TC Preview: OL/TE

Seemingly every year, the question at the beginning of spring ball and training camp revolves around the starting quarterback. With Chris Coyer firmly entrenched in that role, the focus this year has been on a totally rebuilt offensive line. The Owls lost four of their five starters from a unit that helped pave the way for the best rushing attack in the Mid-American Conference.

Seemingly every year, the question at the beginning of spring ball and training camp revolves around the starting quarterback.

With Chris Coyer firmly entrenched in that role, the focus this year has been on a totally rebuilt offensive line. The Owls lost four of their five starters from a unit that helped pave the way for the best rushing attack in the Mid-American Conference.

Temple is moving to the more challenging Big East this year and will be doing so with almost an entirely new front five. Only senior right tackle Martin Wallace – who protects the lefty Coyer's blind side – is back.

But the Owls do have a veteran in senior center Sean Boyle, who has missed the last two seasons with shoulder injuries. He and Wallace should be joined in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Zach Hooks at left tackle, junior Jeff Whittingham at left guard and sophomore Jaimen Newman at right guard.

"We have to stay healthy, but when we have our starting five, I like our chances," said offensive coordinator Ryan Day. "Zach Hooks from the beginning of camp to the end of spring is night and day. Martin Wallace is a mainstay with a lot of talent and experience. He's been through the fire and he's going to be a good player in the Big East.

"Boyle, it's just a matter of him staying healthy. Jaimen Newman and Witt have battled it out, they've had their ups and downs, but overall there's enough there to give us some promise."

Boyle says the unit is starting to gel and there's a confidence the line won't be a liability.

"We're coming along well, being around the guys through the spring and summer, we've had a chance to learn each other," said Boyle. "Just because we're a whole new crop doesn't mean we can't be just as good if not better. There's still a lot of improvement to make, but I think we'll be ready."

Perhaps most importantly, the player the new line is charged with keeping upright is comfortable with it.

"I know all the guys have been working hard since spring ended, they're in the film room working on different things, on the field working on their skills, I feel good about them," said Coyer. "We'll all see when camp comes, but at the end of spring they were doing really well."

While there is confidence in the first unit, there is concern across the board over the second group. Head coach Steve Addazio has fretted over his line depth since last season.

"Our depth has got to improve, our second group has to be able to help our first group," said Day. "We have to be better there. Right now, it's a fairly steep drop off."

Their depth took a hit when left tackle Darryl Pringle left the team after the spring. It's not impossible that a true freshman like 6-foot-8, 300-pound Ray Korang could find himself in the mix.

Boyle believes there are players who could step in if needed.

"Our twos have a lot of work to do, but at least three can step in and play," said Boyle. "(Evan) Regas, (Eric) Lofton and (Adam) Metz have all had decent camps, so I don't see why they can't step in. They have to get a little more comfortable with the playbook, but I don't think they're unable to."

The Owls will be replacing both their tight ends as well as Alex Jackson takes over Evan Rodriguez's H-back role and Cody Booth will step in for Matt Balasavage as the blocking tight end. Both players are juniors.

"Cody Booth is a guy I like to be around every day," said Day. "He doesn't have much to say, but he has a smile on his face. I've been around some tough guys at B.C., at Florida, he's one of the tougher guys I've been around. He goes every day, puts his helmet on, grabs his lunch pail and goes to work. He's a guy we can count on.

"A.J. has great potential, he's a sweet-spirited young man, he brightens the room every time you see him. He's extremely athletic, the sky's the limit, he has an NFL body and talent level, and it's a matter of him continuing to improve."

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