The old Steve Martin comedy excuse of “I forgot” could have been used by Temple football coach Matt Rhule about a promise he made to starting fullback Nick Sharga near the end of last season. Rhule promised to hand the ball off to Sharga during a game, but that never happened. Much to his credit, Rhule did not pull out that excuse but doubled down on another promise—that Sharga, a part-time linebacker, has been moved to full-time fullback in spring practice.
Last year’s promise came before the AAC East title-clinching 27-3 win over Connecticut in a weekly press conference. Rhule was mentioning how Sharga was the team’s unsung hero and how his blocking sprung tailback Jahad Thomas for most of his 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns. “We’re going to hand the ball off to him sometime during a game this year, I promise you that,” Rhule said.
That promise was never fulfilled, but Sharga is only a redshirt junior so there is plenty more football ahead for him.
Sharga’s move to offense full time is great news for a couple of reasons. Removing Sharga from the responsibility of playing 10-15 plays per game on defense means the holes will be wider for Thomas and fellow tailbacks Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead.
Another positive sign is that the defensive coaches must have confidence in the returning linebackers Stephaun Marshall, Avery Williams, Jared Alwan and redshirt freshman Chappy Russell. Sharga played much of last spring at linebacker and Temple football fans attending the spring game saw that only All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich made more plays.
One sign of respect for Sharga came prior to last season when he was one of the nine players who earned a single-digit number (4), going to the toughest players, by vote of his teammates. Now Rhule has more opportunities to make good on a promise to give Sharga the ball and see how far he can run with it.
If Sharga carries the ball as well as he blocks and tackles, Temple fans can expect something rarely seen these days in college football—a fullback scoring on a touchdown run or two.