Temple head coach Matt Rhule met with reporters following Tuesday’s practice to discuss the Owls’ 28-13 loss to Army last Friday and the upcoming matchup with Stony Brook (Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPN3).
Williams stands out in loss
Despite the fact that Temple’s defense gave up 329 yards on the ground, redshirt senior linebacker Avery Williams still came to play in Friday’s season opener at Lincoln Financial Field.
Williams, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound linebacker from Baltimore who originally came to Temple as a running back, racked up a team-high 12 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a half sack in the upset loss to Army.
“The only shame of it is, for me, is some beautiful, beautiful performances were lost,” Rhule told reporters at Edberg-Olson Hall. “We’ve had some great linebackers here and Tyler (Matakevich) was great. I’m proud of him for making the (Pittsburgh) Steelers. Avery Williams played probably the most passionate game, the most energetic game. Maybe not the same production as Tyler had, but one of the best games I’ve ever seen a defender play here.”
The performance from Williams drew the attention of just about every member of Temple’s coaching staff, including Director of Player Development and former quarterback Adam DiMichele.
“Even like the offensive coaches were like, my goodness,” Rhule said. “Adam has been here forever and he said to me, ‘I couldn’t believe how he played.’ Avery wasn’t perfect all the time, but the energy and passion he played with just jumped off the screen.”
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Julian Taylor, who suffered a season-ending leg injury during last September’s season opener against Penn State, made his way back onto the field against Army and received high praise from Rhule.
“Julian Taylor’s playing on a torn ACL,” Rhule said. “He has a torn ACL that’s kind of re-attached in a different way, so they’re cutting him every play. And he is playing with the passionate and energy - now, this is a kid that I fought every day with to play hard - and all the sudden he’s playing so hard and you have other guys out there and they don’t want to get cut.
“So … it’s fourth-and-one, and instead of Julian flying across the line of scrimmage, some other kids are putting their hands out and getting knocked back. They’re saying, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ What’s wrong is we just got cut open.”
Taylor, who didn’t appear on Temple first two-deep depth chart that was released last Monday, finished with five total tackles vs. Army.
Rhule taking a different approach
With veteran players such as Matt Ioannidis, Tyler Matakevich, Tavon Young and Kyle Friend gone, Temple’s head man has been forced to adapt to the personality of this year’s team.
During the limited glimpses of practice reporters were able to see last season, it was a common occurrence to see Nate D. Smith and Matakevich yelling back and forth. That was the norm.
But with the team Rhule has put together this season, he now has to provide some of that energy that Matakevich, Smith and the rest of the graduating class leaves behind.
“I don’t know if it’ll translate on Saturday, but I said, ‘You know what? I’ve gotta get back to being me,’” Rhule said. “I’ve gotta go have fun, run around, run the scout team and dap guys up.”
“I have to change,” Rhule added. “I have to realize this is a different team. I didn’t have to do that last year because Tyler and them were doing it. They were standing on the sidelines yelling at me. I think I’ve told you that I have to get used to this being a quiet team. Well, I’m not getting used to it anymore. I’m gonna go be the juice. (Defensive backs coach) Fran Brown’s gonna go be the juice. Sean Padden’s gonna go be the juice. We’re gonna be out there and we’re gonna be the juice and we’re gonna bring energy.”
Wright to play this week
Temple’s coaching staff has hyped up Isaiah Wright more than the average true freshman since the Connecticut native officially signed his Letter of Intent in February.
Wright, a 6-foot-2, 207-pounder who can play both receiver and running back, will see time against Stony Brook this week. He didn’t appear in Friday’s opener vs. Army.
“Isaiah Wright’s a guy we have to play,” Rhule said. “I wish we would’ve played him last game. We didn’t play him. We’re gonna play him this week. Isaiah Wright just reminds me of one of those guys. He’s a winner. We didn’t get him in last week … I can make excuses, but we didn’t get him in.”
Temple recruited Wright to primarily play at wideout, but Rhule’s staff decided to put the former Rutgers verbal commit at tailback when Jahad Thomas went down with an injury.
“No, he can do both,” Rhule said when asked if Wright is currently at running back. “He plays running back, he plays wide receiver. I think he’s probably most comfortable at running back. If Ventell can’t play based upon what happened today, he might play wideout.”
“I’ll tell you, this kid is something. He can do whatever you ask. He’s gonna one of the next one’s. I don’t usually talk about freshman like that. But this guy … we told him he was going to get in the game and he’s sitting right there in the team meeting, paying attention.”
Temple could be without two receivers against Stony Brook in redshirt junior Keith Kirkwood, who had three receptions for 35 yards vs. Army, along with redshirt sophomore Ventell Bryant, the team’s leading returning wideout.
“I don’t know if Kirkwood or Ventell will play this week,” Rhule said.
Bryant went down with an injury during Tuesday’s practice. Rhule wasn’t aware of what type of injury Bryant sustained.
Redshirt senior tight end Colin Thompson went down with an injury during the Army game and missed the second half.
“I don’t think he’ll play this week,” Rhule stated.
Sophomore running back Jager Gardner is healthy again, according to Rhule. Gardner - the No. 4 tailback on the most recent depth chart - didn’t appear in Friday’s loss to Army.
Rhule reiterated what he said following the game on Friday and during Monday’s American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference -- senior running back Jahad Thomas will likely be out for Stony Brook and possibly beyond. Thomas is dealing with a dislocated thumb.
“I don’t think so,” Rhule said when asked if Thomas will play against Stony Brook. “Maybe next week (against Penn State).”
Listen to the complete interviews here.