Silver Lining: Temple Coaches, Fans See Brighter Days Ahead With P.J. Walker

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Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 30th 2013; Rain falls as former Temple Owls quarterback, now graduate assistant, Adam DiMichele (left) works with true freshman quarterback P.J. Walker (11) during a practice session at Edberg-Olson Hall, in preparation for their game with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. (Frank Stephens III-C+P Photographer)

It has been a long time since Temple had a quarterback that has been loved by Philadelphia. Adam DiMichele, who eventually went on to the NFL, CFL and Arena league, was able to help turn the Temple program around under Al Golden in 2007 and 2008. DiMichele was a very successful quarterback and a popular player in the city, even enjoying brief stints with the Eagles and Arena League’s Philadelphia Soul, but The Owls have been searching for a prolific signal caller since DiMichele departed Temple.

Enter P.J. Walker…. Click Here for Related Video

Walker, a true freshman, has given hope to the Temple fans and students that he can help return the team to the success it achieved in the late 2000’s.

Walker committed to Temple from Elizabeth High School in New Jersey, where he was heavily recruited by schools such as East Carolina, UConn, and Rutgers; which is approximately 45 minutes away from Elizabeth, but it was the Philly school that won him over.

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Temple Owls quarterback P.J. Walker speaks with C+P writer Chris Franklin after practice. (Frank Stephens III-Coach & Player Magazine)

 

“I originally committed to coach (Steve) Addazio and then committed with Coach (Matt) Rhule…I just love the atmosphere around here.”

Walker possesses the skills that many of the new age offenses require. At 6 feet 1, 200 pounds, Walker does not look physically overpowering. However, he has above average arm strength that can put defensive backs into precarious situations, especially on deep throws. Walker also is very mobile. His legs have made him a legitimate threat on read option plays.

“P.J. is a very dynamic player,” Rhule said.

When Temple’s running game is effective, Walker can run the bootleg with the best quarterbacks in college football. The way that Walker plays can be attributed to the quarterbacks he likes to emulate.

“Cam Newton and a little bit of Aaron Rodgers,” he said.

It is apparent that the freshman has a similar style to both quarterbacks. His skill is also causing defenses to adjust to his talents. His mobility in and out of the pocket has made defensive coordinators divert from their normal game plans.

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Temple Owls offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield speaks with C+P writer Chris Franklin after practice. (Frank Stephens III-Coach & Player Magazine)

“We are not a quarterback run team so they don’t have to look at PJ and stop quarterback runs but what they have to do is design the coverages to not only cover Jalen Fitzpatrick and Robbie Anderson but if the protection breaks down or if PJ sees a seam if he starts to scramble, they got to have secondary contain and guys that are spying the quarterback. This presents as much or more issues to defensive coordinators than having to stop the quarterback read play,” said Temple offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield.

Walker’s skills have helped the success of Robbie Anderson. The two have developed a chemistry that has so far been highlighted by the 239 yard performance Anderson had against SMU. So far in the young history of the American Athletic Conference, that is the most receiving yards one player has had in a game.

 

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Nov 2, 2013; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Temple Owls wide receiver Robbie Anderson (19) runs through the end zone after catching a 26-yd TD pass thrown by P.J. Walker. (Frank Stephens III-Coach & Player Magazine)

Ever since Walker entered the starting lineup against the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Owls have averaged 30.8 points per game, compared to the 18.3 points the Owls had before he became the full time starter.

“Right now he’s leading by example.” Marcus Satterfield said.

It could not come at a better time. While struggling this season, the Owls are in the midst of rebuilding a program that had gotten used to the idea of going to bowl games. With quarterback being one of the important components of team leadership, Walker is learning on the job. He has not been perfect. During the 23-20 loss to Rutgers on Nov. 2nd, Walker threw a badly thrown ball that was intercepted and led to a Rutgers touchdown.

 

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Temple Owls offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield instructing quarterback P.J. Walker during practice. (Frank Stephens III-Coach & Player Magazine)

But mistakes are expected by a young quarterback. Walker has had to make plenty of adjustments from the high school game to Division I.

“Speed has been a big problem. I just can’t hold the ball as long as I did in high school.”

The encouraging thing is that Walker is starting to learn from the early mistakes that he has made.

“It’s all coming around {for} me now. The game is starting to slow down more and I’m feeling pretty good with it now.”

With a 1-8 record, Temple is not bowl eligible. However, each of the last three games will be important for the Owls to gain experience and confidence as an offense. Walker will be the keystone to Temple’s future success. Walker is determined to win.

“I want to go out there and show that Temple is a competitive football team.”

 

Chris Franklin is a staff writer for Coach & Player Magazine and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.  Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisfranklincp.

 

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