Temple quarterback P.J. Walker says he took a step back in his sophomore year for a simple reason: He was trying to do too much.
After a freshman year in which he threw 20 touchdown passes with just eight interceptions, he threw 13 TDs with 15 picks in 2014.
Temple began spring practice Monday. A key to whether the Owls can improve on their 6-6 record will be the development of Walker and how he meshes with new quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons.
Walker injured his ankle early last season, but he refused to use that as an excuse. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound product of Elizabeth (N.J.) High was frank in assessing his sophomore season.
"I feel I lost my swag on playing the game throughout the middle of the season," Walker said Tuesday after practice. "I tried to get it back each week and would show glimpses of it throughout the game, but I just didn't feel right, and a lot of it was just me trying to do too much when I didn't need to."
Thomas and head coach Matt Rhule hope to make Walker more efficient this spring and carry it over to the fall.
"I think eliminating turnovers is one of the things I want to see from him, and with that, just operating and being more confident," Rhule said. "From the first two days, it looks that way."
Rhule also said the Owls have to improve around Walker, citing the running game and offensive line as two areas he expects to step up.
Rhule cited sophomore Zaire Williams, who redshirted last year because of a back injury, as a player who has opened some eyes early in the workouts. Temple averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, so improving the running game is a priority.
"I don't think we protected P.J. nearly well enough last year and we certainly didn't run the ball well enough to operate at the level where he is not having to win games himself," Rhule said. "We will this year."
Spring notes. Linebacker Buddy Brown, a redshirt sophomore out of Williamstown High, is not expected to continue playing football because of continuing knee problems. He will still be a part of the program, Rhule said. . . . Wide receiver Ventell Bryant, a redshirt freshman, was working with the first unit.
Starting linebacker Jarred Alwan is recovering from shoulder surgery and won't take part in hitting this spring. . . . A candidate to start on the offensive line is 6-6, 300-pound Leon Johnson, who recently sprained his ankle but drew praise from Rhule for participating in practice. . . . Senior defensive back Tavon Young, who had four interceptions last season, is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.