When Matt Ioannidis first saw Phil Snow’s defensive playbook three years ago, he was taken aback by its complexity.
The senior defensive lineman knew it would take time to master the defensive schemes drawn up by Temple’s defensive coordinator, and was unsure what to think.
“We didn’t know what we were looking at … there is so much to it,” Ioannidis said. “It really is an NFL playbook.”
Now Ioannidis finds himself anchoring the defensive line of a Temple defense returning 10 of 11 starters and was toward the top of the rankings in multiple Division I Football Bowl Subdivision categories last season.
Along with defensive captain and senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, Ioannidis leads the defense as one of the longest tenured members in the Front 7.
The Owls ranked fourth in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing 17.5 points per game compared to 29.8 a season ago, and tied for second with six defensive touchdowns. The defense also ranked 11th in takeaways, forcing 30 turnovers, 19 of which were fumble recoveries, which tied the group with Florida International University for second-most in Division I.
Ioannidis attributed the increase in turnovers to Snow, who has been coaching since 1976, including four years in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions. He has coached current and former NFL players including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.
“There is so much we can run,” Ioannidis said. “There are so many different fronts. It’s a mystery to me. He’s a magician on the whiteboard with X’s and O’s … he understands so much of the game.”
With last season behind them, Ioannidis and his teammates will look to improve on a defense unit that allowed 347 yards per game and ranked 19th in third-down defense.
The Owls will also be adding heralded recruit Kareem Ali to the mix. The Pennsauken, New Jersey native was the state’s No. 2-ranked defensive-back prospect of 2015 and a four-star recruit, according to rivals.com.
“It’s really clicking and this is going to be a great year for us,” Ioannidis said. “This year is going to be the year we turn it and it’s really coming together well. It’s real evident through film and practice that this is going to be a dominant year.”
Temple will also look to redshirt-junior Praise Martin-Oguike to help lead the defensive unit.
The Woodbridge, New Jersey native led the team with his 7.5 sacks last season and forced five fumbles, which tied for fifth-best in Division I.
“[Martin-Oguike is] a tremendous pass rusher,” Rhule said. “He’s got a ferocity to him. Just a natural, physical relentlessness that you want.”
Ioannidis said the the redshirt junior – who recorded a sack in seven of the team’s final nine games last fall – is soft-spoken, but not in a bad way.
“He’s not quiet in the sense he doesn’t say anything or contribute to the group,” Ioannidis said. “He’s always with us every step of the way. We bring him along and he brings us along.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.