There's an 'I' in D-line

Temple football coach Matt Rhule has been looking for someone to step up and give the Owls a pass rush seemingly since he was named coach last December. True sophomore defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis has answered the call with three of Temple's nine sacks so far this season.

Temple football coach Matt Rhule has been looking for someone to step up and give the Owls a pass rush seemingly since he was named coach last December.

True sophomore defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis has answered the call with three of Temple's nine sacks so far this season.

"We made the decision to start him against Idaho and he played light's out that game," said Rhule. "He pulled a hip flexor last week (against Louisville) and you saw a couple times. … He could have another two sacks, but he's been really disruptive and physical.

"I've said all along our problems on defense would be mitigated if we started rushing the quarterback and what we have from him now is an inside pass rusher, getting to the quarterback, and he's stopping the run too. He's big, physical, he's the last guy in here every night studying the opponent. He's bought in and he's going to be a really outstanding player."

Ioannidis played in six games as a true freshman, notching just three tackles in limited time. But he quickly made an impression this camp, finding his way onto the depth chart and eventually the starting lineup.

"I had hoped to come in and get a starting job, but I didn't have expectations for it," said Ioannidis, who was a second-team all-state defensive lineman at Hunterdon Central (N.J.) High School as a senior. "I came to camp, worked real hard, some things went my way and I ended up here. I'm not sure (what I showed them), maybe a motor. I work pretty hard, play pretty hard and I'm pretty persistent.

"Basically pass rushing it's individual, but at the same time it's a team effort. I've been fortunate enough to have good defensive ends coming up top and flushing the quarterback down into the pocket and I've been fortunate enough to be there. It's also working the moves you practice. … Just effort, that's what a lot of sacks come down to."

Ioannidis, who has 11 tackles including four for loss, is one of the young players receiving an opportunity for the Owls, especially with the 0-5 start to the season. There are seven freshmen or sophomores listed atop the defensive depth chart for this Friday's game against Cincinnati.

"I think the coaches are going to play the guys who are going to help us get wins," assessed Ioannidis. "If it's a young guy or old guy, if you come out with juice and energy and want to make plays, then there's a spot open for you."

There was certainly a spot open for Ioannidis, who broke through a logjam of players at the position that included senior Kamal Johnson and freshman Averee Robinson. He feels his spot duty last year gave him a taste for college football.

"I was expecting to redshirt, but I was traveling every game and they told me to be ready," said Ioannidis, who made his debut in the overtime win at Conncecticut. "I was just a freshman excited to be traveling. I definitely appreciate the exposure and experience. It's something I felt helped me coming into the season.

"A redshirt year is good for everyone, a year just to develop and get a better understanding of the game, but at the same time I'm happy to be where I am now."

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