Temple coach Matt Rhule happy with recruits

Temple coach Matt Rhule speaks at Wednesday's news conference. "This is really a critical class for us," he said. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Temple coach Matt Rhule speaks at Wednesday's news conference. "This is really a critical class for us," he said. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Posted: February 07, 2013

With Temple fresh off a 4-7 record and facing the uncertainty of the Big East Conference's future, fans wondered whether the Owls, under new football coach Matt Rhule, could bounce back in 2013.

After Wednesday's national signing day, it seems as if Temple could be a team on the rise and return to the level of the teams that went to bowl games in 2009 and 2011.

Temple signed 23 players to national letters of intent on Wednesday, and seven were midyear enrollees.

"This is really a critical class for us," Rhule said Wednesday. "We have 23 seniors graduating who will play their final year this fall. As those guys come through this final year, I think there are only 13 or so seniors behind them.

"This class [of 2013] will come in ready to set the tone not just next year but two and three years down the line in terms of what type of football program we'll have."

This recruiting class, which was ranked seventh in the Big East by the Rivals.com recruiting website, was important in that Temple loaded up where loading was necessary.

It got two good running backs in Zaire Williams (Timber Creek) and Jahad Thomas (Elizabeth, N.J.). It got a top-notch quarterback in PJ Walker (Elizabeth, N.J.), a U.S Army All-American Bowl kicker in Jim Cooper (Mainland), and it stockpiled bodies along the offensive and defensive fronts.

"We tried to recruit some length," Rhule said of the lines. "We tried to recruit some size. At the end of the day, I think you win up front. And I think it's an area of need and an area where I think we will make some real progress. . . . There are guys who are [6-foot-5], 6-6, 6-7, 250 [pounds] 260 that are going to be 310-, 315-, 320-pound guys."

Dion Dawkins is the headliner of the offensive line recruits. The 6-5, 330-pounder enrolled in January after playing the 2012 season at Hargrave Military Academy (Va.). He chose the Owls over Cincinnati.

Temple also added a quality punter in Albany transfer Paul Layton, another January enrollee. Layton is attending graduate school after graduating from Albany in December. He averaged 41 yards per punt during his three-year career for the Great Danes. He and Cooper, whose 31 career field goals are a New Jersey prep record, will look to replace former Temple placekicker and punter Brandon McManus.

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

Camden Catholic linebacker Jarred Alwan was one of those recruits. Iowa and Boston College were recruiting the 6-1, 215-pounder up until late Tuesday.

"Temple felt like family," Alwan said in staying with the Owls. "Between Coach Rhule and [defensive backs] Coach Fran [Brown], those two are like father figures for me. They made me feel really at home and really comfortable going there."


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.

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