Temple signed 23 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent, including three Big 33 selections and the New Jersey Offensive Player of the Year. It was announced Feb. 6 as part of National Signing Day.
The 2013 class is made up of six offensive linemen, five defensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs, three tailbacks, two specialists and a quarterback, mostly from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In a half hour press conference at Edberg-Olson Hall, coach Matt Rhule discussed the makeup of the class, his recruiting techniques and his outlook for the 2013 season, his first as head coach.
“We really want to build a program that’s not about what you try to do, it’s about what you do,” Rhule said. “Guys that go out and get it done…that’s what you want…when the game’s on the line, who’s going to make a play?”
The class headliner is quarterback P.J. Walker from Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, N.J. Walker passed for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior and led his team to a New Jersey state title in 2012. The Newark-Star Ledger named Walker New Jersey’s 2012 Offensive Player of the Year.
“We walked into his high school, and the security guard said, ‘Are you guys here for P.J.?’ and we said, “Yeah,’” Rhule said. “We asked what kind of a kid he is, and he said, ‘You won’t find anyone better.’ That’s really, at the quarterback position, what you want. Somebody that everybody on the team follows.”
Kiser Terry, of Feasterville, Pa., Todd Jeter, from Monroeville, Pa., and Brian Carter, from Harrisburg, Pa., are the three members of the class that were selected to play in the Big 33 Classic, a collection of Pennsylvania’s best high school players.
Terry is a 6-foot, 3-inch, 260-pound defensive tackle out of Neshaminy High School. He was ranked a three-star recruit by Rivals.com
Standing at 6 feet and weighing 169 pounds, Jeter played defensive back and wide receiver at Gateway High School. He was a 2012 All-State selection after registering 322 receiving yards and making 27 tackles.
“The fact that he’s a 6-foot corner really stands out,” Rhule said. “In today’s football you’re going to play with a lot of 5 [foot] 9, 5 [foot] 10 corners, but if you can get a 6-foot corner, a guy with that kind of length and his speed — he ran 4.4 on the summer camp circuit, so he was on college coach radars — we know all the intangibles about him…he has the requisite size to make a difference at corner.”
Carter played on both sides of the line at Harrisburg High School, where he was a three-year starter. A 6-foot, 4- inch, 280-pound prospect expected to play defensive tackle, Carter selected Temple over Connecticut.
Zaire Williams, a three-star running back from Timber Creek High School in Sicklerville, N.J., was ranked the No. 36 running back in the country by Rivals.com. He chose Temple over West Virginia, and is joined in the backfield in the 2013 class by running back Jahad Thomas of Elizabeth, N.J., ranked as the fourth-best running back in New Jersey.
The Owls also signed Jim Cooper, Jr., a specialist from Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, N.J., and punter Paul Layton, a senior mid-year transfer.
Twenty of the signees come from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, while two come from New York and from Virginia. This year’s class is a step back from the national footprint established in last year’s class under Addazio, where Temple recruited players from Florida and Connecticut, two states where he has major ties.
Rhule said his recruiting strategy is tailored to doing the best you can with the footprint you’ve established rather than branching out.
“The basis had been set, in Pittsburgh, and the basis had been set in South Jersey,” Rhule said. “We were able to come in and add some guys, and with the New Jersey guys we were able to hold onto them.”
Though he has been a part of recruiting classes throughout his six-year history at Temple, Rhule refused to compare this year’s class to previous years.
“I love all the guys I’ve recruited. Let’s be honest, every coach is going to say they love their class,” Rhule said. “I’m really excited about these guys because they stood by us and we beat some really good teams on them…I just really am excited about the totality of our class and how it fits our needs.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.