Update Feb. 4- The Owls’ 2016 class is now 26 after Hutchinson Community College defensive lineman Greg Webb signed his letter of intent Wednesday night.
As Matt Rhule walked into the press conference room on Wednesday at Edberg-Olson Hall, he wore a tired look on his face.
The 14 days leading up to National Signing Day had taken their toll on the Owls’ coach.
“You can see the fatigue on my face,” Rhule said. “The last two weeks have been just an absolute grind with people trying to figure out who’s going where.”
By the end of Wednesday, Rhule’s recruiting efforts ended with 25 players signing their letter of intents to join the Owls’ 2016 recruiting class.
The 2016 class features 10 players from Pennsylvania. The group includes 3 athletes from Philadelphia.
“We made some real inroads in Pennsylvania,” Rhue said. “We’ve always been strong New Jersey recruiting outfit. This year was the strongest we’ve done in Philadelphia and suburban Philadelphia.”
Temple’s highest rated recruit was its last to sign on Wednesday. Prep Charter High School defensive lineman Karamo Dioubate, who is ranked as the No. 164 overall prospect by Rivals.com, signed his letter of intent around 7:30 p.m. at the Buffalo Wild Wings on Roosevelt Blvd.
Dioubate is the fourth four-star to recruit to commit to the Owls in the last three seasons and the highest-rated recruit, according to Rivals.com, to commit under Rhule.
From 2002-13, one Rivals.com four-star recurit commited to Temple.
“It’s not hard to recruit to Temple,” Rhule said. “It’s a wonderful university. You get a great education. All my kids graduate. You can do whatever you want. If you are a good enough football player, you can play at the next level.”
Joining Dioubate are 11 three-star recruits, one of which is quarterback Anthony Russo, a three-year starter at Archbishop Wood High School. Russo, who originally committed to Rutgers University, was named an Elite 11 finalist and the Catholic League MVP last season.
Russo, the No. 16 ranked player in Pennsylvania, threw for 2,500 yards and a Catholic League record 35 touchdowns in 2015.
“He’s tremendously accurate,” Rhule said. “He’s got a great arm. … The biggest thing I like about him is he is a competitor … at the end of the day, in the organizational structure, it’s head coach, then quarterback.”
Rhule said the Owls “got faster” with this year’s recruiting class, which has been a goal for his staff over the past few years.
Some particular athletes Rhule mentioned for their speed included wide receiver Isaiah Wright, wide receiver Freddie Johnson, who Rhule called a “speed demon,” St. Joseph’s Preparatory School defensive back Benny Walls and Imhotep Institute Charter School running back Tyliek Raynor, who Rhule said was “one of the fastest kids in the Northeast.”
“We’ll be a way more athletic team than we were last year,” Rhule said. “But I don’t know we will be as tough. I take that with a lot of seriousness.”
Eleven of the 24 commitments on Wednesday were from players ranked in the Top 40 of their state, five of which reside outside Pennsylvania.
“We made some inlands now in Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland,” Rhule said. “Get [defensive line coach] Elijah Robinson down there with [wide receivers coach] Frisman Jackson to focus on that area because that’s an area we should be better.”
With the graduation of wide receivers Robby Anderson and Brandon Shippen, the Owls lost a combined eight touchdowns and 1,1227 yards receiving on 90 catches.
The squad signed three wide receivers on Wednesday, including Wright, the No. 3 ranked player in Connecticut.
“We hope they come in and give our quarterbacks some weapons, some speed,” Rhule said. “The kids we have now are a bunch of tall receivers. We were looking to add some speed.”
Michael Guise and Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org