The Temple football team appears set at many positions, but one of the biggest question marks entering the 2019 season is at running back.
The Owls must replace Ryquell Armstead, who rushed for 1,098 yards (5.2 avg.) and 13 TDs in just 10 games as a senior last season, missing two because of an ankle injury.
Also gone is second-leading rusher Rob “Nitro” Ritrovato, who ran for 270 yards and four touchdowns.
Two players who seem favored to receive a bulk of the carries are redshirt senior Jager Gardner, who rushed for 253 yards (3.9 avg.) and one touchdown, and redshirt junior Tyliek Raynor, who rushed for 48 yards and a score, a key 15-yard run in a 24-17 win over Navy. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Raynor, a graduate of Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia, has had an injury-plagued career but is one of the fastest players on the team.
“It is wide open is how I see it,” first-year Temple coach Rod Carey said of the running-back situation Wednesday during an American Athletic Conference media call. “I don’t think we got enough information on Tyliek or Jager to really know if they can be productive and how much they can produce.”
Both running backs missed time this spring because of injuries, but Carey says he fully expects both to be on the field during training camp.
“Right now, if we practiced, they would be on the field,” Carey said.
He said one player who helped himself this spring was redshirt freshman Kyle Dobbins (5-11, 186), who played his senior year at South Jersey’s Timber Creek after transferring from St. Augustine.
“Kyle Dobbins had a good spring,” Carey said.
Carey, who was 52-30 in six seasons at Northern Illinois, has talked about his affinity for the running game, so settling that area will be among the biggest priorities when the Owls go to camp to prepare for their Aug. 31 opener against Bucknell at Lincoln Financial Field.
Two-time defending AAC champion Central Florida will be without quarterback McKenzie Milton, who won’t play this year while recovering from a gruesome knee injury suffered in the final regular-season game. Milton is the two-time AAC offensive player of the year.
The quarterback situation is interesting at UCF. Dual-threat redshirt sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. replaced Milton. He rushed for 337 yards (4.9 avg.) and six touchdowns, and passed for 619 yards and three scores.
Brandon Wimbush, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame who started four games last year; freshman Dillon Gabriel; and redshirt freshman Quadry Jones are the other candidates.
UCF coach Josh Heupel said on the conference call that nobody won the job during the spring. Whoever is the quarterback will likely be guiding the preseason AAC favorite.
In addition to battling with the likes of UCF in the AAC East Division, Temple must also face Cincinnati and South Florida, which appear to be contenders. The Owls, while not a favorite, can’t be counted out as a contender.