Owls are on the go at spring football practice

Posted: March 28, 2014

TEMPLE'S FOOTBALL team is practicing 15 times this spring. None can be at the program's 10th and Diamond facility because Chudoff Field is being resurfaced. Which means Matt Rhule's guys are hitting the road.

The Owls will have 10 scheduled workouts at Camden High's Farnham Park, one (Alumni Day) at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church (site of the old Temple Stadium), one at Haddon Township's Paul VI High, one at Plymouth Whitemarsh High and another on campus at Geasey Field, which used to be their practice site. The Cherry-White game on April 26 is at Cardinal O'Hara.

Got all that?

It could be a distraction. But Rhule, who's preparing for his second season, doesn't think so.

"When Al [Golden] was here," he said, "he'd move around on purpose, actually create controversy, to teach [the players]. There's a very simple message: Wherever they lay the ball down, we're going to play.

"Camden has worked out fantastic. It's a great space. We're going real early in the mornings, kind of get here and get away. The first day [Monday], the buses pulled up, the guys got out and ran right to where they go. There was no dry run. It was like, 'Hey, this is [the same as being at] Diamond Street, Edberg Olson [Hall].' They've been rolling. It's really not that far. It breaks up the monotony of just normal spring practice. That's good.

"Last year, we started at 6 a.m. At 6:05, there might be one or two guys who weren't there. Now I walk in at 5:45 and the whole team's there. That doesn't mean you're going to win. It just means they're working on a high level, whatever we ask them to do. That's the first step."

When you go 2-10 in your inaugural season in the new American Athletic Conference, coming off a 4-7 in 2012 under Steve Addazio, there figure to be many necessary steps. But Rhule was part of 26 wins the three seasons before that. So he knows the possibilities, especially in a conference that no longer has Louisville or Rutgers and very much has a Conference USA flavor to it.

"Now that we've kind of got the foundation established, it's a more businesslike approach," said Rhule, who has only five scholarship seniors. "For me, it's about the overall work ethic. I want us to be a tough, disciplined team. We kind of got that at the end of the season, but we're certainly not there yet. That's what the offseason's [for]."

He'll get no arguments junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich.

"We have time on the bus to just talk to each other," he said. "Talk football, mostly. It gets us focused. You know right when you get off the bus, if your cleats aren't tied, you'd better tie them because we're going.

"[The ride's] about 20 minutes maybe. It's quicker going there. Nobody's on the road [yet]. Some guys sleep. There's nothing wrong with that [either]."

The Owls open at Vanderbilt 5 months from tomorrow. It sounds like a long way off. The time will go quickly.

"We're getting there," Matakevich noted. "Obviously, we're not where we want to be. But we're headed in the right direction. Definitely a lot more kids have bought in, trust me. But there's a long way to go."

Rhule's pass-oriented offense looked a lot different in the second half of the season after true freshman P.J. Walker became the starting quarterback. He just got invited to be a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in New Orleans in July.

"I'm very excited, looking forward to it," Walker said. "You just have to keep pushing and pushing. It's a process."

Said Rhule: "That's an unbelievable honor for him. He has to go there and work. Sometimes you have a little bit of success and you think you're special. Then you're around all these other good quarterbacks in the country and you look to your left and to the right and go, 'OK.' You know you can't take nothing for granted. That's what he has to do over the next 3 years."

Or even the upcoming one.

Extra points

Chris Wiesehan is officially the new offensive line coach. He replaces Allen Mogridge, who left after one season to return to Central Florida. Wiesehan, who spent the last two seasons at Hawaii, is a 20-year veteran who was on the same staff as Matt Rhule at Buffalo in 1999-2000. Also, Brandon Washington was named assistant strength and conditioning coach. He was at Nichols State last year, but spent two seasons at Alabama working for Nick Saban. Matt Delgado is now director of video operations.

On Twitter: @mikekerndn

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