Owls' Walker leaves impression on AAC coaches

Temple quarterback P.J. Walker. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)

Southern Methodist coach June Jones got an up-close-and-personal look at Temple quarterback P.J. Walker in October.

Walker, a freshman, passed for 293 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 92 yards and another score in a shootout that the Mustangs won, 59-49.

"I was very impressed with that young man, and I made it a point to tell him that after the game," Jones said Tuesday on a conference call with American Athletic Conference coaches. "I think their coaching staff did a fantastic job of putting him in good positions to win games. I think they are going to be one of the most improved teams in the conference this year."

Memphis coach Justin Fuente was equally impressed. His Tigers closed a 3-8 season with a 41-21 home loss to the Owls on Nov. 30. Walker shredded the Memphis defense, completing 20 of 32 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns.

"He was fantastic," Fuente said. "The kid is incredible. When he was inserted into the lineup, you immediately noticed the difference in Temple's body language. He's going to be a special player for a long, long time in this league.

For Walker to keep thriving, Temple (2-10 in 2013) will need an infusion of receivers. Redshirt sophomore Robby Anderson, who led the Owls in receiving yards (791) and touchdown receptions (nine), left the university in the winter for personal reasons.

Also gone is second-leading receiver Ryan Alderman. Alderman finished his senior season with 548 yards and two touchdowns on 40 receptions. Anderson and Alderman caught more than half (11) of Walker's 20 touchdown passes.

When the season begins Aug. 28 at Vanderbilt, Temple coach Matt Rhule will be looking for a number of players to come through.

"I don't think you can talk in terms of replacing a guy like Robby Anderson," Rhule said. "We've got a collection of guys who are going to have to step up. I'm not sure who it will be, but we need that guy to separate himself and say, 'I'm the guy you look for to make that catch on third down.' "

Rhule will count on senior Jalen Fitzpatrick, the Owls' top returning receiver, who had 429 yards and three touchdowns on 38 catches last season.

The coach is also hoping that 6-foot-4 receiver Romond Deloatch will be a factor. Deloatch, a redshirt sophomore, suffered a season-ending knee injury after three games last year.