When Temple secured P.J. Walker’s signature on a letter of intent, most Owls fans thought that they would have to wait about a year to get a look at the highly touted quarterback.
But Temple’s slow start, coupled with injuries and inconsistent quarterback play, forced new coach Matt Rhule to speed up the process. Walker will make his first career start Friday when the Owls (0-5, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) play at Cincinnati (3-2, 0-1).
“I think Marcus [Satterfield] has done a really good job of bringing him around slowly and not playing him until he was ready to play,” Rhule said Tuesday of Temple’s offensive coordinator.
Walker replaces Connor Reilly as the starter. He becomes the third Owls quarterback to start a game this season. (Clinton Granger started against Fordham.) Rhule said that Reilly suffered a bone bruise in his leg on Sept. 7 against Houston and it has limited his mobility.
Walker completed 10 of 19 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Louisville.
“We also recognize that we think P.J. is going to be an outstanding player,” Rhule said. “We think he’s going to be dynamic. We made the decision that we didn’t want to play P.J. too early because the worst thing that can happen is you can play somebody too early and they can lose their confidence. That is something that can especially happen with a quarterback.”
Walker, who appeared briefly in Temple’s 30-29 loss to Fordham, said he initially thought the college game would come easier to him. However, after facing a stingy Louisville defense for the better part of three quarters, he now knows otherwise.
“The game is much faster,” said Walker, who added that he always felt that there was an open competition for the starter’s job. “I didn’t pick up on the system as fast as I thought I would have. I thought it was going to be much easier, but it’s not. It’s a lot harder than I expected.”
The move away from Reilly is somewhat surprising. After the junior came off the bench to lead three scoring drives in the Owls’ loss to Fordham, Rhule said in the postgame news conference that Reilly was the team’s best option at quarterback.
But Temple is ranked ninth in passing efficiency and 10th in points per game (15.8) in the 10-team AAC. The Owls’ five-game losing streak to start the season is their longest since they dropped five straight at the start of 2007.
“We have to get moving,” Walker said.
DT pleads guilty
Temple reserve defensive tackle Kamal Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of harassment, the Temple News reported. The charges stemmed from an incident almost a year ago involving his former girlfriend.
Johnson, a fifth-year senior, was sentenced to 270 days of probation. He will continue to be a member of the Owls, Temple officials said.
Johnson, 21, was arraigned on Oct. 8, 2012, on charges of assault and kidnapping. He was suspended from the team after his girlfriend at the time said Johnson had forced his way into her apartment, assaulted her, and locked her in a room after an argument. The woman said the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Johnson would not allow her to leave.
The kidnapping charge was eventually dropped. Shortly thereafter, Johnson rejoined the team and was allowed to participate in spring practices.