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Temple training camp observations: Owls’ running back situation one worth watching

Several backs, including top returning rusher Ryquell Armstead, had the day off, as did a few veterans as the Owls gave many of the young players extensive reps.

Temple's Freddie Johnson left and Ty Mason in game action during a Temple football team scrimmage, Saturday Aug. 18, 2018 in Philadelphia Pa. ( H. Rumph Jr / For the Inquirer )
Temple's Freddie Johnson left and Ty Mason in game action during a Temple football team scrimmage, Saturday Aug. 18, 2018 in Philadelphia Pa. ( H. Rumph Jr / For the Inquirer )Read moreH. Rumph Jr.

Temple's football team held its second off-site practice on Saturday, basically a scrimmage at Franklin Field, the final such event before the Sept. 1 opener at Lincoln Financial Field against Villanova.

A number of veteran players didn't participate as the Owls attempt to get healthy and improve on last year's 7-6 record in coach Geoff Collins' second season.

The media were only able to witness the second half of the closed scrimmage and by then many of the regulars had been given the rest of the steamy afternoon off.

Here are some notes after Saturday's game:

Running back update

Top back Ryquell Amstead had the day off and spent it coaching the other backs.

"He was a little dinged up and we know what he can do," Collins said.

Temple has been careful with Armstead during training camp, because he was slowed by injury all last season. While he didn't miss a game, he also didn't have the explosion he displayed as sophomore when he rushed for 919 yards (5.9 avg.) and 14 touchdowns.

No. 2 back, redshirt junior Jager Gardner also didn't play on Saturday. Gardner is coming back from knee injury in the fourth game that caused him to redshirt.

"Jager will practice next week," Collins said.

Speedster Tyliek Raynor, who missed last season because of to injury, also didn't play on Saturday and will be out longer with an unspecified injury.

"He will be ready to play the season, just not probably the first couple of games," Collins said about the redshirt sophomore from Philadelphia's Imhotep.

One player who will be ready is former walk-on Rob "Nitro" Ritrovato, who is also the Owls best blocking back and has enjoyed a strong training camp.

True freshman Kyle Dobbins of Timber Creek is continuing to get familiar with the offense and could figure into the picture sometime this season.

Big day for Mason

One of the top players on Saturday according to the coaches was redshirt freshman cornerback Ty Mason. While senior Rock Ya-Sin and junior Linwood Crump are the likely starting corners, Mason has made his bid for playing time during training camp.

"Talent-wise, he is as elite a talent as you can get, he has true top-end speed, flexible hips and now confidence in playing the ball in the air," Owls defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said afterward.  "…Whether he is a starter, he is an above the line player who we expect to play against Villanova."

Temple doesn't release a depth chart, just players who are above the line or below the line. Those above will be considered for action each week.

Competition at punter

One of the interesting competitions at camp is at punter, where the Owls have to replace four-year starter Alex Starcyk.

Three redshirt freshmen who are walk-ons are battling for the spot, Connor Bowler, Max Cavallucci and Drew Levin.

"If we had to play tomorrow, it would probably be Connor [as starter]," Collins said of Bowler, who is from Downingtown West. "Each has their own specialties which makes it great for coach Foles [special teams coach Ed Foley] and us to scheme for."

Levin has impressed the coach with ability to rugby punt from the right or left side, so, depending on the situation, different punters could be used, but the competition as of now remains ongoing.