Nothing has come easy for fifth-year senior Cody Temple in his time at USC. Making the transition from center to the defensive line early in his career and having to battle through what seemed like an endless barrage of injuries – including nagging ankle issues – the Bakersfield (California) Liberty graduate just never seemed to be able to get in the flow of things.
But after staying healthy enough to play in all 13 games for the Trojans last season, and then following that up with a productive spring, the 6-foot-2, 294-pound Temple is moving well and showcasing improved quickness, even taking extensive reps with the No. 1 unit earlier this week at defensive end alongside Antwaun Woods and Delvon Simmons. His performance has provided evidence to believe that he’s on the verge of potentially taking on a larger role for the Trojans this fall, with the capability of contributing at both end and nose tackle.
Interestingly, he attributes the strides that he’s made physically to something you don’t often hear associated with most football training regimens: yoga.
“Transitioning into the summer, I was talking to the coaches about what I could do to get more time on the field, and the biggest emphasis was not just being a first- and second-down kind of guy,” Temple said. “I needed to work on my explosion. I needed to be a little bit more flexible, and a little bit quicker. So, I came to the conclusion that one of my summer classes should be a yoga class for the benefits that I could get from it, from loosening up the hips and being able to work on some spots that I don’t necessarily hit otherwise.”
So far, Temple says, his decision is paying off.
“I don’t just feel like a big old brute anymore,” Temple said. “I’m feeling a little more comfortable with my technique because I’m a little more explosive. I’m really feeling the transition of my body changing, and coming over into the field and what it’s doing for me.”
Also playing an important factor in Temple’s recent development is the increased responsibility that he was forced to take on this past spring. With Woods sidelined with a pectoral injury, Temple took the bulk of the reps with the No. 1 defense at nose tackle, and the experience of going up against first-team All-Pac-12 center Max Tuerk day after day proved to be invaluable.
“Going up against Max every day made me better,” Temple said. “I may have weighed more than him. I may be stronger in the weight room at points, but when it comes to technique and effort, which is what we all emphasize out here on the field, that man always gives it.”
Part of a USC defensive line that is marked by vastly improved depth, Temple and the other four senior members of the group have taken it upon themselves to help lead the unit through their paces each day. They've taken an especially large role in guiding the five new freshmen: Jacob Daniel, Rasheem Green, Noah Jefferson, Christian Rector and Kevin Scott.
“We’ve been doing as much as we could this summer with them,” Temple said, “talking with them here between camp, we wake them up early in the morning and just make sure they know, ‘Hey, make sure you hot tub and cold tub. Make sure you go over this before practice.’ Just talking to them, and we really try to get in their heads, ‘Hey, you may be a freshman in college, but you’re not a freshman in football, so have fun. Just learn your plays, play with great technique and effort and the game will come.’”
And as long as the younger players continue to take the lead of the veterans and the entire defensive line plays as one fine-tuned unit, as they’ve been emphasizing in practice, Temple is optimistic that they’re going to find plenty of success on the field this fall.
“It’s just how we play together, making each other better,” Temple said. “You know, ‘I’m doing my job right, so that means the guy next to me is going to look good. And he’s doing his job right, so that means I’m going to look good.’ I do believe that this defensive line can do a lot this year, and I think we’re going to make a big impact.”