PHILADELPHIA - Temple coach Matt Rhule feverishly worked the phones until the last possible minute Wednesday morning, checking - and double-checking - that everyone who committed to the Owls would sign a national letter of intent at some point in the day.

Crossing the T's. And dotting the I's.

Those are the kind of things a rookie coach has to worry about, and it explains why an exhausted Rhule spoke in a raspy voice when he an-nounced the signing of 23 incoming freshmen at Tem-ple's practice facility.

The Owls, intent on continuing to build a brand in their city as well as their conference, stayed close to home, signing 10 players each from Pennsylvania and New Jersey - including Mainland Regional High School place-kicker Jim Cooper Jr.

"This is really a critical class for us," Rhule said. "We'll have 23 seniors that will be playing their final year here this fall. As those guys come through this final year, and I think we have 13 seniors behind them, this class will come and really set the tone not just for next year, but two and three years down the line in terms what kind of football program we'll have."

Rhule entered the recruiting process late after replacing Steve Addazio. Several previously committed players, though, decided to stick with Temple - including Cooper.

"We had to re-recruit a lot of kids," Rhule said. "I was recruiting until this morning."