Levi wants to be leader for Temple

Temple's Levi Brown (99) will be squaring off against Penn State again this year.
Temple's Levi Brown (99) will be squaring off against Penn State again this year. (MITCHELL LEFF / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY)
Posted: August 21, 2012

AS TEMPLE football prepares for its first season of Big East competition, its biggest struggle will be adjusting to a stiffer competition than the Owls experienced as members of the MAC. It will be an uphill battle - Temple was picked to finished dead last in the Big East this season.

In a year when the Owls face some of the biggest challenges in program history, they will rely on one of their biggest players to guide them through the storm.

At 6-2, 300 pounds, it's hard to miss Levi Brown when he walks into a room. It might be a bit easier to lose sight of him on the field, however. Brown, a junior from Liberty High in Bethlehem, can get lost in the trenches at the point of attack. He took on the duty of clogging up the line of scrimmage in 2011, starting 11 games for the Owls at nose tackle and anchoring Temple's 3-4 defense.

His numbers last year seemed pedestrian on the surface. In 13 games, Brown managed just 23 tackles, 3 1/2 for a loss, half a sack and one forced fumble. But after a rigorous set of offseason workouts, Brown is poised to lead Temple's defense in its first campaign against Big East competition.

"Levi has really improved his technique. He's stepping in the right direction," defensive line coach Sean Cronin said. "He's had a really great offseason and worked just about as hard as anybody on the football team. There are some things he struggled with last year that he's really started to get the hang of."

Brown's coaches at Temple aren't the only ones who have taken notice, it seems. A little more than 2 weeks ago, Brown was the only Owl named preseason first-team All-Big East by College Sports Madness. For a player who didn't even earn postseason All-MAC honors at the end of last year, an all-conference nod on this stage is a huge step up.

"It's a good feeling. It really doesn't mean anything right now, but I'm just working to keep getting better and try to live up to that honor," Brown said. "I'm just working as hard as I've ever worked to try and play my best football this year."

The 2011 Owls thrived on the defensive side of the football en route to a 9-4 record and a blowout victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl, and it looks as though their 2012 counterparts will try to take on a similar identity. Allowing just 13.92 points per game last season, Temple was ranked third in the FBS in scoring defense. The only two teams in front of them? The teams that squared off for last year's national title game: Alabama and LSU.

As the only returning starter from last year's defensive line, Brown will not only be expected to improve his performance on the field from last season, but also to step up as a leader on the Owls defense. To do so, Brown has taken his offseason conditioning routines more seriously than ever to ensure that he can make an impact on every play.

"I have to go four quarters. I can't have any down plays, I just have to go all game. Last year, I let myself down at certain times and felt like I was picking and choosing and this year I have to change my game to go the entire time," Brown said. "I've been focusing on being a better practice player and going hard all practice, and that will prepare me to go hard for the entire game."

The Owls will open their 2012 schedule with a Friday night showdown against crosstown rivals Villanova at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 31. With the matchup looming less than 3 weeks away, Brown is excited not only for a new season, but to face the challenges of bigger and stronger teams in Temple's new conference. The Owls will square off with Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati, all of whom have received votes in the preseason polls, as well as an out-of-conference matchup with Penn State.

"We get an opportunity to play against better competition this year, you can't really ask for much more. It's going to be fun," Brown said. "I'd rather go up against big guys from these high-caliber programs. It's better competition. It'll be more exciting. I can't wait for it."

Contact Dan Carp at dcarp@phillynews.com

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