Temple coach Matt Rhule challenged Matakevich to become more of a playmaker heading into 2013, and the player responded with more tackles for loss and recorded his first career interception, against Army.
After 2013, Rhule asked Matakevich to become an even better playmaker and more of a leader.
"I keep challenging him to take it to another level, and he does," Rhule said. "He's become a coach on the field now. He's making the twos play at his level. He's yelling at the offense. So you can see more growth."
That growth - he's listed at 6-1 and 230 - has not affected his head, teammate and friend Kenneth Harper said.
"Despite all of the accolades, he stays very humble," the Owls' leading returning rusher said. "He doesn't think, 'Me, me, me.' He's only concerned about the team, and that's what makes him so special. He's not big-headed at all."
Matakevich looks forward to the season opener Thursday against Vanderbilt, a physical team with a veteran offensive line that will no doubt try to run the ball at smaller Temple.
"This will be a test for him to be more physical and not just savvy," Rhule said.
Last season the Owls defense allowed 29.8 points and 474.2 yards per game. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow, in his second season at Temple but 38th as a coach, told the Owls that it would take a little more than a year to learn the defense and be comfortable in it.
Matakevich said that he now fully understands what that meant.
"We aren't reacting in it anymore," said Matakevich, who was named a captain as a sophomore. "You can see what he was talking about because now we are getting it. I feel like we are locked and loaded and ready to play."
Notes. Starting wide receiver John Christopher suffered a foot injury. He has not been ruled out for the opener at Vanderbilt and is expected to make the trip with the team. . . . The Owls ended the 2013 season in Memphis. Two-hundred and ninety-one days later, they will play their 2014 opener in Nashville.