If the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, the most encouraging news coming out of Temple football spring practice is that the chain is pretty strong.
Going into the spring camp, it did not take a genius to figure out the No. 1 priority was finding some offensive linemen who could step up and play at a BCS level this fall.
I didn’t think it would be an insurmountable problem because the Owls had last year’s starter at tackle, Martin Wallace, returning and two starters from 2010 returning in tight end Alex Jackson and Sean Boyle, both fully recovered from injuries.
More importantly, head coach Steve Addazio, an offensive lineman guru if there ever was one, did not think it would be a problem.
Now we can see why as the most encouraging news is how the other three players have stepped up.
Jeff Whittingham, 6-foot-4, 275-pound redshirt sophomore Jaimen Newman, a former defensive tackle and end, has been running with the first team at guard. Redshirt freshman Zach Hooks has played first-team snaps at left tackle.
Those guys seem to have the inside track on the other starting positions.
There’s still plenty of competition and one of the above could conceivably be displaced. Other names in the mix conceivably include but are not limited to Adam Metz, Scott Roorda and Darryl Pringle.
Since you know a little about Jackson, Wallace and Boyle, here is a look at Newman, Whittingham and Hooks:
NEWMAN _ 6-foot-4, 275-pound sophomore. Played in six games during the 2011 season and redshirted in 2010. Mostly a defensive player, he had 40 tackles and 14 sacks as a senior while playing at Matoaca High School in Virginia. As a junior, he had 32 tackles and six sacks. Also started on the basketball team for two seasons.
WHITTINGHAM _ Also a 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior who also played mostly defense at Temple but was a two-way all-star playing for Atlantic City (N.J.) High School, where he was a team captain and three-year starter. Played against Temple teammate Evan Regas in the 2007 New Jersey State playoffs. Was 2010 Scout Team Player of the Year for Temple.
HOOKS _ 6-6, 305 true sophomore. Played both offensive and defensive tackle for head coach Mike Zmijanic at powerhouse Aliquippa in the WPIAL. Was first-team all-state as an offensive tackle in 2010. Was first-team all-conference three years in a row.
Wallace will be on quarterback Chris Coyer’s blindside, playing right tackle (Coyer is a lefty). Boyle will be at the all-important position of center, calling out the signals.
If they can open a sliver of a crack for a slippery, elusive, runner like Matty Brown, he should be able to make explosive plays downfield with Coyer and receivers like Jackson, Deon Miller, Malcolm Eugene and Ryan Alderman.