Temple Owls

Temple Spring Game: Process to replace 7 defensive starters begins

Temple Spring Game: Process to replace 7 defensive starters begins

Temple enters the 2017 season without seven of its starters from last year's defense.

A couple will be chosen in the 2017 NFL draft like projected first-round pick DE/LB Haason Reddick and mid-round pick CB Nate Hairston.

The departures of last year's starting linebackers Avery Williams, Stephaun Marshall and Jared Alwan also leave a void in the middle of the defense.

But the Owls aren't short on resources to replace those aforementioned players this upcoming season, and those resources were on display in the Cherry and White Game on Saturday at Edberg-Olson Hall. The Cherry team prevailed 17-14 over the White squad (see offensive recap).

"We have to replace three," head coach Geoff Collins said of the linebackers Saturday. "The development of those young linebackers, they showed up today in a big way. I'm proud of them, I'm excited about it."

Each of the starting linebackers last season had 50-plus tackles. They also combined for 20 percent of Temple's total tackles.

Collins has stressed since the start of Spring practices that he's looking for "above-the-line" players, meaning that a player is talented enough to see significant playing time.

Two front-runners for starting linebacker jobs, Jared Folks and Chapelle Russell, didn't play in the Cherry and White game because of injury and haven't been active during Spring practice. 

Folks racked up 32 tackles, including two tackles for a loss, one interception and one forced fumble last year. Russell had 25 tackles, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

With Folks and Russell out, fellow linebackers Shaun Bradley and William Kwenkeu were able to showcase their talents Saturday.

"I've seen some leadership emerge out of the young linebackers, as it should," running back Jager Gardner said. "They're really fast, they're really athletic, I see a lot of good things out of them. It's going to be a really scary year for some teams."

"Shaun Bradley sticks out to me," Gardner added. "He's everywhere on the field."

It's no wonder as Bradley led the linebacker group in tackles with five Saturday.

Collins said he wants to have eight linebackers playing at an "above-the-line" level before they kick off the season on the road against Notre Dame on Sept. 2. 

One area of the defense Collins and defensive coordinator Taver Johnson won't have much turnover is the defensive backfield. Starting safeties Sean Chandler and Delvon Randall are both returning, while Artrel Foster and Derrek Thomas will be back on the outside at cornerback.

Foster and fellow cornerback Kareem Ali were each ruled inactive for the spring game Saturday, which gave Mike Jones, a transfer from North Carolina Central, some time on the outside. Jones had 114 tackles, 36 pass break-ups and 11 interceptions in four years at North Carolina Central.

Jones picked off quarterback Logan Marchi and ran it back for 10 yards in the spring game Saturday.

Randall said he has seen improvement since the start of spring practices amongst the defensive backs.

"I see progress every day, day by day," Randall said. "I see a lot of progress. We're just trying to get everyone on the same level. Just pick up from where we left off last year and make it better."

Temple finished third in the NCAA last season in total defense and passing defense.

Randall said it means a lot for him to see guys like Tavon Young and Hairston go into the NFL as he hopes to eventually follow in their footsteps.

But first, he plans on passing along the tips they taught him to the young group of defensive backs on the Owls' roster.

"The main part is work ethic, take no days off," Randall said. "And when you take no days off, it will show eventually."

Two-way flexibility
Collins has repeatedly emphasized positional flexibility since his arrival as the head coach. Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood was lined up at defensive end and picked up a sack in the spring game Saturday.

Bradley, who rushed for over 1,400-yards at Rancocas Valley High School his senior year, got reps at running back on Saturday and carried the ball one time for six yards.

"Seeing the flexibility of our team is just a plus for me," Randall said. "We have enough guys that can do multiple things and it will help during the season."

Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

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Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

BOX SCORE

With five minutes and 22 seconds left in the first half and Temple trailing St. Joe’s, 26-24, De’Vondre Perry took a three-pointer that hit the back iron and missed long.

Out of nowhere, Quinton Rose streaked down the center of the free throw lane, leaped above everyone on the floor, corralled the offensive rebound and completed the two-handed slam to tie the game, prompting an eruption from the Liacouras Center crowd.

“That’s just how [Quinton] plays,” Shizz Alston Jr. said. “When guys start jawing at him he just turns it up a notch. I think some of their players were talking to him and he just got juiced up off of that.”

The play energized the Owls after a slow start, highlighting a 17-3 run to end the half and leading to an 81-78 Temple victory (see observations). Alston Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, including five three-pointers, and Rose added a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double for the squad.

At the start of the game, St. Joe’s came out hot, hitting on three of their first five three-point attempts and jumping out to a 17-8 lead early in the game. After a Fran Dunphy timeout with just less than 13 minutes left in the half, the Owls seemed to tighten up defensively.

“He just told us we had to pick it up,” Rose said. “It’s simple as that.

