The 2014 Temple offense seemed stuck in the mud for most of the season. With three players sharing roles in the run game, the Temple backs combined for a total of six touchdowns on the season, and didn’t eclipse 1000 yards. Fast forward to 2015, no one is splitting carries anymore. Junior Jahad Thomas has cemented his role as the feature back in what has become a dynamic Temple offense.
When Thomas first arrived on North Broad Street in 2013, he was the one eyeing the players in the backfield. Thomas was a redshirt cornerback his freshman year and only played on special teams.
Thomas’ rise to campus-wide recognition took two years, much of that time being spent in the weight room. He weighed in at 177 pounds as a freshman. He has since beefed up to 195, and it has made all the difference this season. “He’s not just making people miss, he’s putting his head down and being really physical. And that’s a credit to him and what he’s done in the weight room, again, just maturity wise,” said head coach Matt Rhule.
(Thomas shakes off a defender sophomore year)
Even as an undersized freshman, his ability to make plays is what caught the eyes of coaches. “Jahad was playing probably before his body was ready. You could see the things he could do…he just wasn’t physically ready to do what he’s doing right now,” said Rhule. His ability to counter the quick moves of a wide receiver translated well in his conversion to tailback. Thomas has a knack for finding the smallest window of opportunity and exploiting it. Take the recent kick-return that he brought back to the house against Cincinnati. After taking the second half kickoff on the goal line, he brought it 7 yards up field, cut to the outside, took it back inside and shed the tackles of two defenders, and burst down the sideline for the touchdown. Thomas’ quick cuts and ability to squeeze through tiny openings are what ultimately sprung him loose and set up the Owls’ scoring barrage in the second half. Watch the play below.
Thomas has rushed for 328 yards over the first two games of the season, finding the end zone four times, including the kick return last weekend. Entering Saturday’s game against UMass Amherst, Thomas is only 29 yards of his entire season total from 2014. His success has opened up the field for P.J. Walker, who has yet to throw an interception and is completing 70% of his passes. In one offseason, the offense has gone from shaky to solid. It has also turned Thomas from a role player to a standout.
However, his season has not been without blemishes. With a chance to put the game away late against Cincinnati with a first down, Thomas fumbled, giving the Bearcats one last chance at the end zone. Although the defense came away with an interception to seal the win, his big game was almost overshadowed by that one mistake. But Coach Rhule is not concerned. “Its the mental approach that I think he’s done a nice job at,” he said, also asserting that Thomas is the guy right now at tailback. With all he has done so far, he should be. Averaging 6.0 yards per carry, he is on a torrid pace. If his play continues, the Owls’ offense should fly to even greater heights.