Temple position analysis: Running back

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Temple running back Ryquell Armstead.

The biggest task at running back for Temple is replacing Jahad Thomas, who signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Thomas averaged a team-high 125 all-purpose yards.  He was a major threat as a runner and also as a receiver out of the backfield, with a team-high six touchdown receptions (along with 13 rushing TDs). The Owls, though, seem to have suitable replacements.

Leading the way

Junior Ryquell Armstead, from Millville, had a breakout season last year, rushing for 919 yards (5.9 avg.) and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 12 carries while sharing the load with Thomas, and it’s not unreasonable for him to get in the 15- to 16-carry range.

At 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Armstead combines power and speed, and the key will be staying healthy, because he has suffered some nagging injuries. He missed three games in his first season and one last season.

Like Armstead, junior running back Jager Gardner never redshirted. Hampered by nagging injuries, Gardner had only 29 carries last season, three fewer than in his freshman year. If healthy, he should be the top backup. Redshirt junior David Hood, from Absegami, is a potential big-play threat and is expected to earn some carries. He is more a change-of-pace back.

The younger backs

Sophomore Isaiah Wright, who played receiver, running back and Wildcat quarterback last year, had 42 carries, many as the Wildcat. The Owls want to get the ball in his hands, and it might come more from the passing game this season.

Redshirt freshman Tyliek Raynor, of Philadelphia’s Imhotep Charter, has big-play ability, although he has been injured. He made a number of impressive runs during the spring.

Fullbacks

Temple coach Geoff Collins has said he feels that senior Nick Sharga (6-2, 240) is among the top fullbacks in the country. When Temple lines up in a pro set, Sharga will be the lead blocker. Last year, he had 18 carries, and he could get more when Temple is in ball-control mode.

Redshirt junior Rob Ritrovato (5-11, 230), from West Chester East, also has earned raves from the coaching staff for his blocking.