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It’s been a while -- almost two years to be exact. Temple last played Navy in October of 2018 with a running back corps led by two single-digit backs: Ryquell Armstead and Rob Ritrovato. In 2020, the running back depth chart is full of young and hungry Owls with no clear cut-leader.
Running backs coach Gabe Infante says sophomore Re’mahn Davis will sit at the top of the depth chart for now after showing his growth from his freshman year where he had 936 rushing yards and more than 1,000 total yards.
“Ray is a young man who is more composed,” Infante said. “Last year I felt like we were always one step behind. This year he’s more proactive.”
However, there are plenty of other names to consider in the running backs room heading into the 2020 season. This group includes redshirt senior Tayvon Ruley, redshirt freshmen Edward Saydee and Onasis Neely, and redshirt sophomore Kyle Dobbins. Each running back may compete for playing time, but the unique thing about this group is that each player brings something different to the offense.
According to Infante, Davis and Saydee are the smartest of the group, Ruley is the oldest, Neely is the big physical back weighing 225 pounds, and Dobbins has the ability to break off the long run at any time with his acceleration. The balance of the five backs will be up to the coaching staff, but Infante envisions three to four backs being used at different times depending on the packages the team runs.
“All five should play when you include special teams reps,” Infante said. But there is no guarantee.
“It’s not really a competition,” Davis said. “We have a great room that’s destined to be great in the years to come.”
“We don’t compete with each other,” Saydee said. “We compete with ourselves.”
“We’re one unit even though I’m a senior,” Ruley said.
“We’re all like family,” Dobbins said. “We all have respect for each other and help each other.”
“I feel like all of us in the room can get touches this season,” Neely said.
The touches for some may be hard to come by, but it’s clear that the entire running backs room is on the same page. It’s not about who is on the field, but rather how well the team is succeeding. Without a clear leader of the group, the image has changed. Everyone is accountable.
“I think all of us are leaders,” Davis said. “When one person makes a mistake, we’re all going to get on him. When one person does something great, we’re all going to praise him.”
Infante mentioned that he’d love to have packages with two running backs on the field at once, but the player personnel could change depending on the match up. Regardless, everyone in the running backs room has to be ready on October 10 in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Number five has to be ready to be number one tomorrow,” Infante said.
OwlSports Update Staff Reporter
The Owls didn’t lose one, not even two, but three linebackers to the NFL. It’s no wonder some redshirt freshmen must be ready to play when the Navy season opener roles around in October.
Two names that top the list are Thomas Joe-Kamara and Yvandy Rigby. Both are learning to take a lead role after sitting most of last season, but also learning from those who came before them.
“Sam told me to go out there and show that you're a dog, you can’t be soft,” Joe-Kamara said when asked about Sam Franklin, the former Owl and now current member of the Carolina Panthers.
Joe-Kamara understands the importance of responding to a significant role at an early age. He’s just one season removed from watching on the bench. Now, he’s working at finding a starting spot.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I believe I’m most definitely ready. In high school, I had to play varsity at an early age, basically as a freshman and sophomore. I had to step up a lot. I see this as a good opportunity to have for the next 3 or 4 years, getting the most experience I can and doing what I can to help the team.
Joe-Kamara was not the only one receiving guidance from a newly-minted NFL player. Rigby also idolized his own mentor, Shaun Bradley, who was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2020 draft. But when Bradley was in Temple Cherry and White, he often spoke highly of his soon-to-be replacement.
“I’m extremely humble and appreciative of Shaun Bradley saying such words because he was obviously a stunning linebacker for this program,” said Rigby. “His name will live on in the program forever, and Shaun Bradley has done so much for me in terms of being another older brother.”
Looking up to these players gives Joe-Kamara and Rigby a chance to take advice and run with it, not only this season but for years to come.
“I’m going to take it one step at a time. I’m going to do what’s best for the team, no matter what position I’m playing this season or next season,” Rigby said.
Joe-Kamara and Rigby will get their first crack at using this advice from their mentors when they take the field on October 10th against Navy.
OwlSports Update Staff Reporter
Temple head football coach Rod Carey knew it was coming. He’s known for the last three to four weeks. On Tuesday morning, he made it official. Temple is postponing its season opener vs. Navy from September 26th to October 10th.
“I want to play and the team wants to play as soon as we can, but with limitations early on in camp from the city, it was necessary (to postpone) in order for the team to be better prepared for the upcoming season,” Carey said in his Tuesday news conference.
The biggest issue so far this pre-season has been Temple’s lack of live-contact practices. The Owls are restricted by the city due to the same Covid-19 concerns that also prematurely ended their spring season in March.
“The bottom line is the rules and regulations we currently have will not have us prepared the way we need to be prepared,” said Carey. He also went on to say there have been discussions to increase full-contact regulations at practices while also respecting the safety guidelines set in place.
Much like Carey, the players have also responded well to the irregular off-season. Several players such as M.J. Griffin and Jalen Ware said the secondary has grown to be a tight-knit group, led by one person in particular: senior safety Amir Tyler. Tyler was recently honored with a single-digit jersey this off-season, which is given to the players who are most considered Temple TUFF.
“Maturity is the best word,” said Carey. “He’s matured on and off the field. It is fun to be around that.”
Safeties coach Tyler Yelk added, “he embodies what a single digit is.
Amir himself exemplified his leadership when he spoke on the postponement.
"You can’t lose sight of the mission. Everyone wants to play football. We have to know what we want to accomplish and do whatever it takes to accomplish that, whether it be staying in the house all year, just staying with our team, etc. We fought for the ability to come back to campus and play football so we will make sure we are ready no matter how long we have to wait.”
As the schedule now stands, the Owls are still set to play eight games. Temple will play one game per week starting with Navy and running through Thanksgiving with the final regular season game at home versus Cincinnati on November 28th.