The olden adage, “Football is won and lost in the trenches,” has rung through locker rooms from youth football to professional levels for generations.
This doctrine is not ignored by line specialist and coach Matt Rhule, who oversaw the offensive line for the NFL’s New York Giants and coaches defensive line during individual practice sessions for the Owls.
“[The offensive and defensive line] are the areas I know best,” Rhule said. “We try to build around those positions and find guys with the right make up and spend time to help them improve their craft.”
The Owls’ offensive linemen currently includes junior center Kyle Friend, freshman guard Brandon McGowan, freshman tackle Leon Johnson, sophomore tackle Dion Dawkins, sophomore tackle Eric Lofton and freshman tackle Adrian Sullivan.
Dawkins, who suffered a season-ending foot injury after earning a starting position midway through last season, will look to regain his starting spot.
Friend, who has started 21 consecutive games at center and was voted team captain as a sophomore, will heed anchor responsibilities for this season’s offensive line.
“Kyle is a great mixture of a guy that is both very physically gifted, cares a great deal and puts a lot of time into it,” Rhule said. “He loves Temple and to study football. He has played a lot and has a lot of talent.”
Friend is also accountable for picking up defensive schemes such as blitzes and defensive line stunts.
“He’s responsible to give the other guys the call and he does a great job with communication and getting everyone on the same page,” Rhule said. “He’s responsible to make the calls and identify the [middle linebacker].”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Owls will return six players who gained starting experience in 2013. Sophomore Matt Ioannidis and redshirt junior Hershey Walton will look to be the leaders from the interior.
Additionally, the Owls will look toward junior Brandon Chudnoff alongside sophomores Sharif Finch, Haason Reddick and Bryan Osei to provide speed off the edges.
“I’m excited about the group,” Rhule said, “Our line is led by Matt Ioannidis and Hershey Walton and they’re heading into their junior years in the best shape of their lives. We look at [the defensive line] as a strength for us this fall.”
Matt Ioannidis, who recorded three sacks as well as 26 total tackles, 71/2 of them for losses, is expected to have a breakout year as a junior.
“He’s one of the guys we’re really counting on,” Rhule said. “He has the potential to be an all-conference player this year.”
E.J. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ejsmitty17.