Temple's Rhule introduces 'critical' recruiting class

Temple's Rhule introduces 'critical' recruiting class
February 6, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Temple's 2013 Recruiting Class

Jarred Alwan, LB (6-1, 215)
-Cherry Hill, N.J. - Camden Catholic

Matt Barone, OL (6-3, 280)
-McKees Rocks, Pa. - Montour

Buddy Brown, LB (6-2, 205)
-Williamstown, N.J. - Williamstown

Brian Carter, DL (6-4 280)
-Harrisburg, Pa. - Harrisburg

Jim Cooper, Jr., PK/P (6-1, 205)
-Linwood, N.J. - Mainland Regional

Dion Dawkins, OL (6-5, 330)
-Rahway, N.J. - Rahway / Hargrave

Sharif Finch, LB (6-4, 210)
-Henrico, Va. - Henrico

Artel Foster, DB (6-0, 170)
-Meadville, Pa. - Meadville

Tyler Haddock, DL (6-2, 290)
-Pittsburgh, Pa. - Montour

Todd Jeter, DB (6-0, 169)
-Monroeville, Pa. - Gateway

Leon Johnson, OL (6-6, 300)
-Plainfield, N.J. - Bound Brook

Paul Layton, P (6-1, 215)
-Burnt Hills, N.Y. - Ballston Lake / Albany

Jihaad Pretlow, DB (5-11, 185)
-Elizabeth, N.J. - Blair Academy

Shane Rafter, OL (6-4, 282)
-Moorestown, N.J. - Moorestown

Semaj Reed, OL (6-7, 270)
-Philadelphia, Pa. - Haverford School

John Rizzo, FB (6-1, 221)
-Johnstown, Pa. - Richland

Averee Robinson, DL (6-1, 285)
-Harrisburg, Pa. - Susquehanna Twp. / Milford

Adrian Sullivan, OL (6-5, 270)
-Babylon, N.Y. - Babylon / Worchester Academy

Jullian Taylor, DL (6-5, 230)
-Glenside, Pa. - Williamstown (N.J.)

Kiser Terry, DL (6-3, 260)
-Feasterville, Pa. - Neshaminy / Milford

Jahad Thomas, RB (5-10, 170)
-Elizabeth, N.J. - Elizabeth

P.J. Walker, QB (6-1, 200)
-Elizabeth, N.J. - Elizabeth

Zaire Williams, RB (5-11, 188)
-Sicklerville, N.J. - Timber Creek

Two days into offseason workouts and Temple head football coach Matt Rhule is already losing his voice.

Speaking with members of the media in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Rhule -- voice hoarse from early-morning workouts and spending the last week on the phone trying to sure up commitments -- introduced his first recruiting class as Temple's head coach and the Owls' first as members of the Big East.

"This is really a critical class for us," Rhule said. "We have 23 seniors that will play their final year this fall. As you look, and as those guys go through this year, I think there's only 13 or so seniors behind them.

"This class will come in and set the tone not just for next year, but two and three years down the line in terms of what kind of football program we're going to have."

Matching the number of seniors set to depart, the 23-man 2013 class -- ranked seventh in the 10-team Big East by Rivals.com and ninth by Scout.com -- is made up of recruits from just four states, with 10 from Pennsylvania, 10 from New Jersey, two from New York and one from Virginia.

"We're trying to find the best talent, but at the same time, [we're] always staying local," Rhule said, emphasizing his program's commitment to establishing and maintaining relationships with local high schools. "We believe in a footprint. We believe in recruiting on a tank of gas."

This class, like the 2010 and 2011 classes, was impacted by a coaching change, Temple's third in the last four years. Rhule expressed his gratitude to predecessor, Steve Addazio, for putting together a list of recruits, to the remaining Temple staff for continuing the process during the coaching search, and to the recruits themselves for staying with the Temple program, especially those who had originally committed to Addazio.

"We started recruiting the 2014 class at the same time we started recruiting the 2013 class" Rhule said. "The [2013 class] made the decision to stay with us. They didn't know me, they didn't know a of guys on this staff, but I think that really speaks to Temple. They made the decision to come to school here … they wanted to be here."

From there, up until last evening and early this morning, it was just a matter of keeping them on that track.

"I was recruiting until they signed the letter of intent this morning," he said. "Recruiting is not 'They committed, OK, that's good, let's move on to the next person.' because the amount of ACC and Big Ten schools that came in on the kids that had been committed since the summer from this class over the last week in astounding."

Under Center
Most important among the 23 names is the one quarterback in the class: P.J. Walker. A 6-foot-1, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback from Elizabeth, N.J., Walker led Elizabeth High School to the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 state final, engineering a 98-yard drive with just 1:15 seconds left to win the game.  He was subsequently named the Newark-Star Ledger's state offensive player of the year and is the second Owl in as many seasons to win the award. (Freshman wide receiver Khalif Herbin won it in 2011.)

Temple has started four different quarterbacks in the last two seasons. There's been no real continuity at the position since Adam DiMichele left the program in 2008. Heading into the 2013 season, last year's No. 1, 2 and 3 on the depth chart -- Chris Coyer, Clinton Granger and Kevin Newsome -- are all seniors. After next year, Walker and rising junior Connor Reilly will be the only scholarship quarterbacks left on the roster.

Rhule said that re-stocking his QB depth chart will be a point of emphasis for next year, but Walker -- who turned down Big East offers, and even received late interest from Nebraska -- appears to be the future under center.

"When a guy goes and wins a game in the two-minute for the state championship, that's hard to do," Rhule said, focusing Walker's competitive nature. "That's what you're looking for at quarterback."

Hey, Buddy
As important as the quarterback position is, Buddy Brown, perhaps even more so than Walker, looks like the gem of the recruiting class.

The 6-2, 205-pound linebacker from Williamstown, N.J. selected Temple over 20 other BCS schools, including Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

When Temple talks about being able to recruit a "different kind of kid" as a result of their move from the MAC to the Big East, Brown is one of those athletes.

In the trenches
It's not sexy, but it's often where the game is won -- along the line.

Eleven of the 23 members of the recruiting class are either offensive or defensive lineman.

Given their size, 6-6, 300-pound Leon Johnson and 6-7, 270-pound Semaj Reed should prove big additions at offensive tackle.

Replacing McManus
Finally, filling Brandon McManus' shoes (one kicking, one running) won't be easy. McManus finished his Temple career as the Owls' all-time leader in scoring, field goals made and punting average.

But Rhule thinks he's found a qualified replacement in Mainland Regional's Jim Cooper, Jr, who Rhule ultimately expects to take over both the kicking and punting duties, like McManus. Cooper's father, Jim Cooper, Sr., was Temple's kicker from 1983-86, under then head coach Bruce Arians.

Cooper will take over as placekicker next fall, while senior transfer Paul Layton handles the punts. Layton spent three years at Albany (FCS) averaging 41 yards per punt, and will use his final year of eligibility with the Owls as he pursues his MBA.

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