Rhule looks for P.J. Walker to improve

Sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker set freshman records with the Owls last season.
Sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker set freshman records with the Owls last season. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 26, 2014

Matt Rhule's voice boomed across Camden High's football field Monday morning.

The Temple head coach had just watched his quarterback slide to avoid a defender. Rhule asked the rest of the team what P.J. Walker had done wrong. The sophomore quarterback had not earned a first down or escaped out of bounds, Rhule said.

Meanwhile, the clock was still running.

It was the final session of Walker's first spring practice as Temple's starter. He showed great promise as a freshman, but growing pains are expected. Everyone knows, Rhule said, that Walker "can throw and run.

"Now it is just understanding what we're doing."

Walker threw for 2,084 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, both Temple freshman records. Rhule, in his second year as Owls head coach, said Walker spent the offseason studying his mistakes. He is learning to better protect the ball, Rhule said, and not "making a bad play worse."

"From a mental standpoint, he's light-years ahead of where he was before," said Rhule. "That's really the big step he has to take."

The Owls practiced at Camden because their on-campus field is being resurfaced. They will also practice at Cardinal O'Hara, Plymouth-Whitemarsh, Paul VI, and Enon Tabernacle Church, the site of old Temple Stadium.

Walker is 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. Rhule said that after losing some of his "baby fat," Walker is bigger and stronger than he was last season when he rushed for 332 yards and three touchdowns. He is elusive in the pocket, and Rhule said Walker's ability to run comes naturally.

At Camden, the clock continued ticking. Walker opened his arms wide and slapped his hands after Rhule reprimanded him for not stopping it.

The quarterback regrouped and returned to the line. He threaded his next pass downfield to an open receiver, who turned toward the end zone. But the whistle blew before he could sprint for a score.

It was only the first day of spring practice, another chance for improvement.

An Owl returns. Linebacker Praise Martin-Oguike was back with the team in a limited role due to back soreness. He had been suspended in 2012, but rape charges against him were dropped in October.


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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