When the Temple football coaches got together in the War Room at the E-O at the end of the season, the No. 1 topic had to have been to fix what was broken.
There can be no doubt it was the running game, the worst in the AAC and the chief reason the Owls had the worst third-down efficiency in the FBS. (The punt return game was also a disaster, but that was because the Owls decided early to use a possession receiver instead of an explosive return guy like Nate L. Smith to take back punts.)
Now, with 10 days left before Penn State, the solution appears to have been toughness over flash. Jahad Thomas, last year’s leading rusher, appears to have won the job despite strong challenges from Jager Gardner, David Hood and Ryquell Armstead. Four-star recruit T.J. Simmons also is in the mix, but someone will have to redshirt and he appears to be the odd man out.
One of the best ways to measure a player’s potential impact is comparing what that player did against similar competition.
While Simmons played perhaps against the best talent (Florida) and Gardner against the worst (Western North Carolina), Gardner’s numbers and size cannot be ignored. He might have lost the job by fumbling in a scrimmage, but if the Owls need explosiveness and flash at the position they do know where to go.
Thomas was nowhere near as dominating against some pretty good high school competition, but he’s obviously earned the coaching staff’s trust by his toughness. Would love to see the Owls attempt a more traditional running game by using Nick Sharga as a fullback to lead interference for Thomas and some of the other tailbacks and, since Sharga has gotten time as a fullback (in addition to linebacker and defensive end), that is possible—probably likely in goal-line situations.
Some red flags are involved in every player, with the possible exception of Armstead and Gardner.
Thomas does not seem to have the elite breakaway speed needed for the position. He was caught from behind in the Houston game.
Simmons had his best season as a freshman but has not played significantly since his junior year (nine games).
Of these players, Gardner’s size and speed and high school stats remind me most of Bernard Pierce and that’s the kind of player the Owls need at the position.
|Player||Ht./Wt.||H.S. Best Year||Games||Yards||Touchdowns|
|Jahad Thomas||5-10, 170||Sr.||13||889||15|
|Ryquell Armstead||5-10, 205||Sr.||11||1,488||18|
|T.J. Simmons||6-1, 195||Fr.||11||1,487||20|
|Jager Gardner||6-2, 205||Sr.||13||2,776||36|
|David Hood||5-9, 185||Sr.||12||1,651||21|