Matt Rhule says Temple builds NFL ready players

Temple head coach Matt Rhule expects the Owls to be much better in 2014 after going 2-10 last season. Credit: Getty Images
Temple head coach Matt Rhule expects the Owls to be much better in 2014 after going 2-10 last season. Credit: Getty Images

Temple’s head football coach talks about why so many Owls make it in the NFL, putting the team on the map in Philadelphia, and having a bounce back season in 2014.

It sounds like you had a very productive signing day. How are you feeling looking over your incoming freshman class?

I think it’s a really pivotal class for us because it’s the first we have had as a staff all together in this new conference. I think we have elevated our level of who we’re recruiting. We were able to go to nine states, three different time zones and get a lot of kids who had opportunities to play elsewhere. And those 25 kids chose Temple.

Do the shortcomings from last season carry over into 2014 and help to motivate the team?

As a football coach you are always looking for a “buy in,” where players believe in what you say and what you do. I think as they were going through some of those tough moments. We went into the fourth quarter with leads in each of the last six games of the season and as we had some heartbreaking losses, we would ask, “why did we lose?” I think as a team we have emerged much more unified and together.

Have there been growing pains adjusting to the competition in the American Athletic Conference? 

It’s akin to a baseball player going from Triple-A to the majors. Anytime you move to the next level of competition, your batting average might dip, but eventually you will rise to the level of competition. While we were in a great conference before in football (the MAC), the American Athletic Conference is a step up. We have spent two years getting our feet underneath us. I think we showed we were right on the cusp last year and I think it’s time to take that next step. It’s all part of the natural process of stepping up in conference.

Philadelphia is a city that loves football. What will it take for the Owls to become a hot ticket in the city?

I think it’s one of the best values for people like me, people with kids, around. A chance to go see a really good product, we have some really good players and it’s only going to get better and better. We play a really exciting style of football. I think there’s an entire group of people who are really going to start loving this team.

Aside from incoming freshmen, why is this time of year important for a college football program?

This is really when you build the core of your team, build the fabric, establish the work ethic and get guys stronger. Right now is our time to take it and run with it and really develop a tough football team.

Quarterback P.J. Walker gave us flashes of brilliance during his freshman season last year. Is he going to be the man in 2014?

We have an open competition for everything every day. Every one of us in the job market, who works for a living, we know we get paid based on our production and that’s the same thing in football. That being said I think P.J. really cemented and solidified himself as the starter last season. We expect him to get better moving forward.

What sort of expectations do you have for the 2014 season after going just 2-10 in 2013?

I think one of the big lessons I learned last year and our program learned last year, is we don’t want to sit around circling wins or predicting wins. There wasn’t a team we didn’t feel like afterwards we could have beat, or could have beaten us. I want to play tough, smart and most importantly disciplined football every single game.

What makes a Temple guy NFL ready?

I think one thing every NFL executive has said to me is that they know when they get a guy from Temple they know they have a guy who hasn’t been coddled, who is tough, who is coachable and who not only overcomes adversity but embraces adversity and work ethic. I think that’s why we have so many guys getting drafted high, and we also have a bunch of guys who go in as free agents and end up having long careers.

Do the NFL guys come around often?

Rod Streater (Raiders) stopped by and gave me a signed jersey recently. And I just got a letter from the Jets, we had three kids on the Jets this year, [Muhummad] Wilkerson, [Jaiquawn] Jarrett , and [Michael] Campbell. Bernard Pierce called me the other day, he’s in the area, he just had rotator cuff surgery. This is a place where, because of where we’re located and how much those former players love Temple, all of our alums, especially those in the NFL like to come back here and they think it’s a great place. It got them ready to compete at the next level.


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