"I think we had a lack of communication and the biggest thing is we don’t finish our possessions with rebounds. We give up a lot of second-chance points. We just have to straighten that up and I think we’ll be good.”

Obi Enechionyia and Rose came up with big blocks and Temple started forcing turnovers. This helped the offense get going, in particular, Alston, whose 15 first-half points kept Temple in the ball game despite the hot shooting start by St. Joe's.

Perry, a true freshman, provided a spark off the bench for the Owls, contributing nine points in the first half, including two threes and a tough finish at the rim.

“He showed a lot of toughness,” Rose said. “I mean he’s young, but he showed a lot of toughness on the defensive end and rebounding. He made some big shots for us too.”

Perry attributed a lot of the open looks he got to his teammates.

“My teammates opened it up for me,” Perry said. “Either driving or kicking or just doing what they do best by penetrating and giving me the ball.”

Temple’s star big man, Enechionyia, struggled throughout the game, going 1 for 8 from the field and finishing with four points while being limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Center Ernest Aflakpui came up big in his absence, putting up 12 points on 5 for 6 from the field and adding six rebounds.

“If we can count on a dozen points from Ern every game, that would be spectacular,” Dunphy said. “It’s obviously not his forte, but he did a terrific job. I thought he was poised at the rim and didn’t rush himself.”

In the last five minutes, the Hawks rallied from 16 down and cut the lead to four, but five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown sealed Temple’s first Big 5 and Atlantic-10 win of the year.

“I thought Josh Brown saved us at the foul line,” head coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought he played great again. He played great against Wisconsin and played great again. I’m very, very proud of him.”

The Owls, now 6-2 on the season, will host the No. 4-ranked Villanova Wildcats, who could jump to No. 1 in the country after Duke’s loss Saturday, in another Big 5 showdown this Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

“It’s a really big opportunity,” Rose said. “I hope they are No. 1 so we can knock them off.”

Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

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Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

BOX SCORE

Temple on Saturday afternoon nabbed its first win against a Big 5 team and an Atlantic 10 team with an 81-78 victory over St. Joe’s at the Liacouras Center.

With five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown, the Owls held off a late rally by the Hawks. Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls with 20 points and four rebounds, while Quinton Rose added a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards.

Temple moves to 6-2 on the season with the victory.

• St. Joe’s was on fire early on, making three of its first five three-point attempts, en route to a 17-8 lead just over seven minutes into the game.

• After a Fran Dunphy timeout with 12:44 left in the first half, Temple turned up its effort on defense. Big blocks by Rose and Obi Enechionyia allowed Temple to take the lead, 18-17, with 9:30 left in the half. The Owls forced a total of eight turnovers in the first half.

• Alston, Jr. dominated the first half and really kept the Owls in the game during St. Joe’s early run. He went 5 for 8 from the field in the first half, including 4 of 5 from three-point range, for 15 points. The junior guard has developed tremendously since last season, coming into this contest averaging 16.9 points, which is up from 13.9 points per game last year in his sophomore campaign.

• Enechionyia struggled in the first half, going 1 for 6 from the field in 17 minutes of action. He missed multiple fadeaway jumpers on the baseline and didn’t make an impact in the post. He also picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half and had to go to the bench. The senior power forward finished the afternoon with just four points and six rebounds.

• Junior center Ernest Aflakpui filled in tremendously with Enechionyia on the bench. He scored 12 points while shooting 83 percent from the field, added six rebounds and disrupted shots around the rim.

• De’Vondre Perry also played a big role for Temple, putting up nine points, 6.9 points more than his season average, in 21 minutes of action, which is up from his season average of 12.3 minutes per game. The true freshman did it in a variety of ways as well, driving and finishing at the basket, drawing fouls and adding two three-pointers. Perry was the only freshman to play in the game.

• Rose displayed his incredible athleticism with multiple big plays in the first half. The sophomore guard slashed through the lane and made a contested layup to put Temple up 18-17, and then followed a Perry missed three-pointer with a put-back dunk that caused the crowd to erupt. He also missed a few layups during the game, showing he still can refine his touch around the basket, but finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

• The student section was involved throughout the game, bringing out big-head posters during opponents’ free throws, making noise after airballs and erupting after multiple big Rose dunks. In Temple’s second Big 5 game of the year, the Owls fans needed to out-do the St. Joe’s fans who traveled to North Philly, and they certainly did.

• The win marks Temple’s first Big 5 victory of the year, almost two weeks after its 87-83 road loss to La Salle. It was a physical matchup that seemed like it would get chippy. Rose got into a St. Joe’s player’s face after a layup in the first half. Enechionyia was elbowed in the face while going up for a rebound at the end of the first half. Temple was the more physical, scrappy team Saturday, but will need to be better this Wednesday against another Big 5 team, No. 4 Villanova.

The Hawks return to action next Sunday when they host Maine.