Together Again

Phil Snow's first recollection of Matt Rhule is of having to call Joe Paterno to find out who he was. Rhule joined Snow's defensive staff at UCLA in 2001. Much the way Rhule joined the Temple staff in 2006 by showing up at the complex and asking to talk to head coach Al Golden, Rhule persuaded his way into a job with the Bruins over a decade ago.

Phil Snow's first recollection of Matt Rhule is of having to call Joe Paterno to find out who he was.

Rhule joined Snow's staff at UCLA in 2001 after Snow was named defensive coordinator there. Much the way Rhule – now Temple's new head coach – joined the Temple staff in 2006 by showing up at the complex and asking to talk to head coach Al Golden, Rhule persuaded his way into a job with the Bruins over a decade ago.

Rhule had been a player at Penn State for Paterno and a volunteer assistant at his alma mater before going on to coach at Albright and Buffalo. He joined the UCLA staff as assistant defensive line coach in 2001 before moving on to Western Carolina.

"It's funny how Matt got hired at UCLA, because nobody at UCLA knew him and he bugged the heck out of us when we were going through spring football," recalled Snow. "He kept bothering me, bothering me. I called (Penn State coach) Joe Paterno on him and we ended up hiring him. It's hard to not like Matt. He has a lot of energy and he's real bright. We kept a great friendship.

"Matt's a bulldog. When he wants something he researches and finds a way to go get it. You could see that then, and that's why he has this job today."

It's also why he has Snow as his defensive coordinator.

It was 12 years since their one year together in 2001 before Snow and Rhule had the opportunity to work on the same staff again. Back in January Rhule wanted the veteran coach to become his defensive coordinator after Chuck Heater left for a similar position at Marshall.

"I didn't think I'd be able to get him," said Rhule. "When I did, I was unbelievably excited."

Snow admitted initially he didn't want to come either. He had been an assistant in the NFL with the Detroit Lions before becoming defensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan, where one of his former players and assistant coaches, Ron English, was the head coach.

But as usual, Rhule was persistent.

"Initially I wasn't interested in going anywhere," said Snow. "I had lived in Detroit for eight years and I said no. He talked to me at the (coaches') convention a little more, and I went home and talked to my wife and I ended up coming this way. I'm 57 now, I want to work for people I know. I thought this was a real good opportunity."

Rhule said he saw enough in that one year at UCLA and following what Snow did in future stops to know he was his guy.

"At UCLA, he was a first-year defensive coordinator and that year we led the Pac-10 in almost every defensive category," said Rhule. "At Arizona State, he had Pat Tillman and Adam Archuleta. He takes really good athletes and gets them to play better as a collective whole. He has a long history of training defensive backs and went to the NFL and trained linebackers.

"I saw him do those things first-hand. What they did two years ago at Eastern Michigan, being able to get to 6-6, third in the conference in defense. …I don't know how many all-conference players they had, but it was as much scheme and the way they played."

Rhule respected Snow's coaching so much that when he was hired as defensive line coach at Temple in 2006, he went out to Detroit to work with Snow and Rod Marinelli for a week when they were with the Lions.

While the Owls are going through a philosophical shift on offense, changing from a run-based spread option to a multiple pro-set, passing mentality, Rhule said the changes are just as dramatic on defense.

"The last couple years we played one front, man-to-man and kids got used to playing man-to-man," said Rhule. "Phil put in a different concept. If he wanted to put in seven defenses, he probably got through three.

"He put things in with tremendous detail and a pro mentality, and that takes a little longer. His cultural shift was getting kids to learn details and offenses. Instead of ‘I have this guy', it was learning sets, splits, check to this, check to that, that's hard for guys, but they made progress.

"Our shift on offense was quicker. We were ‘We're going to catch the ball, we can do that.' On defense, it was here's seven things we want you to think about every play. It's a complete different shift, it takes a while for that to become habit. It was 10 times more than the offense."

Snow admitted he only had about 35 percent of the defense installed at the end of spring and that it would be a year-long process to have his schemes in place. But this time Snow knows he and Rhule have more than a year together.

"Young guys today, like Matt, like to Twitter and Facebook, which you have to today," said Snow. "I think he's really good at what he does. He's a bulldog at what he does. He loves recruiting. When you love recruiting and you're a bulldog, you'll be a good head football coach.

"This spring we were repping 44 players at a time. That was really unique. Everyone got reps in spring. When I was at UCLA, (legendary men's basketball coach) John Wooden would talk about developing everybody on your team. You do that, it will make you better even if you're a scout team guy. I really like the way we developed our team this spring.

"Matt has a bright future. My wife and I had never lived in this area. We came here, bought a house in Roxborough. It will be a good experience here."

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