Owls' juco safety patrol

Posted: April 04, 2014

IN A PERFECT WORLD, a football coach would never have to bring in any junior-college transfers. If only for continuity's sake, he would recruit nothing but 20-some high-school seniors each year and his depth chart would remain steady across the board. But in the real world, it doesn't always work out that way.

Sometimes a team has areas that need to be addressed immediately. Last season, Temple lost 10 games. The Owls might have won at least a few of those if they had more playmakers in the secondary, particularly at the safety position. So Matt Rhule did what was necessary. That's why there are 10 midyear transfers on the roster. And two of them, Alex Wells and Shahid Lovett, specifically came to solidify that last line of his defense. Because there are no mulligans when an assignment gets blown back there.

"I came to play football and get an education," said Wells, a Baltimore native who spent the last two seasons at ASA College in Brooklyn, where he became a Junior College All-American for a team that won back-to-back conference championships. "I could see in the eyes of the coaches that they really wanted me. If I put my saddle down and perform on the field, everything's going to be OK.

"When you only have 2 years [of eligibility] left, I came because it was close to home and I knew I would get on the field. Everything seemed good. Also, with Shahid coming in, I know somebody was going to be next to me that could also play ball."

Junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, the top player on that side of the ball, has already expressed how impressed he is with the total package Wells has brought to the equation.

"I thank him for saying that, but I don't [pay attention to the praise]," Wells acknowledged. "That's how you become mediocre. I want to be looked at as a Tyler Matakevich or [sophomore quarterback] P.J. Walker. When people think about Temple football, I want them to think about Alex Wells.

"You can say I'm still in my adjustment period. That's where you can get lost. It's definitely a change. I'm moving along very fast, but sometimes you have to throw out everything that you already processed in your head and start over with learning a whole new system. It's hard right now. I'm trying my best, putting in a lot. I don't even have free space in my head right now. Every muscle in my brain is in use. It's actually nerve-racking. I'm hard on myself. I try to be a perfectionist. If I mess up one play . . . [defensive coordinator Phil] Snow, I love the guy, but he'll tell me everything I did wrong. Everything.

"This is like a brotherhood, but I don't try to make friends. I have to get my work down. I'll say hi and everything. But as far as that, it's, 'Let's see what he can do.' I'm just trying to prove myself."

So far, Rhule has no problem with what he's been getting.

"He was a pleasure to recruit," Rhule said. "Some kids, you tell them you're going to meet them at 8 in the morning and you get a text back saying they'll be 20 minutes late. Alex was always there waiting. He's really mature. He's going to be a great addition. Some kids come in entitled. Gratitude is important. If you're entitled, it's hard to appreciate what's going on. I think he's grateful. He took a different path to get here."

Still, it's a process.

"Sometimes, we'll ask him to do something and he'll look at me like I'm crazy," Rhule said. "But he's doing it."

For starters, what more is there?


On Twitter: @mikekerndn

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