Tavon Young key to Temple's banged-up secondary

All eyes are on Tavon Young after the junior cornerback came up with two interceptions in Temple's season-opening win over Vanderbilt.       MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
All eyes are on Tavon Young after the junior cornerback came up with two interceptions in Temple's season-opening win over Vanderbilt.       MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 06, 2014

As Temple spent August preparing for the football season, cornerback Tavon Young slipped under the radar.

With the Owls loading up in the secondary with new recruits and hot junior-college transfers, Young, who snared one of the Owls' three interceptions last season, went about his business quietly.

"At the beginning of camp," the 5-foot-10, 174-pound defensive back said, "I started out kind of slow. But toward the end I picked it up in the sense I am a leader in my group. I just say things when it needs to be said."

Last season, Young split time at left cornerback with departed Zamel Johnson. Young led the Owls in pass breakups (five) and tied for the team lead in interceptions. However, on a team starving for takeaways, Young has snared five of the Owls' last eight dating from Week 3 of his freshman season in 2012.

He's not afraid of contact, either. Of the returning players, only linebackers Tyler Matakevich (137) and Nate D. Smith (66) had more total tackles. Young had 51.

Young's play spoke volumes Saturday as the junior from Oxon Hill, Md., doubled his 2013 interception total with a pair of picks, both leading to scores as the Owls steamrolled the Southeastern Conference's Vanderbilt, 37-7, in the season opener for both teams.

"Tavon has been very steady for us," Temple coach Matt Rhule said this week. "We're going to need him to continue to play aggressively and show leadership."

The Owls secondary doesn't look to get a big test this week against Navy (0-1), which features a triple-option attack that is overwhelmingly run-heavy. Of their 390 yards on offense last week in a 34-17 loss to Ohio State, 370 came by way of the run.

However, Temple's secondary left the Vanderbilt game banged up, particularly at free safety - where the Owls lost starter Alex Wells (knee) for at least six weeks. Nate L. Smith and Boye Aromire, listed as the starters at safety this week, are questionable. The Owls finished the game with Will Hayes and Jihaad Pretlow at safety.

"We have run-support responsibility, but our first read is to cover always," Young said. "This is another big test for us."

Last season, the Owls lost their first six games before recording one of their two wins. They are on a two-game winning streak dating from a season-ending victory over Memphis.

A win Saturday would send the Owls into a bye week at 2-0 before they resume play Sept. 20 against a Football Championship Subdivision team, Delaware State.

"That's why this is a huge game for us," Young said matter-of-factly. "Huge."


jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer

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