Bringing The Heat

The Temple football team lost two players drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL draft and four other starters signed to NFL contracts. Normally that wouldn't be a recipe for a team that just shut down one of the ACC's most potent offenses or a group that leads the country in scoring defense through four games. But it's clear Chuck Heater has his unit playing among the best in the nation.

The Temple football team lost two players drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL draft and four other starters signed to NFL contracts.

Normally that wouldn't be a recipe for a team that just shut down one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's most potent offenses or a group that leads the country in scoring defense through four games.

But after Saturday's 34-7 win over Maryland, it's clear new defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has his unit playing among the best in the nation.

Temple has allowed just 31 points in four games – with two of those touchdowns coming late in the game against second-team defenses and another score the result of a short field caused by a turnover.

"I was encouraged (when I arrived), I liked our guys, I really did," said Heater of taking over a unit missing first-round defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and second-round safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. "Recruiting here has been outstanding. Two guys won't make you a great defense. Players have really bought into what we presented to them and we have a group of 11 guys playing as a unit and that leads to success.

"These guys have been well-schooled before, they've played good defense before, they know what that's about, and we're carrying on that tradition."

A 35-year coaching veteran, Heater came with new head coach Steve Addazio from Florida where Addazio was offensive coordinator and associate head coach and Heater was co-defensive coordinator.

"I just think Chuck is a veteran guy, he's a really sharp guy that's been around and you can't substitute experience," said Addazio. "He's obviously very fundamentally sound, schematically sound, but also we want to let those kids play and put kids in position to make plays. Chuck's done a fabulous job as well as the rest of the defensive staff on that side of the ball in putting people in the right position, letting them play and presenting enough problems for opposing offenses and motivating and rallying your guys.

"The coordinator is the head coach of his unit. You have to take ownership and Chuck is terrific at that. He's one of the true pros, great veteran, well-respected coaches and we're so fortunate to have him. We really are."

Senior defensive end Adrian Robinson has been a big supporter of Heater's philosophies from the start. The Owls' 3.75 sacks per game are fourth in the country.

Under Mark D'Onofrio last year, the Owls were more of a bend-but-don't-break defense. The philosophy worked at times – Temple pitched back-to-back shutouts in mid-season – but Heater has shown an inclination to be more aggressive.

"To be honest, he brings a little bit more heat," said Robinson. "Someone as wise as him, he knows when to call certain plays and everything we have accomplished has been a lot because of Heater. He puts you in position to make plays and our players have been making them."

The most impressive outing came against the Terrapins Saturday, where the Owls frustrated ACC Rookie of the Year quarterback Danny O'Brien. The sophomore took a seat in the fourth quarter without leading the team to a score.

"He's a streaky guy, he's best when he can get flushed out of the pocket and can make a play down the field," said Heater. "We wanted to make sure we kept him contained in the pocket."

A big key for the Owls' success has been the revamped linebacking corps returning only outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead as a starter. Stephen Johnson, who began last year as the starter in the middle before giving way to Peanut Joseph, is leading the team with 29 tackles – 11 against Maryland – and Blaze Caponegro and converted running back Ahkeem Smith have both played well at the WILL position.

"Those guys have gotten better every week," said Heater of the linebackers. "(Inside linebackers coach Sean) McGowan has done a great job with those guys. It's the group that had the farthest to go.

"Steve played last year, was solid for us, but we had real concerns (about the unit). We brought Ahkeem over which was a huge get for us. Blaze has come on. That has been a substantial part of what's happened on defense."

Johnson, who also broke up two passes against Maryland, said he has just been following instructions.

"The coaches did a great job all week of getting us prepared with what they were going to run, and I just trusted the coaches and it paid off," he said.

The Owls, who have also seen breakout seasons from defensive lineman Levi Brown and cornerback Anthony Robey, have displayed a toughness and physicality that lends itself to many of the impressive numbers being put up by the defense.

Temple manhandled Maryland at the line of scrimmage, shutting down the running game and sacking O'Brien three times after he hadn't been dropped at all in the first two games.

"That comes from Coach Addazio," said Heater, "Toughness is a big part of what we do. Football is the ultimate tough game, and when you are physical that goes a long way in getting in position to be competitive."

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