TEMPLE'S JONES MAKING UP FOR LAST YEAR'S LOST SEASON
Despite a 1-2 start to their delayed and truncated seasons, the Temple Owls offense has started quickly - averaging over 32 points per game.
However, there’s still room for improvement - the Owls ranked fifth in total offense and seventh in scoring offense in the American Athletic Conference.
A good portion of the success that the Owls offense had can be attributed, as expected, to the play of their trio of starting wide receivers.
Through three games, Jadan Blue, Branden Mack, and Randle Jones combined for 67 of the team’s 93 catches for 635 yards and all nine of the receiving touchdowns.
Blue and Mack are continuing what they did last season, Blue set school records with 95 catches and 1,067 yards receiving while Mack’s seven touchdowns and 904 yards rank in the top-10 for a single season.
He’s also climbing the career list for touchdowns. While his teammates were having seasons to remember, Jones was having a season to forget, he battled a hamstring injury all season and ultimately decided to redshirt.
Healthy, Jones has become quarterback Anthony Russo’s second favorite target behind Blue with 24 catches for a team-high 247 yards. He had his first career 100-yard receiving game with 12 catches for 118 yards.
His first touchdown of the season, against USF, proved to be key as the Bulls scored a late touchdown to close the gap to 39-37 but missed the two-point conversion thus enabling the Owls victory.
While being unable to physically perform on the field Jones worked on other aspects of his game.
“I knew I had another opportunity, this year, to get better,” said Jones, a 6-0, 185 from Miami, “so while I was rehabbing, I was just getting better mentally and becoming more of a player of the game.”
When asked to expand on that Jones, who played at Miami Beach Senior High School for former Penn State running back (and Matt Rhule teammate) Aaron Harris, said,
“Learning the defense more, learning more concepts, learning how to get open, and how to do the little things right. Studying more and watching more film, I learned that you have to put in to get what you want out of the game. I think I improved a lot mentally.”
Temple head coach Rod Carey can barely contain himself when talking about Jones.
“He’s a stud,” Carey said, emphatically, after the win over USF, “is that simple enough for you. He’s a flat-out stud. The way he practices, the way he plays, the way he attacks his life in general, on and off the field, I could go on for hours about that kid. I absolutely love that kid, I love them all, but that one [it’s] fun to see him get the payout for how he’s gone about his life.”
“It means a lot,” said Jones when asked about Carey’s words. “The work I’ve put in is being [seen] by not only the players but the coaches as well. It’s something to feel good about.”
Not surprisingly, Jones is one of the Temple players that wears a single-digit jersey and because the NCAA legalized 0 to be worn on jerseys this season, Jones is the first “Zero Owl”
“I’m going to be the first to make a statement with the zero but it was nothing special,” said Jones, who needed to change his Twitter handle after the number change, “I just thought being the first guy to wear zero at Temple was a cool thing to do so, I was like, why not? I grabbed zero and opened another single for another guy on the team.”
This season, Jones' old single digit, 7, is being worn by Jaidyn, who is a seventh-grader from Philadelphia and is the Owls Team IMPACT participant. Team IMPACT is a non-profit organization that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with college athletic teams in a two-year therapeutic program.
Jones says the wide receiver group has a tight bond especially between Blue, Mack (who are also single-digit players), and himself.
"I feel like we're the best group on the field," he said. "How we come to work each day, how we prepare, how we go about our business each day, it shows up on game day. We're hard on one another and we tell each other to focus on the next play, no matter what happens – good or bad. That shows how much of a tight knit group we are.” *
Email Rock Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org