A few months ago, the Temple baseball team packed the bats and balls away, presumably forever, because the school ended its 87-year-old program. That doesn’t mean the school that produced former Detroit Tigers’ slugger Bobby Higginson has stopped looking for a home run hitter.
In fact, that seems to be the focus of Temple football practice in this surprisingly mild summer. Last year, the Owls had a promising stable of running backs in Jamie Gilmore, Kenny Harper and Zaire Williams. The problem with all three was that they had this annoying habit of being caught from behind. They could turn the corner and get eight yards but getting those 80 seemed to be the problem.
Head coach Matt Rhule acknowledged that problem over the last few days, saying he’s looking for a “home run hitter.” The solution could be right under his nose. Rhule’s most explosive player is a 5-foot-7, 170-pound slot receiver named Khalif Herbin, who was the New Jersey High School Player of the Year playing essentially what was a single wing quarterback position for Montclair in 2011. During his senior year, he rushed for 1,950 yards and scored 43 touchdowns — one shy of the state record — all while sitting out the second half of several games due to Montclair’s huge leads.
All Rhule has to do is look at the successful transition another slot receiver, Matty Brown, made when he switched to running back in 2009 under former coach Al Golden for an example of what he could get. Herbin is two inches taller, four-tenths of second faster and 20 pounds heavier than Brown, who became Temple’s third-best rusher of all time. Herbin runs a 4.32-40-yard dash and, unlike Williams, Gilmore and Harper, probably will not get caught from behind.
The beauty of this solution is that the Owls would get their home run hitter without being hurt at the slot as they have a more than serviceable slot receiver in veteran Jalen Fitzpatrick.
With only a couple of scrimmages left before the opener at Vanderbilt, giving Herbin a few swings in the figurative batting cage this summer might produce the long balls the Owls need to light up the scoreboard this fall.