New conference gives Temple a recruiting boost

New conference gives Temple a recruiting boost
February 5, 2014, 7:00 pm
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In his first season as head coach of Temple, Matt Rhule went 2-10 with just one conference victory. (AP)

Temple's Recruits

Shamir Bearfield, DB, 5-11, 175
St. Peter's (N.J.) Prep

Freddie Booth-Lloyd, DL, 6-0, 315
Cocoa (Fla.) HS

Ventell Bryant, WR, 6-3, 180
Jefferson (Fla.) HS

Sean Chandler, DB, 5-11, 173
Camden (N.J.) HS

Anthony Davis, DB, 5-11, 180
Gateway (Pa.) HS

Michael Dogbe, DE/LB, 6-3, 240
Parsippany Hills (N.J.) HS

Matt Eaton, WR, 6-4, 200
Pascagoula (Miss.) HS

Jared Folks, LB, 6-2, 218
Susquehanna Twp (Pa.) HS

David Hood, RB, 5-9, 185
Absegami (N.J.) HS

Derrick Ingram, WR, 6-1, 193
Jefferson (Fla.) HS

Khiry Lucas, DB, 6-1, 180
Hinds (Miss.) CC

Jacob Martin, DL, 6-3, 230
Cherokee Trail (Colo.) HS

James McHale, OL, 6-6, 300
Dunmore (Pa.) HS

Frank Nutile, QB, 6-4, 199
Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep

Delvon Randall, WR, 6-0, 190
Gateway (Pa.) HS

Jaelin Robinson, OL, 6-7, 300
Wilbur Cross (Conn.) HS

Aaron Ruff, OL, 6-3, 300
Imhotep (Pa.) HS

Jyquis Thomas, DB, 6-1, 182
Plant (Fla.) HS

Brenon Thrift, DL, 6-3, 230
Gateway (Pa.) HS

Lenny Williams, QB, 5-10, 196
Sto Rox (Pa.) HS

Brodrick Yancy, WR, 5-11, 184
Manatee (Fla.) HS

Mid-year transfers
Cequan Jefferson, DB, 5-10, 170
Fork Union Military (Va.)

Shahid Lovett, DB, 6-2, 205
Lackawanna (N.J.) CC

Derrek Thomas, 6-4, 185
Milford Academy (Conn.)

Alex Wells, DB, 6-0, 202
ASA College (N.Y.)

Past results are no indication of future success. See Matt Rhule and the Temple Owls.

In a press conference at the Edberg-Olsen practice facility on Wednesday, Rhule introduced the 25 newest members of the Temple football program, all of whom signed their national letters of intent earlier in the day.

The Owls won just one game in league play and only two all of last year. But of the 11 schools who will play football in the American next season, Rhule just locked up the conference's second-best recruiting class.

The 2014 class is rated 60th in the country by Rivals.com and features players from nine different states. One player, Aaron Ruff, earned a four-star rating, while 12 others were given three stars.

"The Temple T really traveled well for us," Rhule said. "For the first time since I've been here, we've taken our Temple brand really across the country. And what we found was, the university as a whole is really becoming a national brand. … As we went to Colorado and Florida, people really respect Temple a great deal."

As painful as it was in a year that featured a number of close calls, Rhule said his team's last-second loss to No. 15 UCF actually did him favors on the recruiting trail by making the Owls "a bit more national." Five of Rhule's 25 new players are commits from the talent-rich state of Florida, where the second-year coach said he's confident Temple has learned to recruit.

Still, 13 of the 25, including the three best, come from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Ruffin' It
The class is headlined by Ruff, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman from Imhotep Charter whom Rhule described as "the total package." A Philadelphia native, Ruff committed to Temple early last year and has since spent time fending off other programs.

Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were among those who also offered, but Ruff always declined, opting instead to stay at home.

"Aaron had opportunities all along," Rhule said. "Probably from the minute we offered him, [scholarship offers] just kept piling up and piling up. First of all, his mother went to Temple. And I think we see that every year, we see people whose mother or father or family member went to school here … so I think with Aaron he knew this was the place for him."

On defense
The Owls' struggles in coverage were never any more apparent than in their aforementioned loss to Blake Bortles and UCF. It was after that game that Rhule openly discussed how he'd be looking for help in the secondary during the offseason.

Of the 13 players signed to play on the defensive side of the ball, eight of them are defensive backs.

"This is a throwing league," Rhule said. "[You] need to have not just two corners, you need to have four, five, six corners in this league to compete with the teams that run the Air Raid, the Run 'n Shoot. So we tried to go out and get as many defensive backs as we could."

The best of the group, and maybe the best player in the entire class, is cornerback Anthony Davis from Gateway High School in Western Pa. Davis had scholarship offers from 17 different FBS programs, including Penn State, Missouri, and Nebraska. Former wide receivers coach Terry Smith was the one recruiting him to Temple, but even after Smith left to join James Franklin's staff in State College, Davis stayed loyal to Temple.

While Davis and seven other guys try to solve Temple's issues in coverage, Michael Dogbe will be rushing the passer. Dogbe, a 6-3, 240-pound linebacker/defensive end from New Jersey, is the third consecutive Newark Star-Ledger player of the year to sign with Temple, following wide receiver Khalif Herbin and starting quarterback P.J. Walker.

Just like Ruff, despite other offers, Davis and Dogbe never decommitted.

"He never wavered down the stretch," Rhule said, referring to Davis. "When you talked to him, it just seemed like this was home for him.

"You know, the last week of recruiting is always crazy. Michael Dogbe would call every night and say 'Hey Coach, these guys offered me and these guys offered me,' but some of those guys who had been with us a long time, they knew this was the place for them."

Under center
The Owls inked two quarterbacks to NLI's Wednesday, Frank Nutile of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey and Lenny Williams of Sto-Rox High School in Pennsylvania.

Nutile (6-4, 199) is more of a prototypical dropback passer, while Williams' skills translate a bit more closely to Walker's. Asked if that says something about his offense, Rhule referred to the Eagles' success this year with Mike Vick and Nick Foles, adding that "Coach Kelly down the street showed that you can always tweak" schemes.

Nutile and Williams join Walker and backup Connor Reilly to give the Owls four scholarship QBs.

On the outside
Last season, leading receiver Robby Anderson was the only wideout on the roster taller than 6-foot. Temple didn't just add bodies on Wednesday, it added meaningful height. Rhule pulled in six receivers, five of whom are 6-foot or taller and three of whom are 6-3 or above.

Looking ahead
Temple starts spring football on Monday, March 24. The Owls will practice three days a week leading up to the annual Cherry and White game on Saturday, April 26.

Temple kicks off its 2014 schedule and -- believe it or not -- launches the SEC Network when it plays at Vanderbilt on Thursday, Aug. 28.

The Owls open at home the following week against Navy and will also host Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, Tulsa and Delaware State in 2014. In addition to Vanderbilt, they'll travel to Penn State, Houston, Tulane, UCF and UConn.