The top 10 Temple football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
RB Jahad Thomas, Sr.
Thomas was sort of a throw-in when Temple was recruiting QB P.J. Walker at Elizabeth (N.J.) High School. Turns out that the running back had the higher ceiling of the pair. Thomas erupted into a star as a junior, rushing for 1,262 yards and 17 scores on 276 carries to earn First Team All-AAC. While just 5-10 and 180 pounds, he’s a between-the-tackles workhorse and a capable safety valve in the passing game. Thomas’ quick feet and sudden changes of direction resulted in more 20-yard runs than any other American running back in 2015.
CB Sean Chandler, Jr.
If the 5-11, 180-pound Chandler continues to develop as a pass defender, he’s going to have a tough decision about where he plans to play in 2017. He’s showing signs of one-day being good enough to play on Sundays, earning First Team All-AAC as a sophomore in 2015. Chandler is a feisty and versatile cover guy who’ll step up in run defense and make receivers earn every catch. One of this season’s priorities will be to allow fewer balls over the top.
QB P.J. Walker, Sr.
Walker was far more efficient as a junior than he was as a sophomore. The staff hopes the trend continues in 2016. He shook off a rocky second-year slump to complete a pedestrian 246-of-433 passes for 2,973 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. And while the 6-1, 200-pound Walker is on the verge of owning every school passing mark, he must improve his accuracy and big-play ability to fully complement the running of RB Jahad Thomas.
OT Dion Dawkins, Sr.
Dawkins is going to spend his final season on Broad Street helping the Owl offense and polishing his own draft grade. The 6-5, 315-pound starting left tackle is coming off a breakthrough junior year that netted him Second Team All-AAC honors. Dawkins is one of the toughest players in Philly, and he’d be wearing a symbolically Temple tough single-digit jersey if it was permitted by the NCAA.
DE Haason Reddick, Sr.
Reddick has one speed—fast at all times. He’s a decent run defender, making a career-high 46 stops in 2015. However, he’s a far better edge rusher, ranking second on the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and five sacks to earn honorable mention All-AAC. At 6-1 and 225 pounds, Reddick has limitations at the line of scrimmage, but he can create havoc when afforded a chance to pin his ears back.
DE Praise Martin-Oguike, Sr.
Whether it’s situationally or in every-down situations, the Martin-Oguike is one of Temple fiercest pass rushers. As a sophomore, he engineered a triumphant, all-star return to the field after sitting out the 2012 and 2013 seasons to address charges that were later dismissed. And while the high-motor 6-2, 250-pounder wasn’t nearly as disruptive as a junior, he still managed to chalk up 30 stops, nine tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles.
LB Jarred Alwan, Sr.
No single individual can effectively replace Tyler Matakevich. Alwan, though, plans to offset some of the lost production this season. He played surprisingly well as the starting middle linebacker, finishing second to Matakevich with 74 tackles to go along with seven stops for loss and four forced fumbles. The 6-1, 230-pounder moves well in space, hits hard and can be used in myriad different ways.
WR Ventell Bryant, Soph.
Now that Robby Anderson has graduated, it’s Bryant’s turn to be the Owls’ go-to receiver in the passing game. In Bryant’s debut season, he set school freshman marks with 39 receptions for 579 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a lanky 6-3, 180-pounder, with the long stride to get behind the defense. Bryant’s objectives for 2016 will be to get thicker and more consistent, especially in the area of drops.
S Nate Smith, Sr.
Smith gives a retooling Temple D versatility and experience. He’s a two-time letterwinner, starting six games at strong safety and one at free safety last season. In his best year as an Owl, Smith was fourth on the team with 54 stops and did a solid job in coverage. He plays the game with passion, and his 6-1, 185-pound size allows him to stick with taller receivers.
PK Austin Jones, Jr.
Jones is one of the steadier components of an offense that’s been known to sputter from time to time in the red zone. He doesn’t boast a booming leg, topping out at 41 yards a season ago. But he’s consistent within his range, nailing 23-of-28 three-pointers. Jones’ accuracy improved to 80% in 2015 from less than 60% a year earlier.