Color Temple's offensive line green

Temple head coach Matt Rhule. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
Temple head coach Matt Rhule. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 06, 2014

No other unit on the Temple football team is more in flux than the offensive line.

Gone from last year's team are five players who combined for 41 starts. Also gone is former offensive line coach Allen Mogridge, replaced by Chris Wiesehan, who spent last season on Hawaii's staff.

As a result of this upheaval, junior center Kyle Friend, the lone returning starter, found himself taking yoga this summer with redshirt junior lineman Eric Lofton.

Another switch: A defensive end last season, junior Shahbaz Ahmed added 30 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame and moved across the line, trying to fit that 285-pound body into a starting spot.

"The biggest area where we have to come to peace is our offensive line," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "We're only returning one starter in Kyle. The good news is that there are no seniors there. But the bottom line is: Who is going to step up at that position?"

Temple, which opens the season Aug. 28 at Vanderbilt, has 15 offensive linemen in training camp, and the 6-2, 305-pound Friend is the only one with much experience.

A captain as a sophomore last season, Friend has started 21 straight games. He was the only player to play every down on offense last season. A 2013 American Athletic Conference all-academic team selection, Friend has bench-pressed 225 pounds 40 times and has run a 4.95-second 40-yard dash - numbers that would stand out at the NFL scouting combine.

Rhule is counting on Friend to be the linchpin as the line comes together.

"He sets the tone for how we communicate so the less experienced guys can follow him on the field," Rhule said. "He carries himself like one of our coaches. He's a grown man. He's tough, he's disciplined, and he's smart, so he sets the example."

"I'm just trying to emulate what he does," the 6-5, 310-pound Lofton said of Friend. "He's done it. I figure if I do what he does, we'll have another guy doing what Kyle Friend does. He does it the right way."

Although they have yet to put on full pads, Lofton (right tackle), Friend, and Ahmed (left guard) have been working with the first unit, as have Dion Dawkins (left tackle) and Brendan McGowan (left guard).

A starter for five games at defensive end in 2013, Ahmed left a spring meeting with Rhule in which the coach told him an additional 20 pounds might help him win a starting offensive linemen's job.

"I bought in physically and mentally," Ahmed said. "I ate and lifted. There is an opportunity here."


jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer

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