Few people imagined back in 2015 Shaun Bradley would be the player he is today. That was the season he “grey shirted”, essentially holding off joining the team that fall until the spring semester. He had to wait an extra semester to take classes and practice with the team. Then head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow did not have much of a choice as Bradley joined the team late.
Fast forward 4 seasons and Bradley headlines Temple’s deepest position unit. He has come a long way, spent many hours perfecting his craft, and now he has potential to make it to the NFL. It’s a testament to good coaching, hard work, faith, discipline, and the Temple Tuff mentality that embodies the university itself.
Today I will take a look at the linebacker position. This unit has plenty of experience and in my opinion, is the best linebacking group in the AAC. Owlsports also did a wonderful Q&A with this group back in March.
Key Departures: Todd Jones, Kevin DeCaesar, Collin Washington
Key Additions: Yvandy Rigby, Mahmud Dioubate, Kenneth Anyaehie, Jordan Magee
It’s a pretty good sign when your key departures list is short. Two of the guys leaving played rotational roles and spent some significant game time here and there when the team had injuries. Todd Jones in particular was not flashy but filled in when needed. DeCaesar played in a more limited role but he also held his own. Neither were capable starters, just didnt have the athleticism to keep up with the AAC backfield from USF or Memphis or UCF.
First 5 are all starters
By now we know how good this group is. It wasn’t always that way. Bradley recalls when the starters went up against Notre Dame 2 seasons ago and got demolished. They have most certainly come a long way. Click on the link above, you won’t regret it (I promise they aren’t paying me to say that).
Bradley and Chapelle Russell have been named to the Nagurski, Bednarik and Butkus Awards. Nationally recognized awards are usually handed out to the top 50 or so players for each award, depending on the award. They both made preseason All-AAC as well. I’ve already written about Bradley as a player who must play well in a previous post.
The real secret weapons are Sam Frankling and Isaiah Graham-Mobley. Both contribute on special teams as well. IGM and William Kwenkeu will rotate in with the starters and both have significant playing experience. As stated, for many people who watch AAC football, this is the best LB group in the conference. I listed IGM as a Top 5 Player To Watch for the Owls this fall as well.
Sam Franklin at the nickel accounted for roughly 10% havoc rate, meaning out of 30 or so snaps he sees per game, at least 3 of them he is knocking down a pass, creating a TFL, intercepting, forced fumbling, etc. That’s a lot of production per game from your nickel linebacker. That also doesn’t include statistics on how well he performs on special teams. He is another that I listed in my Top 5 Players who must play well.
Kwenkeu has been limited a bit by injuries but also rotates in fairly regularly and plays some special teams. The senior is hoping to put together a complete season and go out with a bang.
There will be other guys rotating in as well. Redshirt Sophomore Audley Isaacs Jr and Redshirt junior Boaz Pogue should figure into the games. Isaacs and Pogue have both been hampered with injuries and both have seen some game action and special teams.
Jordan Magee, Layton Jordan, and Mahmoud Dioubate are likely to see limited game action, but could contribute on special teams. The latter two have redshirted already, so you figure it may be time for them to rotate in on some plays. We’ll see how things progress. Dioubate seems like a good athlete, but they’re all undersized at the moment.
I am curious about Kenneth Anyaehie. He has all of 1 year of football under his belt but was good enough to earn FCS scholarship offers, which unfortunately fell through. He is on the team as a walk-on, but apparently has a high ceiling. He could become an integral part of the LB group over the next few years. Keep an eye out for him in the future.
It also appears redshirt sophomore Travon King, a mid-level 3 star prospect in 2018, has been moved to DE due to his athleticism and length. He has bulked up to 210 lb from 190, but appears that the weight room still comes calling this summer camp. I’d be interested to see how they use him this fall. Hard to keep an athlete like him off the field for too long.
Position Outlook: A
Level of Concern: Low
Not much more to add. If you are forced to start another LB past your first 5 linebackers, you’re probably in trouble. I don’t care if you are Alabama or South Alabama, you’re going to need other defenders to step up and help out in that situation. Fortunately, the Owls a good group here, and if nothing else, could possibly drop down Benny Walls from the safety spot too. This is a really nice group of ballers.
Images are courtesy of Temple Athletics