else comes to take the spot. With that being said, Ryquell Armstead, Jaelin Robinson and Adonis Jennings are who I anticipate to capture the spotlight.