Sophomore Delvon Randall laughed when it was suggested that he was the old man of the Temple safety corps. Randall is a first-year starter at strong safety after being a reserve and special-teams player a year ago.
He has been forced to become even more of a leader since junior safety Sean Chandler will miss his fourth straight game with a knee injury when Temple hosts South Florida at 7 p.m. Friday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Chandler is a third-year starter and was one of the defensive leaders. He was replaced by redshirt senior Nate L. Smith.
In the 26-25 win at Central Florida on Saturday, Smith was hurt near halftime, and redshirt sophomore Jyquis Thomas saw the most extended playing time of his career.
Other safety options include redshirt senior Khiry Lucas and freshman Benny Walls of St. Joseph's Prep.
So, with such relative inexperience, Randall, a product of Gateway High in Western Pennsylvania, is the experienced hand at safety.
"I have had to take more responsibility of everybody else, keep them in the film room and getting them on the same page," Randall said.
This season, Randall is fourth on the team with 29 tackles. He has two interceptions and one pass breakup.
"He has been playing better and better every week," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "I kind of semi-challenged him a week or two ago to take another step, and he has taken another step."
Still, Rhule sees even more potential in the 5-foot-11, 208-pound Randall and will continue to challenge him.
"There is another step for him to become a great player," Rhule said.
Smith returned to practice Tuesday, but he was not able to particiate in contact drills, so it wouldn't be surprising if Thomas makes his first start.
Thomas missed the first two games of the season while recovering from injuries. He had shoulder surgery and also a sprained foot, which set him back.
So Saturday was a big step in his development.
"It felt real good coming back from not playing a lot of snaps to playing a lot," he said. "It felt good getting back to [a lot] of action."
Thomas said it didn't take that long to get into the flow Saturday.
"It was probably like the second series I started getting comfortable and let it flow from there," he said.
The performance of the safeties will be crucial since the Bulls (6-1, 3-0) have one of the best big-play offenses in the country. USF brings nation-leading streaks for consecutive 35-plus-point games (11), consecutive 200-yard rushing games (12), and consecutive games of 440-plus-yards of total offense (11).
Last year the Bulls defeated the Owls, 44-23.
"We are young at safety this weekend, and they are going to have to play well, and this is probably the week you want them to do it," said Rhule, whose team is 4-3, 2-1.
And the leader will have to be Randall.
"We are doing all we can to prepare for this game," Randall said. "We want to make sure not to have the same results as last year."