The biggest question mark for Temple’s offense is the running back position, but two players have emerged as the leaders for playing time early in training camp.
After Tuesday’s 6 a.m. practice, offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich listed graduate student Jager Gardner and redshirt freshman Kyle Dobbins, a graduate of Timber Creek, as the top two backs.
“Kyle has done a good job and Gardner has done a good job and a bunch of other guys are trying to be the third back,” Uremovich said.
At this point, Uremovich said the two have separated themselves from the competition, but he cautioned that it is early. Temple has had just six practices and none have been in full pads.
Temple has the difficult task of replacing Ryquell Armstead, a fifth-round draft pick by Jacksonville who rushed for 1,098 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Gardner has seen his career marred by injury. Last season was his most active, as he had 65 carries for 253 yards (3.9 average) and one touchdown. He said his patience is paying off.
“If you’re patient, doors will open up to you,” Gardner said.
The 5-11, 186-pound Dobbins was patient last year when he didn’t see any game action. He is considered the much better home-run threat among the two.
“He is quick, fast, he does do things with the ball in hands,” Uremovich said about Dobbins. “What I like about him is we run a lot of zone schemes and gap schemes and he is downhill.”
Unlike last year, when Armstead saw the bulk of the action despite missing two games with injury, this year it appears Temple will go with running back by committee.
Head coach Rod Carey and Uremovich have said that receiver Isaiah Wright will also line up in the backfield, earning his share of carries.
The coaches hope that the other running backs develop so Wright, a Sporting News first-team selection as a return man, can stay mainly at wide receiver.
In addition, another running back candidate, redshirt junior Tyliek Raynor, is currently suspended, according to a team official. There was no reason given for the suspension. Raynor had an injury-plagued 2018 season that limited him to 12 carries, but he did score on a 15-yard touchdown run in the Owls’ 24-17 win at Navy on Oct. 13.
Freshman Re’Mahn Davis is among the other running backs who could figure into the picture.
Uremovich added that Jeremy Jennings, a redshirt sophomore from Downingtown East and one of the fastest players on the team, has moved from running back to receiver.
Jennings began his career as a receiver and became a running back last year. He had a career-high six carries in the Owls’ 56-27 loss to Duke in the Independence Bowl. Now he will play primarily in the slot, but he can also take handoffs on jet sweeps.
“Right now we need more depth at the slot and he can really use his speed to get in the open field," Uremovich said.
The reason for the 6 a.m. practice was that a number of players are still attending summer sessions, which will end later this week. ... Junior cornerback Harrison Hand, a transfer from Baylor who is immediately eligible after receiving an NCAA waiver, has been impressive in camp. A Cherry Hill West graduate, Hand returned an interception for a touchdown in Tuesday’s practice. ... Uremovich said he would like to have his depth chart completed about eight practices before the Owls’ Aug. 31 opener at Lincoln Financial Field against Bucknell. He emphasized that the depth chart, especially early in the season, would likely be fluid. ... Carey and Uremovich had praise for redshirt freshman quarterback Trad Beatty, who is expected to be No. 3 behind returning starter Anthony Russo and redshirt sophomore Todd Centeio. ... The new single-digit numbers that were awarded last week for toughness have been distributed. Wright is No. 2. Receiver Branden Mack is No. 1 and linebacker Sam Franklin is No. 4.