Temple's middle linebacker battle still brewing

Temple football coach Matt Rhule. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)

Sophomore linebacker Nate D. Smith has made a strong push in the final days leading up to Temple’s season opener at Notre Dame to return to the starting lineup.

On Tuesday, at his weekly press conference, coach Matt Rhule surprised some when he said that freshman Jarred Alwan had won the starting Mike linebacker job over Smith. Last season Smith started 10 of 11 games at middle linebacker. He finished with 75 tackles, second on the team to fellow linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who last season set the true freshman record (101).

However, following a rainy Wednesday morning practice that featured the Notre Dame Fight Song looped over and over again at an ear-deafening decibel level, Rhule said that the Smith was still in the running to start Saturday’s nationally televised game against 14th ranked Notre Dame.

“It’s still not 100 percent,” Rhule said. “We were going to compete through today and Nate had a pretty good day yesterday. It’s just one of those tight battles with Jarred running with the ones and Nate running with the twos.

“Jarred is tough and he’s physical,’ is how Rhule described the Camden Catholic product. “He’s very smart and he’s going to have a great career. Whether it’s his time or not I don’t know but he’s definitely going to play.”

Both Alwan and Smith said that as of Wednesday afternoon Rhule had not told either player who will start.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Alwan said. “I feel like I’ve had a good camp. It has been difficult at times making the jump from high school to College. I guess we’ll know soon enough.”

Smith said he has enjoyed the competition – which both say has been friendly – and just looks forward to playing.

“We have been pushing and helping each other,” Smith said. “At the end of the day we’re teammates. We want to do whatever we can do to help our team win.”