Rhule making changes for the long haul
A tough loss to Houston, followed by an even tougher loss to FCS opponent Fordham, sent Temple into its bye week with plenty of soul searching to do.
After all, following a trip out west to face Idaho (0-4), the Owls, losers of eight of their last nine games going back to last season, will begin playing the heart of their American Athletic Conference schedule next week when Louisville and its Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, visit Lincoln Financial Field.
It hasn't been an easy two weeks for the Owls, especially if you consider that had they not allowed a Hail Mary touchdown to Fordham in the final four seconds they could very easily be looking at a chance to go 2-2 against an underdog Idaho team as opposed to potentially starting the season 0-4, something they last did in 2007.
The period of introspection included giving the seniors three days off last week so that, according to coach Matt Rhule, they could "take a step back and see what they wanted to accomplish."
But soul-searching alone is not what's going to repair the Owls program for the long haul, and Rhule knows this. So this weekend, with Temple favored for the second straight game, Rhule is taking the extra step of shaking up the lineup.
"As I left the last game, I as the head coach felt that I couldn't look a lot of people in the eye and say I was proud of our effort," Rhule said. "If we're not good enough at different positions we can recruit that and coach that. But that wasn't what I was concerned with: I was concerned with our effort."
Rhule has made big changes along the offensive line, at least for this week - he says that the players being benched will get the chance to win their jobs back - that send a signal that the rebuilding process is moving ahead.
Not starting this week are senior guards Jeff Whittingham and Pete White. Whittingham was one of just seven Owls to start all 11 games last season. He's viewed as a stalwart on the line. White is the much ballyhooed transfer from Maryland who was supposed to help buttress the line's interior.
In their places this week, the Owls will give redshirt freshman Brendan McGowan and true freshman Dion Dawkins their first career starts.
The changes to the defense are notable as well. Sophomore Nate D. Smith, who did not play at all against Fordham, is taking over at rush end for injured senior Sean Daniels (sports hernia surgery). However, Rhule is shifting freshman Jarred Alwan out of the starting middle linebacker spot - Smith's job last season - and going with sophomore Rob Dvoracek in his place.
Strong-side linebacker, senior Blaze Caponegro's job for the better part of three games, could be filled this weekend by freshman Sharif Finch.
It can't help but be noticed that Rhule, charged with the difficult task of developing players for the future and winning games now, is getting many of the younger players on the field whom he expects to be with him in future seasons.
In the last 28 seasons, Temple has finished better than .500 just four times. Rhule was an assistant on three of those teams (2009-11), twice as an assistant to Al Golden, who left for Miami following the 2010 season.
"The most important thing to do now is to focus on the process that's going to be here until I'm done," said Rhule, the third Temple head coach in the last four years. "This is how we did things with Al and this is how we are going to do things once the team wholeheartedly buys in. We have to build these steps in order to have a real program that can sustain itself."