By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – 2013 was a difficult season for the Temple football team.
The Owls went just 2-10, losing a decade’s worth of heartbreakers – six of their ten losses were by nine points or fewer, four came by three points or fewer.
But the Owls are hoping their work during spring practice will help turn things around come the 2014 campaign.
“Things have gone really well,” Temple head coach Matt Rhule tells KYW Newsradio. “We have a lot of those young freshmen that went out there and played for us in the fall. Now, this has been a great opportunity to go back and start from square one and really teach them how we’re doing everything. And the team has responded really well so far.”
One of the biggest reasons to think that the Owls are headed in the right direction is quarterback P.J. Walker. He stepped in last season and ended up starting seven games as a true freshman, throwing for 2,084 yards and 20 touchdowns while being intercepted just 8 times. He also proved elusive, rushing for 332 yards and an additional three scores.
“In this game of football, you build around the quarterback position,” Rhule says. “To know that we have P.J. for the next three years is exciting for the program. And at the same time, we’re able to kind of go back and teach him the game. We threw him out there, he was about a couple months removed from the prom, and all of a sudden he is out there playing football. So, to go back and really teach him from square one, I think everyone will see his growth just really take off in the next season.”
As far as areas that are getting a lot of attention this spring, Rhule says they want their defensive line to take some significant steps forward.
“We were not happy with our sack total last year (19) and production from that position, and those guys knew that,” Rhule says. “So the guys that we have coming back have really gotten in the weight room, gotten themselves a lot better, and we’ve moved some players, some linebackers to defensive ends trying to generate some pass rush. Guys like Sharif Finch and Haason Reddick have taken really taken a big step for us. So we feel like we’re turning one of our weaknesses into a strength and that’s how you win.”
Temple has about three more weeks of spring workouts to go. The spring Cherry and White Game is slated for April 26th at Cardinal O’Hara High School.
The Owls open the 2014 season on August 28th at Vanderbilt.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.