Written By: Cayden Steele
Photo Courtesy of: OwlSports.com
Last season, Temple’s offense struggled in many areas and that included the run game. The ground game was not always efficient, making it more difficult to score. The Owls’ offense only scored 139 points last fall, while their opponents combined for 260 points.
In 2020, the Owls’ backfield averaged 3.5 yards per attempt and combined for 1,108 yards in seven games. The team’s inability to consistently run the ball put the offense in tough situations.
“Past protection is always a focus for us, but I found that you can pass protect a lot better on first down than you can on third and nine,” offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich said. “If we’re running the ball well, it makes the pass protection easier.”
After three games in 2020, featured back Re’Mahn Davis entered the transfer portal and committed to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 2019, Davis only trailed former Temple running back Bernard Pierce (2009) in freshman rushing records. His 936 rushing yards ranked fifth in the FBS among freshmen. But in 2020, Davis rushed for 323 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry; slightly less than his 4.8 yards per attempt the previous season.
After his departure, many different running backs received opportunities. A rotation of Tavon Ruley, Onasis Neely, and Edward Saydee replaced Davis’ carries. Ruley, a Penn Wood High School graduate, became the new feature back and finished the season with 306 yards and a touchdown.
This spring, the Owls’ running back room looks very different. Two incoming transfers have a chance to compete for the starting role.
Ra’Von Bonner played three seasons for Illinois, rushing for 822 yards and ten touchdowns during his time with the Fighting Illini. Bonner fits the Owls’ inside zone running scheme because of his past experience in a similar system.
“Inside zone is something I’ve been running since high school. So, to me that’s just like my bread and butter,” Bonner said. “But as far as learning I mean everyone has their own version of their inside zone scheme. Here it’s a bit different, but essentially it’s not much different in terms of footwork and reads.”
Iverson Clement, a former four-star recruit from Mount Holly, New Jersey, joins Bonner in the backfield. Clement transferred from Florida University during the offseason and now is close to home. His past accolades are impressive; however, he was not able to crack the Gators’ rotation and mainly played special teams for Greg Knox’s unit in Gainesville.
Clement’s versatility gives him an advantage because the redshirt sophomore’s ability to run the ball and line up at wide receiver gives the coaches more options for potential matchups.
“I don’t compare to anybody else. I am efficient, you can line me up at running back, you can line me up at wide receiver, X or Z,” Clement said.
Clement’s athleticism was on display early in his collegiate career. The transfer played on defense for the Gators’ for a few months and could return kicks and punts.
Clement even compared himself to a Taysom Hill esque player and believes he can play anywhere the coaches request.
The two newest transfers, who might become the leaders of a relatively inexperienced position group, have already made a unique connection.
Last Thursday, Bonner returned to the field after testing positive for COVID-19 and Clement motivated him at practice despite feeling tired.
“Today’s my first day back because I tested positive. Iverson saw me tired and so he came up to me, he sprayed water on my face. He said, ‘No you’re not tired, you’re a dog. Just keep going,’” Bonner said. “That’s the kind of relationship that Iverson and I have. I definitely would say that’s a guy who will be at my wedding someday.”
Even though Bonner missed valuable time with the team, the new running back stayed focused and attended every scheduled Zoom meeting.
“This offseason has been a little up and down for him. He hasn’t really been able to be here because of COVID and contact tracing, but mentally he’s there. He joins every zoom meeting and he does what he can do,” Clement said.
Clement’s uplifting style and energy have been noticeable on the practice field, safety Amir Tyler said.
With a new year on the horizon, the run game could be more productive thanks to the addition of two new running backs with different styles. Bonner’s experience and Clement’s untapped potential could provide the Owls what they were looking for. If the Owls find more success on the ground, it could lead to an overall better offense this upcoming fall.