Blaze Of Glory

The battle for the starting position at Temple's WILL linebacker might not have received the same attention as the quarterback competition. But like the signal-caller, weakside linebacker was a wide-open competition heading into camp with a late decision before the opener. Also like quarterback, where Mike Gerardi shined, sophomore Blaze Caponegro showed why he earned his starting spot.

The battle for the starting position at Temple's WILL linebacker might not have received the same attention as the quarterback competition.

But like the signal-caller, weakside linebacker was a wide-open competition heading into camp with a late decision before the opener. Also like quarterback, where Mike Gerardi shined, sophomore Blaze Caponegro showed why he earned his starting spot with a strong performance in the 42-7 victory over Villanova Thursday.

Caponegro didn't find out he was the starter at WILL until a few days before the game – after the depth chart was released Monday with Ahkeem Smith on top. The North Jersey native led the Owls with seven tackles – all solo – after playing in just two games without making a stop last year and redshirting his first season.

"It's been real tough (the last two years)," said Caponegro. "Things haven't worked out for the best in the past, but you just have to work hard, keep to it and good things will happen. I hit the weight room, put on some weight and got bigger, faster and stronger. I had to focus and make sure I was taking care of my job."

Caponegro spent most of his first two seasons working in the middle, but found himself on the outside in training camp and feels he made an easy transition.

"I'm definitely happy where I am, I'm really comfortable and I'm looking forward to making more progress as we go," said Caponegro. "I'm just going to work hard at whatever position I'm at."

Caponegro said he's realized the last few years how his overall performance is being evaluated and affects his play.

"You just have to practice, watch extra film, everything off the field is a factor," said Caponegro. "You have to make sure you're watching what the other team is doing. You have to be locked in and do your responsibility."

Senior safety Kevin Kroboth said he noticed the dedication of young players like Caponegro and cornerback Anthony Robey, who forced a fumble in the opener, in the offseason.

"It's huge, it's huge, there were some shoes to fill with some young guys coming in and they did a great job," said Kroboth. "They worked so hard in the offseason, they knew that when their time comes, they have to step up and hang with that one defense. I told them before the game, it's football, you've been playing your whole life, just go out and play. You have to take your hat off to them."

When Gerardi was named the starter two days before the opener, he said he had to remain focused on Villanova. Likewise, Caponegro didn't take much time to relish the opportunity.

"I had to get in the playbook and make sure I was on top of my game," said Capongero.

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