It's mid-May, but Temple head football coach Matt Rhule and his staff have already collected five verbal commitments from the 2014 class - Imhotep Charter offensive lineman Aaron Ruff, Governor Mifflin High School defensive end Connor Morehart, St. Peter's Prep safety Shamir Bearfield and Gateway High School standouts Delvon Randall and Brenon Thrift.
The Owls, who played in the Big East last season and will play in the newly-rebranded American Athletic Conference next season with the likes of Louisville, Connecticut, Rutgers and Cincinnati, have managed to assemble a group of verbals thus far that has offers from several high-major programs.
Ruff, for example, has offers from Wisconsin and Georgia Tech and is also being courted by Stanford. He'll enter the 2014 season as one of the top players in Philadelphia and the state. Morehart, the No. 25 strong side defensive end in the 2014 class, has a Rutgers offer. Bearfield, the first from the 2014 class to commit to Temple, claims offers from Rutgers and Michigan State.
Thrift and Randall play at a perennial PIAA Class AAAA state title contender in Gateway just outside Pittsburgh, where Temple is starting to gain some momentum in an area that has traditionally been locked down by programs like Pitt, Penn State and Ohio State. Thrift, an outside linebacker, has an offer from the Big 12's West Virginia.
Although Rhule cannot comment on recruits until they sign a National Letter of Intent in February, he did discuss his program's approach to recruiting in the third and final part of his extensive interview with OwlScoop.com, and you can listen to it here:
Here's an excerpt from that conversation:
"We're recruiting with some juice and some energy. When people get recruited by us, when they watch practice, when they come on Junior Days, when they come on visits, I think they feel a place that has energy. No one wants to go somewhere that's boring. No one wants to go somewhere where they're going there because it sounds good but there is no juice. So I think when they come here, they feel that. They feel our coaches, they feel the way we recruit. They understand that our players have fun when they play. They go to class, they do the right things on and off the field, but we play with some juice. We play with some energy.
"If they come to the spring game, they see it. If they come to a practice, they see it, and I think you just want to be a part of that. And that's what's happening. Guys are coming and they're saying, I want to be a part of that. There's that process at first of (a player saying), Do I want to play in the ACC? Do I want to play in the SEC? Do I want to play in the Big Ten? But at the end of the day, enough guys are saying, 'I want to go play at Temple. I want to go play there. I want to be part of that.'
"We have great recruiters. I'd say our coaches, but the best recruiters we have are the players on our team. They come here, they meet our players. If you're from this area, you want to go somewhere where the people are like you. Not just the guys on the football team, but if you're from New Jersey and you go to Temple or if you're from Pennsylvania, half the people at your school or a lot of people at your school might come to school here already. They might live in Philly. So there's just so many things drawing people here right now that you just want it to be like a tidal wave, and our coaches have done a great job of getting people here and building a connection.
"I want the kids that are being recruited here to know that when they read the tweet from Coach X at such and such a place, it's probably some 18-year-old GA doing it for them. When they get the tweet from me, it's me - typos and all. When they read a Facebook post from (wide receivers coach) Terry Smith, it's Terry Smith. You know what I mean? Right, wrong or indifferent, we are real, and I think people feel that. Young kids nowadays, they feel that.
And so, it's the university itself, it's everything we have going on here, the facilities that we have now, that we are going to have here in the next couple months, it's everything that we're putting together. And they come here and they recognize that, you know what? This is big time. Even if somebody tells me it isn't, it is. So put all that together and they look at the players we have going on to the next level, and they say, 'Do I want to go on to the pros? Can I do it from Temple? Yes. I want to win. Can I win? Yes. Do they have energy? Do they have juice? Is this a big-time-type of place? Yes. OK, so why don't I just go to Temple?'
"So that's what's happening."