Smith Shines At Safety

While the Temple football team went into the season with safety as one of its biggest questions, Abdul Smith has emphatically given the Owls a definitive answer at the position. Smith, who considered not playing this year because he had graduated, has arguably been the Owls' best defensive player two games into this season.

While the Temple football team went into the season with safety as one of its biggest questions, Abdul Smith has emphatically given the Owls a definitive answer at the position.

Smith, who considered not playing this year because he had graduated, has arguably been the Owls' best defensive player two games into this season. On the second play of the opener at Notre Dame, Smith delivered a big hit to stop Irish running back George Atkinson III in his tracks.

The free safety has continued to deliver the lumber with a succession of hard tackles, including one where he separated Houston quarterback John O'Korn from the ball at the Owls' 2-yard line Saturday, giving Temple the ball and a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

"Playing safety you look at guys like Jaiquawn Jarrett, I've been talking to him a lot and told him I'd be better than him," said Smith of the Jets' safety and former second-round pick out of Temple. "He's a good guy to look up to, and I watch his highlight tape before every game. He supplies most of the motivation for me."

In two games, Smith is second on the team with 19 tackles, including two for loss and a forced fumble.

"He's been playing banged up too," said Temple's first-year coach Matt Rhule. "He came out with a hamstring, came back in. I think what's happening on our team is some guys are just going to ascend and Abdul has been one of them, obviously.

"He's been one of the guys who has paid attention to detail and been playing pretty well for us, and I think he'll get better and better as the year goes on."

Smith transferred from Rutgers in the fall of 2010 and played in 14 games, including two starts, the last two seasons at cornerback. He made the move to safety as the Owls had a need, but spent most of the spring banged up.

Now healthy, he has taken to the position and has been the senior leader in the secondary the Owls coaches were hoping for.

"Just the Matt Rhule aspect played into most of my decision to come back," said Smith. "I talked to him and (defensive coordinator) Phil Snow. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Him and coach Snow asked me to move from corner to safety, and coach Rhule he's a great guy I've known for six years from recruiting.

"When I first transferred from Rutgers, I wasn't initially on scholarship. When (fromer head coach Al) Golden left, I didn't know what would happen but (Rhule) made sure I was put on scholarship. I believe in that guy like a father."

Sophomore linebacker and leading tackler Tyler Matakevich acknowledged Smith has made a big difference on a team that held the Cougars to one touchdown in nine trips into Temple territory on Saturday.

"Abdul is doing an excellent job, he's always in there watching film late with Coach Snow," said Matakevich. "He just comes flying up when he sees run, and his pass has been pretty good too. On that goal-line stand, he wacked somebody and they fumbled and it's definitely good to have someone like that on the field.

"We definitely told him (before this year) to stick it out because we knew he would play a big role on this defense."

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