The Temple University football team and head coach Matt Rhule announced a 20-member recruiting class on Wednesday that was highlighted by Florida running back T.J. Simmons and South Jersey defensive back Kareem Ali.
Simmons, one of the last additions to the 2015 class, had de-committed from UCLA.
Ali, a mid-year enrollee who graduated from Timber Creek (Fla.) in 3 ½ years, is one of New Jersey’s top recruits. He committed to the Owls in July after flipping from Maryland.
“You take a really quick, explosive kid who is intelligent and picks things up right away, you have a chance to have a special player,” said Rhule of Ali.
Ali said he’s already putting in the hours at Temple after starting class on Jan. 20 and is looking forward to competing in spring drills.
“It’s been hard work, I’m getting used to it, getting acclimated really quick but I love everything, love the team, love coach Rhule,” said Ali, who recently played in the Army All-American Game in San Antonio. “(Being in spring practice) is going to help a lot especially with conditioning, the playbook, the whole college atmosphere, Freshmen don’t know what they’re coming into, so I can’t wait.“
Ali said he’s expecting to compete for a starting spot in the secondary right away.
“It’s nothing but work,” said Ali. “Nothing’s given. I have a name for myself but I have to make it come true. I have to leave my mark.”
The class included seven New Jersey players, a recent stronghold for the Owls, including Ali, a first-team all-state defensive back. In past years, Temple has pulled quarterback P.J. Walker, linebacker Nate Smith and defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis among others from the Garden State.
”it starts with (assistant) Ed Foley, he’s a Jersey guy and he validates me,” said Rhule. “Then you bring in (assistants) Francis Brown and Elijah Robinson, who grew up in Camden … (Timber Creek’s) Zaire Williams comes in as a freshman plays, (Camden’s) Sean Chandler comes in and plays and other guys see that.”
Another former Timber Creek standout, defensive lineman Greg Webb, is the Owls’ lone junior-college signee. The former North Carolina player is at Hutchinson (Ks.) Junior College and will join Ali and Williams at Temple.
Lakewood linebacker Chapelle Cook was another one of the top New Jersey recruits while Millville running back Ryquell Armstead – who had two 300-yard games and over 1,400 yards on the season – adds depth at running back, a position which could be one of strength after some struggles this year. Jager Gardner, out of North Carolina, is another running back in the fold.
“Recruiting Ryquell reminds me of when we recruited Bernard Pierce,” said Rhule of the record-setting running back and current Baltimore Raven. “He came to camp, ran fast, was really competitive. He was one of the fastest kids in New Jersey at 210 pounds. We expect him to play and play early.
“T.J.’s a four-star recruit. He’s a raccoon hunter, he needs to get adjusted to the city, but he’s a tremendous athlete. He’s heralded, he’s explosive. Gardiner is a special talent. We tried to get some running backs where we could play defense and run the football. We have enough backs to find the guy, and that’s what we’re doing with the guys on our team as well.”
Rhule said recruiting is coming together as he approaches his third season.
“It’s really a great day for us as we enter our third recruiting class as we welcome 20 young men, “ said Rhule. “The one thing I’ll say why this class is so special … We read a lot about Kareem Ali, being a Temple baby, with a chance to go anywhere in the country and decided to make his mark here where his parents went to school.
“These are kids that wanted to be here. They’re proud to get an education at Temple University. Thirteen went to our camp. We’ve worked on these relationships a long time. We’ve known these people for two, three years with the prospects and coaches in the area.
“We’re not here just to win some games. We’re here to build a championship program. We’re recruiting with the big dogs. That’s big-time college football and that’s who we are. I thnk we got the right guys.”
Rhule adding the latest class to a strong returning nucleus means the Owls are ready to win. They were 6-6 last year after going 2-10 his first season.
“I think we recruited very well, we better because my wife’s pregnant again and I don’t want to have to tell her ….,” said Rhule. “I think we’re ready to win and win for a long time.”
Temple announces 20-member recruiting class
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