Aaron Ruff had offers from schools like Wisconsin, Boston College and Virginia Tech, but he chose to sign with Temple.
The offensive lineman is a local to Philadelphia, coming out of Imhotep Institute Charter High School. He said he chose the Owls because of the team’s proximity to his home, the facilities, the coaches and a feeling of being welcome.
“Now, I’m actually part of the family,” Ruff said.
The feeling is similar for the 24 other recruits who signed with Temple on Feb. 5.
Heading into his second season as head coach, Matt Rhule went nationwide with recruiting this year, signing 12 players from outside Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“For the first time since I’ve been here, I’ve taken our Temple brand across the country, and what we found was the university as a whole has really become a national brand,” Rhule said “Whether it’s football, basketball or just our university itself, as we went to Colorado, as we went to Florida, people recognized and respect Temple a great deal.”
“As we went to parents who maybe didn’t know much about Temple and went back to work and told their coworkers that their son was being recruited by Temple, that feedback that came back to us was outstanding,” Rhule added. “I think it should be a whole source of pride for our university, the way that the rest of the country looks at our school here on North Broad Street.”
Temple picked up defensive lineman Jacob Martin out of Aurora, Colo., as well as defensive back Jyquis Thomas, defensive lineman Freddie Booth-Lloyd, wide receivers Ventell Bryant, Derrick Ingram and Brodrick Yancy out of Florida.
The Owls also signed wide receiver Matt Eaton and defensive back Khiry Lucas out of Mississippi and offensive lineman Jaelin Robinson out of Connecticut.
Temple acquired four mid-year transfers in freshman defensive back Cequan Jefferson – who originally signed a letter of intent with Virginia Tech in early 2012 – freshman wide receiver Derrek Thomas, junior defensive back Alex Wells and junior defensive back Shahid Lovett.
In his press conference on Feb. 5, Rhule thanked everyone who helped in the recruiting process, but when it came to recruiting in Florida, he gave a special shout-out to former cornerback, first-year graduate assistant and Florida native Evan Cooper Jr.
“We felt like that area is open to us, the southeast is open to us because of the league,” Rhule said. “And I think what Cooper did, just the fact that he came to Temple, played football, got his degree had a tremendous experience, went back down to Florida and was working, coaching high school football and wanted to come back to Temple.”
“I think that’s the biggest thing for kids from Florida,” Rhule added. “Knowing that, ‘Hey I can leave Florida, come up to Temple, have a great experience and want to come back.’ So Coop, even as an example, was really positive for us as we went to recruit those kids.”
But Temple still has 13 players who signed out of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, something that was important to Rhule as he wanted the program to stay “true to our roots.”
Defensive backs Shamir Bearfield, Sean Chandler, defensive lineman Michael Dogbe, running back David Hood and quarterback Frank Nutile are coming out of New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Ruff, defensive back Anthony Davis, linebacker Jared Folks, offensive lineman James McHale, wide receiver Delvon Randall, defensive lineman Brenon Thrift and quarterback Lenny Williams represent Pennsylvania.
Rhule spoke highly of the recruiting class, praising players like Ruff as the “total package,” as a great athlete, student and person. He also praised the work ethic and focus of Michael Dogbe, an incoming freshman he hopes will have an early impact on the defensive side.
“For us to compete at a high level we had to get the top 25 guys that we could across the country, and we did our best to do so,” Rhule said. “We’re excited and welcome them here.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @itssnick215.