"We are a work in progress," Rhule said. "Last season was tough, and we learned a lot from it. We went from being a team that lost at Fordham to winning the last game of the season on the road at Memphis, so we grew. We want to continue that process, and we want to be more physical in the way we play."
Almost four months remain before the Owls, coming off a disappointing 2-10 season, open the season in a nationally televised game at Vanderbilt. Saturday's game is the first step in molding an inexperienced group into a team.
And that lack of experience is still a significant hurdle.
For instance, outside of the 21 starts from center Kyle Friend, all of the returning offensive linemen have combined for just seven starts.
The situation is not much better on the defensive line, where just Hershey Walton and Matt Ioannidis were regulars in the defensive line rotation.
The Owls began practice March 24. Since that time, Rhule says there have been few players who have really stood out. As a result, when asked how many of the 22 starting positions have been locked up, the answer is not surprising.
"There is open competition all over," Rhule said. "That's a good thing. And that competition is a part of what we really want here. It's pushing everyone."
Quarterback is one area where there is no competition. That job belongs to P.J. Walker who, with just seven starts, set freshman records for passing with 2,084 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Walker said he's much more comfortable in the offense and that the team, in general, is ready to get 2014 started.
"There is more trust because we are familiar with each other," Walker said. "Last year hurt. It's motivation to get started on this season."