First-year Temple football defensive coordinator Taver Johnson is experienced at teaching a new defense, and he and head coach Geoff Collins are putting a lot on the players early in spring practice.

"Our philosophy on defense and Coach Collins' philosophy with the whole team is throw everything at them, the whole kitchen sink and make sure everybody learns on the run," Johnson said after Thursday's third practice of the spring in frigid conditions.

Johnson was a defensive backs coach the previous three seasons at Purdue. He arrived at Temple in January, and that is when the teaching began.

With 23 years of experience coaching in college or the NFL, including other stops at Arkansas, Ohio State, Miami of Ohio and the Cleveland Browns, Johnson knows how to teach a new system to a team. He'll be guiding a Temple team that didn't do too badly on the defensive side last year.

The Owls were 11th nationally last season in scoring defense, allowing 18.4 points per game in going 10-4 and winning the American Athletic Conference title.

"The [football] building is open all the time, and there are probably three to four coaches where our families aren't here yet. So we have air mattresses in our offices," Johnson said.

That means he is around at all hours if any of the players have questions. The Owls will still play a 4-3 defense, but there are several new looks.

"We are playing a lot of [man-to-man] this year," said junior Delvon Randall, who enters his second year as a starting safety. "It's going to be confusing" for the opponent.

Defense is Collins' specialty, having been the defensive coordinator the last two years at Florida, and the new head coach will obviously have plenty of input. But it will be Johnson who will be calling the defenses.

"It is all inclusive, and once we leave the room and it is time to make the call, the head coach is going to put it on me," Johnson said.

Randall and Sean Chandler form one of the top safety tandems in the country, but there should be sufficient competition at a number of other spots.

The most interesting competition is at linebacker, where all three starters have graduated. The most experienced player, redshirt junior middle linebacker Jared Folks, has been apparently sidelined.

"We can't wait to see him," Johnson said. "He is definitely coming off some things, but he will be fine."

The coach mentioned sophomores Will Kwenkeu, Shaun Bradley and Sam Franklin and redshirt sophomore DaiShaun Grimes as linebackers who have caught his eye.

Just like the players are learning his defense, Johnson is learning the strengths and weaknesses of each player.

As with all the new coaches, there will be a lot of evaluating between now and the end of spring practice, which concludes with Temple's Cherry and White game on April 22.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard