Injury-plagued Temple has used 39 players to start at least one game this season. Walk-on linebacker Todd Jones should make the number 40 on Saturday, when Temple hosts No. 14 Central Florida at Lincoln Financial Field.
Jones, a graduate of St. Joseph's Prep, saw his most extensive action for the Owls during their 35-24 win last Friday at Cincinnati.
The previous week against Navy, starting weakside linebacker Chapelle Russell suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his season. His replacement, redshirt freshman Isaiah Graham-Mobley, was injured early in the Cincinnati game, and that's when Jones took over.
The 6-foot, 221-pounder finished second on the team with seven tackles. He entered the game with eight career tackles.
"He embodies the 'Temple tough' characteristic," linebackers coach Andrew Thacker said this week. "He is a guy who has resiliency, continues to work, takes nothing for granted, and complains about nothing."
An education major who is scheduled to graduate in the spring, Jones said he plans on coming back next year. He has yet to be put on scholarship, but he remains hopeful.
"I have just got to keep working and hope to one day earn a scholarship," Jones said.
One thing that was different this week was that Jones was surrounded by microphones, being interviewed after his strong effort at Cincinnati. Asked whether he expected so much attention, he laughed and said, "I just worked for it."
He has worked for everything at Temple, starting at the bottom and moving his way up on special teams and now at linebacker, where he will be a likely starter this weekend, coach Geoff Collins said.
Jones also has played nickel back and learned all three linebacker spots. He had very little experience at weakside linebacker before last Friday.
"He played 50-plus plays and didn't flinch, played well, and contributed," Thacker said. "The biggest thing is that he was where he needed to be."
In the preseason, Jones was so far down the depth chart that the thought of earning meaningful playing time didn't appear realistic.
"He had a long-term goal to be a contributor," Thacker said. "That was far-fetched in the preseason, far-fetched at times early in the season, but he has continued to work. He has made himself valuable on special teams and now at linebacker."
Jones and the Owls will face a UCF team that is 9-0 and 6-0 in the American Athletic Conference, and leads the nation in scoring offense, averaging 48.6 points. Temple (5-5, 3-3) must win one of its final two games to become bowl-eligible. The Owls will finish the season Nov. 25 at Tulsa (2-9, 1-6).
Jones is up for the challenge of facing explosive UCF and will never take for granted the chance to get meaningful playing time.