- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Temple didn't have to look far to find its man. Matt Rhule, the New York Giants' assistant offensive line coach, spent six years with the Owls in a number of different assistant coaching positions.
The 37-year-old was announced Monday as Temple's new head coach, replacing Steve Addazio, who moved on to Boston College after two years in Philadelphia. Rhule had initially interviewed for the Temple vacancy in 2010, before Addazio got the job.
At his introductory news conference Monday, Rhule said that he was not ready for the job back then, but he is now. ESPN.com caught up with Rhule afterward to talk about his plan as he returns to Philly. Here is Part I of that conversation.
You're obviously familiar with the terrain there, with the fan base, with everything going on -- how much of a comfort level do you initially sense just walking back into that place, seeing familiar faces both on the field and off the field, and really engaging the Philadelphia area with Temple football?
Matt Rhule: I felt tremendously comfortable today standing up there looking out into the crowd and seeing Temple players that I recruited or coached, seeing parents, seeing supporters, faculty members, trustees, people from the athletic administration -- so many familiar faces that both myself and my wife, who also works at Temple, and even during my time with the Giants continued to work at Temple, so we still have our home. And I'll probably just move right back in, so there's a high comfort level even in recruiting. I've been around this area for a long time and I don't really need a GPS to get around to different high schools. I know everybody and I'm happy to be back.
I know [Monday] you said that two years ago you were not ready in retrospect. I'm just curious about where you think you've grown the most in the last two years. What was missing two years ago that you've been able to gain in the time since?
MR: Well I think the two experiences -- the ability to work with Steve Addazio and really learn the Urban Meyer system, the Urban Meyer way of doing things, and then this year with the New York Giants. It's been just a tremendous, tremendous opportunity to learn not only football but leadership at every level. Tom Coughlin is a Hall of Fame coach -- two Super Bowls, just coming off a Super Bowl. To be around Jerry Reese, the Mara and the Tisch families, everything that they stand for, that they do, is first class. So as I come back to Temple, a place I was at for six years, I've seen first-hand how to win here, how to do it the right way. But at the same time now, everything I've learned, it's better. It's improved from my time with Coach Coughlin, [offensive coordinator Kevin] Gilbride, [offensive line coach Pat] Flaherty and everyone at the New York Giants.
Can you pinpoint anything specifically just from the NFL level that you've been able to gather recently that will really help you at Temple now?
MR: Well, I think the way that the coach handles the players and the way that he handles really all the situations is something that I'm going to try to emulate schematically. And football-wise, just the protections I learned in the NFL, the way to protect the quarterback, the emphasis on making the quarterback comfortable, the intricacies of the passing game and the things that we do. I said today, I felt like being there with Coach Gilbride and the things that he's done in his career as an offensive coordinator, it felt like a Ph.D. in football. Just an extra year to learn as much as you can and gather as much as you can. So I would say that not only learning from my experience with the Giants, but seeing other teams in the National Football League and what they do, and it helps continue your philosophy with everything in college football.
You mentioned quarterbacks. I know it's early, but where do you even begin to start when you've got three guys coming back who all have playing experience from this past year?
MR: It's a unique situation. Really I had a hand in recruiting or did recruit all three of them. So the people that I'm familiar with now -- I wasn't there with them this year, so I don't have a great feeling of what they did this past year. But what I would say is college football and the high school level, to be a championship team, you have to play well at the quarterback position. So what I think that we'll do, we'll really try to emulate what Pete Carroll did at USC when he was there, and that's just to say that competition is king and let those guys go out and compete and show what they can do and show their ability level in practice and really just pick the best guy. Pick the guy that's going to lead us, pick the guy that's going to take us to the next level. And I've seen that every day around Eli Manning, just an absolute joy to be on the practice field with him every day and see what he does. These three guys, we're going to bring in a system that we're doing, sort of what they're doing, and we're going to throw the ball until we're good at throwing the ball and pick the best quarterback to do it.
You had a lot of success personally, especially recruiting, when you were at Temple previously. What do you think some of the challenges are coming back to this program now competing at the Big East level and recruiting that caliber of athlete?
MR: I think the challenges are probably always the same at Temple, and that is we have to get kids that come take a look at it and see it for itself, because Temple isn't for everyone, but it's for a lot of guys. And I think as kids look at Temple they see a program that regardless of the conference that we've been in -- whether it's the MAC before, and now the Big East -- they see a program that's committed to develop guys. And really at the end of the day when you're a recruit, the most important thing to you should be and often is: Where am I going to be in five years? How good of a football player am I going to be? How good of a student? How good of a person? And our track record is really unparalleled during my time with Coach [Al] Golden and Coach Addazio, at least football-wise, taking kids regardless of how many stars they have -- some of these guys didn't have one single offer and those guys are now playing in the National Football League. Jaiquawn Jarrett, who didn't even sign on signing day, four years later without even a redshirt year he was a second-round draft pick. Tahir Whitehead, who had his only other offer dropped from a 1-AA school and came to Temple, four years later he's on the Detroit Lions.
So we have had an emphasis here on developing players. Developing them as students, developing them as men. And I think when that's your focus, when you point to guys that you had in your program and where they are now and say, "Hey, this is what we're going to do for you." So the challenges are always the same. They have to make sure they want to buy into that program, buy into that development. They have to make sure they love the campus, they love the city. People come here, they see the campus, they see the city, they see everything that's happening here -- they typically say, "That's where I want to be." And that's why we've had so much success.