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Breaking down the Temple football roster

At least early in the season, the offense may be ahead of the defense for the Owls.

Temple wide receiver Jadan Blue runs in for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a game against Tulane at Lincoln Financial Field last November.
Temple wide receiver Jadan Blue runs in for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a game against Tulane at Lincoln Financial Field last November.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

With six starters returning on offense and five on defense, and several others who saw ample playing time, Temple will enter Saturday’s season-opening football game at Navy with an experienced team.

Coming off an 8-5 season, the Owls have more experience on offense. Here is a look at the Temple roster.

When Temple throws the ball. Redshirt senior Anthony Russo will enter his third season as a starter and he has one of the best arms in the American Athletic Conference after throwing for 2,861 yards and 21 TDs last year. Temple must improve in the red zone. Last year, the Owls were 116th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in red zone efficiency, a .740 percentage (37-for-50).

The Owls have one of the best receiving duos in redshirt junior Jadan Blue (95 receptions, 1067 yards, 4 TDs) and graduate student Branden Mack (59 receptions, 904 yards, 7 TDs).

In addition, running back Ra’Mahn Davis could be a threat out of the backfield. Tight end Kenny Yeboah transferred to Mississippi, but 6-foot-4, 240-pound redshirt sophomore David Martin-Robinson is a capable two-way tight end. If a few other receivers develop such as graduate student Randle Jones and redshirt sophomore Jose Barbon, this will be a formidable passing attack.

Giving Russo protection from a line that lost center Matt Hennessy, a third-round draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons, and guard Jovahn Fair (43 career starts) will be important. The Owls will have two new tackles, graduate student Vincent Picozzi, who started at right guard for nine games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and right tackle Michael Niese, a graduate transfer from Dayton.

Last year’s starting right tackle, Adam Klein, moves to right guard and the center is C.J. Perez, a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois who played there for Rod Carey before he took over as Temple’s coach last year. Senior Joseph Hooper is the left guard on an experienced unit, but it remains to be seen if it can match last year’s offensive line.

When Temple runs the ball. Davis, who rushed for 936 yards (4.8 average) and 8 TDs, averaged 16 carries a game last season, and that could expand. Redshirt senior Travon Ruley and redshirt freshman Edward Saydee provide depth. The Owls are designing more plays for Russo to get out of the pocket and run, but another possibility will be reserve quarterback Re-al Mitchell, a redshirt sophomore from Iowa State, who is a dual threat.

When Temple defends the run. The Owls have one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the AAC, in graduate student Dan Archibong and returning first-team all-AAC tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh, a redshirt junior. Running inside on these two will be difficult.

Even though Temple doesn’t have a starter back at linebacker, look for redshirt senior Isaiah Graham Mobley to be among the better ones in the conference. He played a lot last year before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Graduate student Will Kwenkeu, a linebacker who redshirted last year, is another strong player against the run.

When Temple defends the pass. So much of this will depend on the pass rush. In recent years, the Owls had a big rush from their defensive ends. Defensive end Quincy Roche was the AAC defensive player of the year last season, but he has transferred to Miami. The new starting defensive ends are graduate transfer Manny Walker of Wake Forest and redshirt junior Arnold Ebiketie.

While neither will likely have the production of Roche, they will have to give Temple an outside pass rush for the pass defense to be solid. Redshirt junior cornerback Christian Braswell, who had nine pass breakups last year, is the Owls' top cover man. Graduate student Linwood Crump has a lot of experience at the other corner, while redshirt senior Amir Tyler is a noted ballhawk at safety. Junior college transfer Jalen Ware is slated to start at the other safety spot. Pass defense is one of the biggest questions Temple faces entering the season.

When Temple kicks and covers kicks. Placekicker Will Mobley and punter Adam Barry have retained their starting jobs, but Carey has said there will be competition during the season. Mobley converted 11 of 14 field goals, with his longest 44 yards. He said he worked during the offseason on extending his range. Barry averaged 37.8 yards per punt but will have to show more consistency.

Blue, who averaged 22.3 yards on six kickoff returns last year, will return both kicks and punts this season. As a receiver, he does his best work after the catch, and that elusiveness will help him as a returner. Temple uses many starters on special teams and Graham-Mobley and Kwenkeu should be some of the leaders in kickoff and punt coverage.