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Temple’s Harrison Hand has been a big part of Owls’ football success | Marc Narducci

Despite playing cornerback, Hand shares the team lead with 35 tackles

Temple's Harrison Hand (23), left, and Chapelle Russell bringing down Maryland running back Javon Leake in the first quarter of a game last month.
Temple's Harrison Hand (23), left, and Chapelle Russell bringing down Maryland running back Javon Leake in the first quarter of a game last month.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

The extra grueling workouts cornerback Harrison Hand underwent at Baylor helped turn him into what he is today: a sure, assertive tackler for Temple.

After practice, his secondary coach at Baylor, Fran Brown, toughened him up with some difficult drills.

“Coach Brown has been a major help to me,” said Hand, a junior. “After practice at Baylor, he would get a linebacker and we would be 10 yards apart and work on tackling.”

Hand and the linebacker participated in a drill, one-on-one, that wasn’t for the meek. It helped Hand improve his technique — and toughened him.

Brown is still working with Hand on tackling, as both have come back home this year. A graduate of Camden High, Brown coached four seasons at Temple before leaving for the last two at Baylor. He has returned to the Owls as co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach. Hand is a Cherry Hill West graduate.

Both the coach and player have played vital roles in Temple’s early success. The Owls are 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the American Athletic Association, and ranked No. 25 in this week’s USA Today Coaches Poll. They will face a major test when they visit No. 19 SMU (6-0, 2-0) on Saturday.

For Hand, it will be a return to Texas. He played his first two seasons at Baylor for former Temple coach Matt Rhule before transferring. The NCAA granted him a waiver, and he was immediately eligible at Temple.

Hand said needed to come back home for family reasons, and he has fit it tremendously for the Owls.

“Everything has worked out well, and I feel blessed,” Hand said.

At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Hand has adjusted quickly to his new team.

In a 30-28 win over then-No. 23 Memphis last Saturday, he had his best game as an Owl, with nine tackles, including two tackles for losses; an interception; a forced fumble; and a pass breakup.

It was a continuation of a strong season. Hand is tied for first on the team with 35 tackles. The other co-leaders are linebacker Shaun Bradley and defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh.

Not many cornerbacks are their team’s leader in tackles, but not many have Hand’s all-around skill.

“I wasn’t always a big hitter,” he said. “As I got bigger and came to college, I felt I needed to bring something else to my game instead of just being fast.”

While a sure tackler, Hand is also strong in coverage, so much so that Memphis began throwing away from him. Most of his tackles came in the run game.

Quarterback Anthony Russo said facing Hand in practice each day has made him better because of Hand’s intelligence.

“One thing about Harrison is he is so disciplined and knows the defense so well,” Russo said. “He is so disciplined with his disguises and his eyes.”

His eyes?

“A lot of defensive backs, if they are in zone coverage, their eyes are going to be inside. If they are outside, their eyes are going to be locked in on the wide receiver,” Russo said. “With him, he knows his job so well that he will kind of toy around with you. He will be walking around looking in and looking at his man, [and] you don’t know if he is playing zone" or man-to-man.

Between his coverage and tackling, Hand has become an all-around player. He has earned the respect of the bigger guys with his tackling.

“It’s certainly nice seeing your corners hitting people the way he does,” defensive end Zack Mesday said. “He has had a great impact on the team.”