One of the most interesting shakeups as Temple prepares for its 6 p.m. opener on Saturday at Navy is with the offensive line. Coach Rod Carey has released his initial depth chart and Isaac Moore, who started all 13 games at left tackle last season, is listed at second team.
Developing the line is key since the Owls lost two dominant performers, center Matt Hennessy, a third-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons, and guard Jovahn Fair, who started 43 games in his Temple career.
Carey said during the preseason that the linemen would be moving around, playing different positions in search of the best five.
He wasn’t kidding.
Graduate student Vincent Picozzi (6-4, 300), who started nine games at right guard before suffering a season-ending knee injury, is now the left tackle. The new left guard is senior Joseph Hooper (6-3, 305), with C.J. Perez (6-1, 295), a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois, at center. The right guard is junior Adam Klein (6-3, 290), who was the starting right tackle the previous two seasons, while the right tackle is Michael Niese (6-5, 290), a graduate transfer from Dayton.
During Monday’s Zoom press conference, Carey said that the depth chart as it stands could change by Saturday.
“Isaac is in a battle this week, quite frankly with Vince back, and Vince is certainly one of our best players on offense," Carey said. "Will that be at left tackle, will that be at left guard, we don’t know, a lot of that depends on how the competition works out.”
No surprise at quarterback
Last week Carey said that redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Russo had been sidelined for a few days due to an undisclosed injury but that it was nothing serious.
Carey said Russo has returned to practice and he remains the No. 1 quarterback. Last year, Russo threw for 2,881 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has made 23 career starts.
One reason there might have been a question about the starting quarterback is that Carey talked about the competition all camp provided by two redshirt sophomores, Iowa State transfer Re-al Mitchell and Trad Beatty.
On the depth chart behind Russo, it lists Mitchell or Beatty as the second-team quarterback.
Kicking up a storm
Carey said redshirt sophomore Will Mobley, who was the starting placekicker last year, will keep that role. Mobley will kick off and junior Adam Barry will again be the starting punter.
There will continue to be competition at these two spots, according to Carey.
It’s no surprise that graduate student Linwood Crump and redshirt junior Christian Braswell are the first-team cornerbacks. Redshirt senior Amir Tyler has had one safety spot locked up and the other starting safety at this point is junior college transfer Jalen Ware.
Morris to start at QB against Temple
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said that senior Dalen Morris would start at quarterback against Temple after missing last week’s 40-7 loss at Air Force due to a non-disclosed medical condition that was not COVID-related.
The game before facing Air Force, Morris came off the bench and helped Navy overcome a 24-0 deficit to defeat Tulane, 27-24.
“None of us like the results of last week, so having him back... I think our guys will be excited to have him back,” Niumatalol said during Monday’s Zoom call.
One Temple linebacker spot is open, called the BUBO, which last year was manned by Sam Franklin, now with the Carolina Panthers. Redshirt freshman Yvandy Rigby is running first team at the BUBO.
The other linebackers are established veterans redshirt senior Isaiah Graham Mobley and graduate student Will Kwenkeu, who both were recently awarded single-digit numbers that go to players who show toughness and dedication.
Home opener game time
The American Athletic Conference announced Monday that Temple’s home opener on Oct. 17 against South Florida will kick off at noon and air on ESPN+.