Despite being just a redshirt sophomore, center Matt Hennessy is ready to take on a larger leadership role on Temple’s relatively young offensive line.
Hennessy, who played three games before redshirting as a freshman, started 12 games last season for the 7-6 Owls. He missed one game due to illness.
Counting one game he started before redshirting his first season, Hennessy has made 13 career starts. Only redshirt junior guard Jovahn Fair has more career starts among returning players, with 17.
So Hennessy, a product of New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep whose brother Thomas is the New York Jets’ long snapper, is looking to be one of the leaders of Temple’s offensive line.
“I do [look to be a leader], and I need to make sure we’re on the same page and bring the guys along,” Hennessy said at spring practice. “Some of the younger guys are getting a lot better this spring and it’s been great to see.”
Hennessy is still one of those younger guys, but he isn’t viewed that way. Even last season, he really wasn’t viewed as a redshirt freshman.
Before last season, he was named to the Rimington Watch List for the best centers in the country. Hennessy lived up to the billing even though he had to fight through some adversity.
The game he missed was Oct. 21, a 31-28 overtime defeat at Army. Hennessy had an illness and he said it sapped him of some weight that he was unable to regain the rest of the season. The 6-foot-4 center says he is back to 295 pounds after playing “the second half of the year at 260 pounds.”
Hennessy is among the Owls’ most intelligent linemen and has the type of tenacity that enables him to win one-on-one blocking battles.
Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said that he feels Hennessy, Fair and fellow guard Vincent Picozzi could be the best interior blocking group in the American Athletic Conference. He expanded on Hennessy.
“Matt Hennessy is an unbelievable athlete,” Patenaude said. “He is the puller on one of the outside zone plays we have and he looks like a fullback running around out there.”
Hennessy has good speed for a center, has regained his strength and is getting more accustomed to a position he never played before coming to Temple. Hennessy was a tackle in high school.
Offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan is a bit more reserved than Patenaude in his evaluation of his line’s interior.
“I want them to be the best on our team and we will let conference play be conference play,” Wiesehan said. “Right now. they are competing for starting jobs.”
That is all true, but there might not be a player who has a better grip on a starting spot than Hennessy, who is feeling more confident after last year but won’t allow his early success to go to his head.
“I think I have picked up this spring where I left off at the end of last season, which is good going forward,” Hennessy said. “That was just the first year and I am just trying to work on being better.”