Breakout Player To Watch: P.J. Walker
By Jackson Wang
Temple has a new sheriff in town. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, freshman quarterback P.J. Walker has already given the Owls a bright look into the future.
Not only does Walker have strong passing and running skills, he provides a big spark for team that was struggling last season.
In the first five games, the Temple offense managed to score just 29 points and zero wins. Once Walker got the start against Louisville in October, the Owls had 46 points in just two games and finally got a victory.
Walker is patient in the pocket, waiting until the last second to get rid of the ball. He has a nice touch on his passes, which is helpful for goal line and short routes.
As a result, coach Matt Rhule expanded the playbook for Walker last season. Rhule started with 15 to 20 plays against Louisville. By the last game, Walker was working with 75 to 80 plays.
He’s a quick and elusive player that can make defenders miss in either the open field or close spaces. And when he’s scrambling, Walker keeps his eyes down field, something you normally see out of quarterbacks with more experience. But his ability to run gives Temple an extra dimension, especially when it comes to play action and the read option.
Rhule told The Inquirer in late October they were going to coach him like a junior.
"I think that's one important thing to say. We're letting him go," Rhule said. "He needs to experience that, because there's going to be times when we need him to win it [late]. At the end of the day, people feed off the quarterback."
By the time the Owls played Louisville, they weren't gaining many yards, so Rhule pulled out junior Connor Reilly to give Walker an opportunity.
Walker went 10 for 19 and a touchdown in that game.
Two games later, he gave Temple its first win of the season over Army. He went 10 for 16 and two touchdowns.
The Owls ended the season with a win over Memphis. Walker threw for four touchdowns and the Owls finished 2-10. He also set two freshman records for Temple, most passing yards in one season with 2,084 and most passing touchdowns with 20.
Still, Walker will have to put in a lot of work. Two of his top wide receivers are gone, so he'll have a lot of learning and bonding to do to make sure everyone is on the same page. He began working on establishing connections with his receivers in late January.
Plus, Walker said at a season-ending news conference that he was going to lose a few pounds and get quicker. Between that press conference and the first day of spring practice, which began Monday, Walker spent time studying his mistakes and learning to better protect the ball.
So far, he's been working with the first team throughout the spring practices.
In July, Walker will continue to improve his mechanics by attending the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana. Some of its past clients include Teddy Bridgewater, A.J. McCarron, Tajh Boyd and Johnny Manziel.