On the cusp

Temple coach Matt Rhule knows there is still a perception of the Owls’ program from its decades of struggles. But he doesn’t care, and more importantly he knows the 2015 Owls can do something about it in a big way.

Temple coach Matt Rhule knows there is still a perception of the Owls’ program from its decades of struggles.

But he doesn’t care, and more importantly he knows the 2015 Owls can do something about it in a big way.

“I get a sense going to media days that people are looking at us like the same old Temple,” admitted Rhule in an interview with reporters after the Owls' second training camp practice Friday. “But we don’t really care. We know exactly who we are. Our goal is to be better than last year, and next year our goal will be to be better than this year.”

Temple was 6-6 last year in Rhule’s second season, an improvement of four games over the 2-10 campaign in 2013. But with 19 returning starters and the addition of two explosive wide receivers, there’s no reason to think the Owls can’t be in the mix for the conference crown.

The Owls were picked third in the six-team East Division of the American Athletic Conference at this week’s league media day behind Week 2 opponent Cincinnati and Central Florida.

With an opener against Penn State followed by the game at Cincinnati, the Owls have a chance to make their mark early.

“We talk every year about the goals of the program,” said Rhule. “We have goals in all areas and we have football-specific goals. We want to win the conference, we want to go to a bowl game … And then we want to go to a bigger bowl game.

“I’d love to beat Penn State. I wake up every night (thinking about it), but it doesn’t affect the (conference) championship.”

The goals of beating the Nittany Lions for the first time since 1941 and winning the American crown were boosted when wide receivers Robby Anderson and Adonis Jennings were cleared to play this year.

Anderson returns after missing last season as an academic casualty and Pitt transfer Jennings was granted the ability to play right away by the NCAA on an appeal.

“The greatest thing about Robby is his competitiveness, he only knows one speed,” said Rhule. “He worked hard this summer while taking classes. He’s so competitive and brings a different attitude.

“I’ve been impressed with Adonis all summer. He has a professional approach. He’s big, fast, can catch. He brings a lot of tangibles and intangibles. There’s going to be a lot of competition there with Romond DeLoatch, John Christopher, Sam Benjamin. We’re excited to have Robby and Adonis, but they’re not crowned (starters).”

Rhule mentioned true freshman running back T.J. Simmons had gained 15 pounds since reporting to Temple. It’s another positive sign for an offense that floundered in 2014.

“We have to get our offense playing like it did two years ago and our defense to keep playing like it did last year,” said Rhule. “We know how close we are. The last two years we lost to the conference champion as time expired.”

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