CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, N.J. – Temple receiver Branden Mack ensured he will continue to be the talk of training camp for at least another day, as he excelled in the Owls’ situational scrimmage Saturday at Lower Cape May High.
Coach Geoff Collins determined that the scrimmage would end when the next team scored. Mack, a redshirt sophomore, made a leaping grab of a long Anthony Russo pass, then strolled into the end zone for what was estimated to be about a 45-yard touchdown.
“I had a go ball and it was, like, third-and-14 and Russo put it up there, and I had to make a play,” Mack said, making it sound easier than it looked.
If there were an MVP for the last three days of practice, Mack would be the hands-down winner.
“He has done three straight days of really good practices,” Collins said.
What is interesting is that offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said he, Collins, and quarterbacks and inside receivers coach Adam DiMichele talked with Mack a few days ago. The coaches mentioned that key receivers Adonis Jennings (now in the Green Bay Packers camp) and Keith Kirkwood (with the New Orleans Saints) were gone and that this was Mack’s opportunity to step up.
“He had been playing OK [before the coaches talked to him], but the ball has been able to find him a bunch the last three days, and he has really responded,” Patenaude said.
Mack, who starred locally at Cheltenham, said that his performance in the last three days has given him a major boost.
“That has added to my confidence a lot,” Mack said. “If I keep making plays day by day, that just tells me I can make plays when it is crunch time.”
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Redshirt junior defensive end Dana Levine, who appeared in all 13 games last season and had two sacks, had his arm in a sling after the scrimmage.
“A couple of guys, including Dana, got banged up, and they will go back and be evaluated,” Collins said. “I will know more after that.”
Russo, the redshirt sophomore from Archbishop Wood, has enjoyed a strong camp, and it continued during Saturday’s scrimmage.
While graduate student Frank Nutile has a firm handle on the No. 1 spot, Russo is likely the solid No. 2 quarterback.
Patenaude says Russo knows the offense so much better, now that he is in his second year in the system, and it has shown in his play.
“He has become a much more efficient thrower over the last year,” Patenaude said. “From where he was when we first got here to where he is now, he is a totally different guy.”
>> READ MORE: Frank Nutile doesn’t plan to give up his starting spot
Three injured veterans ready to take another step
Collins says that three returning injured players who didn’t suit up Saturday will begin doing more at practice on Monday. Redshirt junior linebacker Chapelle Russell is recovering from his second ACL injury in as many seasons. Safety Jyquis Thomas has a foot injury, and receiver Brodrick Yancy has an unspecified injury. Both are graduate students.
“They should all be able to go Monday in practice and participate in team drills and competitive situations,” Collins said
The Owls will return to practice on Monday and begin preparing for Saturday’s second and final scrimmage, which will be at Franklin Field. Temple opens its season Sept. 1 at Lincoln Financial Field against Villanova.