Through two days of training camp, it has become clear that first-year Temple coach Matt Rhule has taken a few cutting-edge ideas from another new coach in the city.
After heading down to the Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp Friday with offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, Rhule quickly picked up a few tactics from first-year Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
“[Kelly’s] been great,” Rhule said. “He said we’re welcome down there anytime. He’s a heck of a coach and we try to take advantage of that. Coach Satterfield and I went down there just to see what they were doing and it really brought back some things that they were doing and maybe we hadn’t been doing. One thing about Chip, he’s always at the forefront of what’s going on. He’s cutting-edge even with just the little things, and we’re trying to steal some of those things here.”
Along with playing music during drill sessions, something Kelly has become known for in recent months, Rhule picked up a few more derived tactics.
Some of these involve players catching footballs around polls set up near the end zone, as well as a “half skeleton” drill, in which players get twice the amount of reps as they normally would do in a regular skeleton drill—a drill in which the offensive and defensive lines are held out of the formation.
Another big part of camp thus far has been learning the playbook, something that Rhule acknowledged is still a work in progress.
“They’re making progress, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be in that regard.”
Rhule introduced another new facet to training camp 2013 by making all of his players take a test, not on the field, but on paper.
“Both [offensive and defensive] teams have a test that we give and basically camp’s over at night and after it if you pass the test you get to go home,” Rhule said. “If you haven’t [passed] you have another hour of studying. On offense, we have three or four guys who have passed it, and it’s the whole playbook. The defensive test is 28 pages long. It’s like a midterm. It’s like a final in Econ. It takes a long time to try to master all that stuff.”
Learning the playbook is especially a priority for sophomore linebacker Nate D. Smith, whom after a season in which he started 11 games and was second on the team in total tackles (75) as a true freshman, has been practicing with the second-team defense through two days of camp.
“I’m going to say [I’ve progressed] slowly, but I’m definitely making progress in the right direction,” Smith said. “Right now I’m second team, but I have to prove to the coaches that I can get back to my spot and go from there.”
Having started 2013 with the second-team defense, winning his starting job back starts with improvement on the mental part of the game as well as continuing to learn the playbook, Smith said.
“Definitely more so the mental part of it,” Smith said, on improving his game. “This [system] is more based on the playbook and it’s a bigger playbook also, but other than that it’s definitely starting to work. I just have to get back in the playbook and start making more plays, and show them that I can get that spot back. I need to better myself. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”
While Smith works toward winning his starting spot back, another fellow sophomore linebacker in Rob Dvoracek will be looking to win his first collegiate starting spot after practicing with the first team thus far in camp.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Dvoracek said. “I just have to keep working hard each day and do what the coaches ask me to do, if I have a rough day I have to bounce back and do my job.”
Despite a new coaching regime both with Rhule and first-year defensive coordinator Phil Snow, the learning of the playbook and defensive system has been an easier transition this year as opposed to a year ago as a freshman, Dvoracek said.
“Coming into camp last year, it was hard to pick up the plays,” Dvoracek said. “Being here this year in the spring and learning the defense helps a lot. I’m acclimated to the book and you study your plays a lot, and it helps that [Snow] was here in the spring and not just jumping right into camp.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @daParent93