By Michael Donovan

The countdown to Temple’s season opener with Penn State at the Linc on Sept. 5 is on, and head coach Matt Rhule feels ready.

Temple is coming off a 6-6 (4-4 AAC) 2014 season and, with 19 starters returning, hopes are high that the Owls can be a contender in the chase for the American Athletic Conference title.

Rhule has liked what he has seen so far this preseason:

“I’m really proud of our kids. I think they’ve come in here with a really great work ethic. They’ve had a really strong purpose for what they’re doing. We look like a good football team. They’ve put a lot of work in and I’m excited to just finish camp out and get ready for the first game.

“Coming off last year,” Rhule says, “we were fourth in the nation in scoring defense, so I look to our defense. Our defensive front led by (defensive lineman) Matt Ioannidis, (linebacker) Tyler Matakevich, we’ve got a lot of veteran guys up front.

“I’m really pleased with our defense, so far,” Rhule adds. “Especially our front seven.”

On offense, P.J. Walker is again at quarterback. A junior, Walker burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2013, but he was up and down in 2014, throwing 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Rhule firmly believes the arrow is pointing up for Walker here in 2015.

“I think he’s had a great camp,” Rhule says. “I think he’s learned lessons from the past couple years. Not many people play as early as he has and he’s got a lot of experience. So I think he’s put that experience to good use this year. I like his approach, I like the way he’s worked and he’s played really, really well. If we can keep him healthy, we think he’ll have a really good year.”

Rhule says one question he had coming into this camp was who would emerge at the running back position.

“We want to be a strong running team,” Rhule says. “We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, but just who that guy is going to be, three freshman tailbacks came in and I think we feel really good about the position. Now knowing who exactly that guy is, we’re not there yet. But we have a lot of guys with a lot of talent, that have played really well and I think we’ll have a strong running game.”

The Owls will open the season with a marquee match-up, welcoming Penn State to the Linc.

“I think it’s good for our team,” Rhule says. “It’s a chance to gauge themselves against one of the best teams in the country. It’s a chance to really test yourself, and I think it brings purpose to camp. And I think it’s great for us, I think it’s great for Temple, I think it’s great for Philadelphia to bring such a great game to the beginning of college football season. I expect it to be really a tremendous contest.”


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