Running back Ra’Von Bonner, who played three seasons at Illinois but sat out this year due to COVID-19 concerns, is heading to Temple as a graduate transfer.

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, Bonner told The Inquirer in a phone interview that one of the big reasons he connected with Temple was the presence of Owls receivers coach Thad Ward, who coached running backs at Illinois from 2016-18.

“I wouldn’t be as smart a football player player without coach Ward pushing me,” Bonner said. “He is a great teacher.”

Bonner has yet to visit Temple, but he said he was able to watch film with running backs coach Gabe Infante over Zoom.

He said he plans to enroll in January and will continue working toward his master’s degree in social work.

Temple is in need of a veteran running back. Sophomore Ra’Mahn Davis, who rushed for 936 yards and eight touchdown as a freshman, quit the team in the middle of this season. He confirmed to The Inquirer on Monday that he will be transferring to Vanderbilt.

Redshirt senior Tayvon Ruley took over as the first-string running back, and finished with 306 yards rushing and one touchdown. Late in the regular season, Ruley said he planned on returning next season. The NCAA has passed a rule stating that this season is a free year and won’t count on the eligibility of football players.

Redshirt freshmen Edward Saydee and Onasis Neely and redshirt sophomore Kyle Dobbins had a total of 17 carries among them.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Bonner rushed for 822 yards and 10 touchdowns in his three seasons at Illinois. His best season was 2018 when he had 72 carries for 395 yards (5.5 average) and three touchdowns.

Temple coach Rod Carey and most of his staff have good connections in the Midwest. Carey was the head coach of Northern Illinois for six seasons before taking the Temple job in 2019.