Jalen Fitzpatrick Ready For Big Year

Jalen Fitzpatrick didn't have the junior season he or the Temple University football team hoped for. But if training camp is any indication, Fitzpatrick could put the disappointments of 2013 - for both he and the team - behind and finish his career as an Owl with a stellar senior campaign.

Jalen Fitzpatrick didn’t have the junior season he or the Temple University football team hoped for.

But if training camp is any indication, Fitzpatrick could put the disappointments of 2013 – for both he and the team – behind and finish his career as an Owl with a stellar senior campaign.

“We have to do a better job getting him in the right spot,” said head coach Matt Rhule. “He’s better inside, but we have to play him outside sometimes. The biggest thing is he’s on a mission right now and that’s what you look for out of seniors. He’s playing at a high level.

“We probably took him for granted last year that he would get off to a hot start, and didn’t get him enough balls and didn’t let him get his feet wet. We have to really focus on ways to get Jalen Fitzpatrick the ball, because we know he’s explosive, know he can run after catch. He looks like a guy who can play at a high level.”

Fitzpatrick caught 38 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns as a junior, finishing as the third-highest receiver on the team.

The overall numbers were actually better than his sophomore year when he caught 30 passes for 363 yards and two scores, but switching from former head coach Steve Addazio’s run-heavy offense to Rhule’s emphasis on the pass, there were higher expectations.

“I feel like the team is on a mission too, but I definitely feel being my senior year (I want to finish strong),” said Fitzpatrick, noting last year’s 2-10 record. “When the team struggles, you individually struggle, so we’re concentrating on fixing the overall team.

“I definitely want to prove I’m the No. 1  guy, but that’s just work ethic and helping teammates succeed. It’s not all about doing everything for yourself, especially in our offense. With team success, individual success will come.”

In the Owls’ opening loss to Notre Dame, Fitzpatrick was held to two catches for 16 yards. He had a couple drops, but he was also open a few times and didn’t get the ball and it seemed to set the tone for the season.

With last year’s leading receiver Robby Anderson not returning to the team, the opportunity is there again for him to take the No.  1 receiver role.

“I’m fired up the way he’s toughened, his mindset is a lot tougher than it was,” said offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield of Fitzpatrick. “If we give him a chance to make plays, he’ll make plays.

“Last year was very frustrating, that Notre Dame game … He dropped some balls, but there were some tough ones. I think he got a little frustrated early and got going towards the end, but he had a lingering thumb issue. We also had a young quarterback (P.J. Walker) where we were running nakeds, rollouts, trying to get Robby the ball deep. If you weren’t a guy we were trying to get the ball too, there wasn’t a progression where it was coming to you. This year we’ll have a little more balance.”

Walker said he and Fitzpatrick are developing a sound rapport that will translate to the whole offense being better.

“We sit back and have conversations after the play is over, what he sees, what I see, having that awareness out there,” said Walker. “He gets it, he comes back to me when he sees things and the other guys are not quite there yet. I like Jalen inside, but he’s a big playmaker, so you can line him up on the outside, let him catch a ball, give him a short route and let him go 50 yards.”

While Fitzpatrick has excelled best in the slot in the past, that could also be an area where redshirt sophomore Khalif Herbin could have his best success. Fitzpatrick said he has become just as comfortable on the outside and is happy to line up anywhere he is needed.

“We’re already far above where we were last year being the second year in the offense,” said Fitzpatrick “Last year was a lot of firsts for everybody … First time in the new offense, first time playing outside receiver for me. By now I’m comfortable anywhere. Most of that goes to Coach Satt simplifying offense and I’m just blending in.”
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