Temple has dealt with a depleted group along the offensive line throughout spring practice, but offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan sees it as an opportunity to work other players into what he eventually hopes is a deep rotation of talent.
Redshirt senior offensive tackle Leon Johnson has sat out all of spring practice as he recovers from offseason surgery, and Wiesehan is also tasked with finding a replacement for former center Brendan McGowan and left tackle Dion Dawkins, a projected second-day pick in this month’s NFL Draft.
With Dawkins gone and Johnson injured, Wiesehan has cycled in multiple players, including redshirt juniors Jaelin Robinson, Aaron Ruff and James McHale and redshirt senior Cole Boozer, at both tackle spots.
Wiesehan said Robinson has “ascended” and “become more physical.” The 6-foot-7, 300-pound lineman from New Haven, Conn. only played one season of high school football but contributed last season in a rotation with Johnson.
Boozer, a converted tight end, has been seeing time at tackle. He has pushed his weight up to 285 pounds, Wiesehan said.
“He’s got great natural levels,” Wiesehan said after Tuesday’s practice at Chodoff Field. “He has good pop and body balance.”
When asked about other offensive linemen who have impressed throughout spring practice, Wiesehan mentioned redshirt freshman Vince Pacozzi, a Lansdale Catholic product who was placed on scholarship in February, along with redshirt junior Adrian Sullivan and Ruff, a former four-star recruit out of Imhotep Charter with offers from the likes of Wisconsin and Michigan State. Sullivan, meanwhile, has practiced at every position along the offensive line besides center, Wiesehan said.
Redshirt freshman Matt Hennessy, who started at left guard in Temple’s 48-20 win over Charlotte on Sept. 24, has received most of the first-team snaps at center in the portions of practices open to reporters.
Wiesehan has been pleased with Hennessy, a product of North Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep. The Bardonia, N.Y. native held offers from a handful of Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Yale.
“He’s a guy who’s just so good above the neck,” Wiesehan said. “We knew that when we recruited him, but he’s just a cerebral kid that processes very quickly.”
Hennessy said he has been impressed by a number of defensive linemen, namely redshirt freshman Dan Archibong, sophomore Karamo Dioubate and redshirt juniors Freddie Booth-Lloyd and Michael Dogbe.
During the 20-minute portion of practice open to reporters, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi ran with the first-team offense at quarterback. Marchi had a pass intended for senior receiver Adonis Jennings broken up by sophomore linebacker Sam Franklin in the right corner of the end zone. Franklin, a Florida native who signed with Massachusetts out of high school before attending East Coast Prep for a year, has come up often when talking to different members of Temple’s coaching staff.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Russo tossed a short touchdown pass to receiver Branden Mack, who also redshirted last season. Russo also threw a touchdown to sophomore receiver Isaiah Wright. Following the touchdown from Russo to Wright, a scuffle between two linemen – redshirt freshman Darian Bryant and redshirt sophomore DeAndre Kelly – broke out. Russo, along with the three other quarterbacks in true freshman Todd Centeio, redshirt junior Frank Nutile and Marchi, worked out following the conclusion of practice with receivers Brodrick Yancy, Ventell Bryant and Wright.
Redshirt junior cornerback Derrek Thomas, who converted to defensive back from receiver last spring, nearly came up with an interception in the end zone.