TEMPLE'S OFFENSIVE LINE IS READY TO GO
BY ROCK HOFFMAN
COLLEGE FOOTBALL EDITOR
If you look at the Temple Owls offensive line and only see who is not there (center Matt Hennessy, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and Jovahn Fair, a four-year starter for the Owls, who has been with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns this summer), you’ll be missing a lot.
Last season, the Owls line was very good. They led the American Athletic Conference (AAC) by providing a clean pocket for the quarterback to throw over 86 percent of the time and ranked 32nd in the country in sacks allowed.
Three mainstays of the line are back, junior Isaac Moore, started all 13 games at left tackle while junior Adam Klein did the same at right tackle. Graduate student Vince Picozzi started nine games at right guard before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Being the guy with the most time in the offensive line room, Picozzi is looking forward to his role as a leader.
“It’s kind of taking a little step up,” said Picozzi (6-4,305), a Lansdale Catholic graduate. “It’s kind of taking over being the older guy in the room and have to lead by example but it’s nothing I wasn’t expecting.”
Entering the second season under Rod Carey and his staff, Klein feels the play of the offense will improve.
"Everyone has the offense down pat," said Klein (6-5, 295), an Episcopal Academy grad, who was named to the preseason All-AAC fourth team by Athlon's. "You can tell in our walkthroughs, in the second year, we feel a lot more comfortable, the coaches feel a lot more comfortable and we'll be able to open the playbook more.”
While COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s life, Moore said it was the reason he decided to stay in the United States instead of going home to his native Sweden.
“Back in March,” said Moore (6-7, 305), who was named preseason first-team All-AAC by College Football News and to the third team by Phil Steele and Athlon’s, “it was questionable if I would be able to come back to America if there was a season. I didn’t want to take that risk because I’ve worked so hard for football so I decided to stay.”
Joining them will be C.J. Perez, a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois, where he was recruited by and played one season for the current Temple coaching staff. Perez started at guard and center for the Huskies and expects to play center this season.
“My athletic ability,” said Perez, who played tight end in high school, when asked about his strengths. “I love getting out in space and running.
“Being a shorter guy,” added the 6-1 Perez, “I think I’m able to get leverage under big guys we’re playing against.”
Several holdovers will be vying for the last starting job and key reserve roles. They include Joseph Hooper, who started four games in place of Picozzi. Leon Pinto, who got a start when Hennessy missed a game. Redshirt sophomore David Nwaogwugwu, who has worked hard to bulk up to 295 pounds from 240 as a freshman. Griffin Sestili, a redshirt junior, has seen action on special teams. Two redshirt freshmen with great size are intriguing as well, Wisdom Quarshie (6-3, 320) moved to the offensive line from the defensive side during the 2019 season and saw action in the fourth quarter of the Military Bowl at center. Victor Stoffel (6-8,282), who - like Moore - is from Sweden, saw limited action last season.
“We’ve been seeing where the pieces fall,” said offensive line coach Joe Tripodi, as the Owls have been preparing for their first game which is scheduled for September 26 at Navy. “With the offensive line, your goal is to put out the best five players you can. We believe as a staff to be a championship o-line you need to have seven or eight guys that you can play. In a given year you may have three guards, a tackle, and a center that are your best five players and you have to put them in the spots to make up that line. Right now, there's certainly a lot of competition."
Email Rock Hoffman at email@example.com