Temple football coach Geoff Collins says that he’s hoping to get starting left tackle Leon Johnson back for Saturday’s game against Army, but that it’s too early to tell at this point if he will return.
Johnson, one of the team leaders, suffered what Collins said was an ankle injury during the second play of Saturday’s 28-24 loss to visiting Connecticut in an American Athletic Conference game. Johnson initially was replaced by redshirt junior Jaelin Robinson, but redshirt junior James McHale played most of the game in Johnson’s absence.
“Leon hurt the opposite ankle that hobbled him in the past, and he is a tough kid and doing everything he can to get back and be healthy,” Collins said during Monday’s AAC media call.
Johnson has made 28 career starts for the Owls. He moved to left tackle after starting all 14 games at right tackle last year.
Collins praised the 6-foot-6, 300-pound McHale, who has yet to make a college start. It was McHale’s 18th career game.
“I am really proud of James McHale, who stepped in for Leon,” Collins said. “He hasn’t played a lot of football and replaced a guy who has started, and he fought and battled.”
Collins also praised redshirt freshman Vincent Picozzi, who was making his second start, replacing left guard Jovahn Fair. A redshirt sophomore, Fair suffered an injury in the third game of the season and has yet to return. Collins wouldn’t say if Fair would be ready this week, saying only that he is working hard.
Temple (3-4) will face a 5-2 Army team that has a three-game winning streak. The Black Knights opened last season with a 28-13 upset of Temple at Lincoln Financial Field.
Now, the Owls have to travel to Michie Stadium in virtually a must-win situation if they want to finish bowl-eligible with a .500 record.
Collins conceded that recovering from Saturday’s upset loss to UConn has been difficult. “Our guys are still hurting from the loss,” he said. “We had a good practice today.”
Temple will need several other good practices to cope with Army’s triple option offense. Army is second in the nation in rushing, averaging 378.4 yards.
The No. 1 team is Navy, another triple option squad. Temple will play Navy on Nov. 2, after a bye that follows the Army game.