Offensive line could be key to 2015 season

For the first two years of his tenure, Temple coach Matt Rhule has lamented the depth on his offensive line. Among a multitude of offensive problems in 2014, injuries and inconsistencies on the offensive line were near the top of the list of reasons the Owls had trouble scoring. But Rhule believes the tough times are behind them with an experienced and deep group that will head into this season.

For the first two years of his tenure, Temple coach Matt Rhule has lamented the depth on his offensive line.

Among a multitude of offensive problems in 2014, injuries and inconsistencies on the offensive line were near the top of the list of reasons the Owls had trouble scoring.

But Rhule believes the tough times are behind them with an experienced and deep group that will head into the 2015 season. A strong offensive line should protect quarterback P.J. Walker, who struggled at times as a sophomore, and spark a running game that was nonexistent for much of last season.

“We’ve spent a lot of time building these guys and I feel good about them,” said Rhule. “(Senior center) Kyle (Friend) is a bona-fide starter. We moved Eric Lofton inside (from right tackle). He can play inside or outside. We have a lot of guys we feel confident in.

“We hit a stretch last year where we didn’t win some games and part of that was we had a different offensive line every week. All those guys are back and they’re a year into it. We expect them to be one of the stronger units on team.”

Brian Carter was a starting defensive lineman early last season before moving over to the offensive line mid-season. Rhule has projected him as an all-conference player at guard now that he has some time and a full spring under his belt.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins is back with the team after off-season legal trouble kept him out for spring ball. Most of the charges against him were dropped following his arrest on assault charges stemming from an alleged incident at a nightclub.

Shahbaz Ahmed and Brendan McGowan both started for over half the games last season and a group of redshirt freshmen that includes highly-touted recruits Aaron Ruff and Jaelin Robinson should be ready to step up and provide depth.

“There should be some real battles,” said Rhule. “We spent two weeks watching almost every game from the last two years. The offensive line played well the year before, and this past year they struggled.

“We have to play well on the line to have a good team. We have veteran guys. … You have to be through some battles. You can’t go into a shell if you’re getting beat. That’s where that experience, leadership and wisdom comes in. You have to be grizzled, tough-minded. If we don’t play well on the offensive line, we won’t win games. But we’ve put a lot of time into those kids and they’ve put a lot of time in.“

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