WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA — For a first-year offensive coordinator, Glenn Thomas hasn’t experienced many growing pains.
While the preconceived notion was that Temple football’s winning formula in 2016 would entail prowess and toughness on the defensive side, Thomas has steadily defied the canon with a dynamic offense that has unexpectedly become the Owls’ strong suit.
With weapons through the air and on the ground, Temple (5-3, 3-1) has averaged 33.8 points per game, a six point improvement (27.6) compared to the first eight games last season under former offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield.
Thomas, who has been given free rein over play calling, doesn’t feel any added pressure in his larger role.
“There’s been transition, but when I got here last year, there’s been a lot of similarities, a lot of carryover,” Thomas said after Tuesday’s practice of his promotion from quarterbacks coach. “It hasn’t been as drastic as you might think.”
One similarity in Thomas’s latest job description is his relationship with quarterback Phillip Walker, who became Temple’s all-time passing-yards leader in the season opener against Army. In his senior year, Walker has been forced to throw and run, and while mistakes have come in critical moments, Thomas stresses the importance of trust and persistence with quarterback play.
“We trust Philip 100-percent, and on a lot of levels,” Thomas said. “Obviously he’s got a lot of experience. He’s been doing it a long time, plus his skill set gives you a chance to make plays.
“He can make a throw, or he’s got enough athleticism that he can scramble around and make something happen. The hard thing for a quarterback is if you’re running it and you’re banging it, you still have to stay sharp when you’re needed on third down to make a throw, and he’s really come through for us in that way.”
But the Owls’ offensive expertise has come from their tandem of halfbacks: senior Jahad Thomas and sophomore Ryquell Armstead. Thomas, who was Temple’s bell cow last season, has scored two touchdowns in six consecutive games, while Armstead, the team’s leading rusher, has tallied 613 yards and nine touchdowns.
“We pride ourselves on running the ball, being physical,” Thomas said. “Jahad brings a skill set that gives you some flexibility and creativity. In hindsight, last year he probably carried the ball too many times just because he was the main guy.
“Now we have some flexibility that we can remove him a little bit, maybe keep him healthy in the long run and utilize him in different ways as a receiver or fly sweep guy. The addition of Ryquell and his prowess has really helped us on a lot of levels.”
With four favorable games remaining on the schedule, Temple can repeat as the American Athletic Conference East Division champions by the end of November. The Owls’ biggest challenge, however, will be their fear of veering away from the ability to score consistently.
“Pressure’s pressure. If the focus is on you or it’s not on you, that’s the nature of this business,” Thomas said. “There’s no difference in jumping off a 20-story building than a 50-story building — you’re going to reap the consequences either way. We just try to do the best job we can. Our guys are playing at a nice level and we’ve got to continue that.”
Temple hosts the Cincinnati Bearcats (4-3, 1-3) at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.