Temple football opened training camp today, as the team began its first summer practice session on the northeast side of campus at Edberg-Olson Hall.
The Owls didn’t don pads today, but did wear a new type of helmet known as Guardian Caps. First-year coach Matt Rhule, who previously coached Temple from 2008-10 as an assistant, says the team was glad to be back on the field again nonetheless.
“They were excited to get out there and play and run around and compete a little bit,” Rhule said. “It’s kind of hard because there’s no pads on, and no hitting—the things they like to do. But I thought we had good energy.”
Rhule was hired after the announcement that Steve Addazio had accepted a head coaching position with Boston College. Rhule says his philosophy stresses one aspect of practice more than any other: running.
“We’re going to run all day,” Rhule said. “Guys were maybe starting to cramp up a bit because we had a long practice, but in order to play that style of football you need to be in shape. You have to outrun your opponent. It’ll take a day or two to get that back in their system, but they like that and they like playing football this way.”
One position that has sparked interest among many since Rhule’s arrival is that of quarterback. Last season, senior Chris Coyer led the team with 946 yards and 84 completions but was later replaced by senior Clinton Granger for the final two games of the season. This spring, Coyer was moved to H-back, while junior Connor Reilly impressed during the team’s annual Cherry & White game.
Reilly, who walked onto the baseball team in 2012 and played during the past two seasons, has impressed Rhule thus far behind center but has not officially been named the starting quarterback for the Owls just yet.
“I thought [Reilly] looked good today,” Rhule said. “You can he did a lot of work over the summer. Not everything was perfect, but I think he has a real good grasp of where he needs to be right now and moving forward I think he’ll only get better.”
“We’re just carrying over right from the spring game, granted we’re a little rusty but I feel like we’ve improved as well,” Reilly said. “It took a little bit to get the kinks out, but this team is going to be good this year.”
Coyer, who Rhule named as one of the team’s leaders that “everybody respects”, met with Reilly last weekend as they went over some of the playbook, defensive coverages and overall expectations for this season.
“My success is going to equal [Coyer’s] success, because right now we’re a team, we’re a family,” Reilly said. “So if I’m successful, he’s successful, the team is successful and it turns into wins.”
On the future of his baseball career, there was no hesitancy in Reilly’s answer.
“Right now, I’m 100 percent football,” Reilly said. “Baseball is on the back-burner and it’ll probably stay there.”
Coyer, having led the offense last year, maintains a unique perspective on the team this season.
“At the position I am at, I still think like a quarterback, I still read the coverage and see what’s going on,” Coyer said. “But I’m really just going out there and being an athlete and doing what comes natural as a receiver.”
“I can do a lot of different things just because I know what everyone is doing on every play,” Coyer added. “I can correct certain guys after a play or help guys before a play or even just in the film room helping people study. It helps our team come along when there are players to look to on the team rather than just coaches.”
Over on the defensive side, Rhule made it clear he wants a team that consistently rushes the passer. One of the moves aimed to help that effort is experimenting with senior Alex Jackson on defense instead of offense, where he has played tight end the past three seasons.
“When we’ve been good here, we’ve generated a lot of pressure with our defensive line,” Rhule said. “So I’m over there, coach [Brandon] Noble is over there. We’re putting a lot of pressure on those guys and they’re doing it themselves too—[senior] Sean Daniels, and the guys that we have. But at the same time, we’re trying to get as many bodies over there to keep replenishing the line.”
Temple opens its 2013 campaign with a road trip to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind. on Aug. 31. Rhule says the coaching staff won’t start discussing the matchup with the team until about 10 days before.
“It’s definitely exciting,” junior running back Kenneth Harper said. “We have to circle on the calendar every other game we do, but we’re definitely looking forward to being in South Bend and doing something very special.”
After the practice portion of training camp, Rhule says the team would meet with coaches for about two hours before receiving a test that determines if an athlete is permitted to leave or whether he needs to stay for further studying. Tonight, Rhule says graduate Bill Cosby was scheduled to visit and talk with the team.
The Owls will continue practicing tomorrow, but will not add helmets and shoulder pads until Thursday. The team will be in full gear on Friday before scrimmaging for the first time this Saturday.