PHILADELPHIA - The Temple Owls went just 2-10 in the American Athletic Conference in 2013. But according to head coach Matt Rhule, the Owls' national profile is only improving.
The second-year coach announced he had signed 25 players to national letters of intent on Wednesday. Despite Temple's record last year, Rhule came away with the conference's second-highest rated recruited class, per Rivals.com, behind only South Florida.
"The Temple T really traveled well for us," he said. "For the first time since I've been here, we've taken our Temple brand really across the country. And what we found was, the university as a whole is really becoming a national brand. As we went to Colorado and Florida, people really respect Temple a great deal."
The 2014 class is comprised of players from nine states, but 13 of the 25 commits are still local kids from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The group includes Absegami running back David Hood and Vineland's Shahid Lovett, who was a midyear transfer from Lackawanna Community College.
Lovett is a 6-foot-2, 205 pound defensive back who has junior eligibility. Rivals' JCGridiron.com ranked him as the No. 3 junior college safety in the country. For Lackawanna this season, he was in the top three in tackles (65), interceptions (3) and tackles for a loss (6).
Rhule's highest-rated recruit is also the one who lives closest to the university.
Aaron Ruff, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman from Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia, is ranked as the Owls' lone four-star recruit. Ruff committed to Temple in 2013 and stayed committed after also receiving offers from Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
"Aaron is the total package," Rhule said. "He's a tremendous football player, but more importantly, he's a tremendous human being, he comes from a great family, and he's a great student."
Ruff aside, Rhule managed to bolster what was a beleaguered secondary last year. The Owls allowed the most yards in the AAC and allowed eight different opponents at least 300 yards passing. Of the 13 commits on the defensive side of the ball, eight are defensive backs. The biggest name of the bunch is cornerback Anthony Davis from Gateway High School in Western Pa. Davis turned down offers from 16 other FBS programs, including Penn State, Missouri, and Nebraska.
"This is a throwing league," Rhule said. "(You) need to have not just two corners, you need to have four, five, six corners in this league to compete with the teams that run the Air Raid, the Run and Shoot. So we tried to go out and get as many defensive backs as we could. ... The same is true with pass rushers."
That last group is headlined by linebacker/defensive end Michael Dogbe from New Jersey.
Shamir Bearfield, DB, 5-11, 175, St. Peter's (N.J.) Prep
Freddie Booth-Lloyd, DL, 6-0, 315, Cocoa (Fla.) HS
Ventell Bryant, WR, 6-3, 180, Jefferson (Fla.) HS
Sean Chandler, DB, 5-11, 173, Camden (N.J.) HS
Anthony Davis, DB, 5-11, 180, Gateway (Pa.) HS
Michael Dogbe, DE/LB, 6-3, 240, Parsippany Hills (N.J.) HS
Matt Eaton, WR, 6-4, 200, Pascagoula (Miss.) HS
Jared Folks, LB, 6-2, 218, Susquehanna Twp (Pa.) HS
David Hood, RB, 5-9, 185, Absegami (N.J.) HS
Derrick Ingram, WR, 6-1, 193, Jefferson (Fla.) HS
Khiry Lucas, DB, 6-1, 180, Hinds (Miss.) CC
Jacob Martin, DL, 6-3, 230, Cherokee Trail (Colo.) HS
James McHale, OL, 6-6, 300, Dunmore (Pa.) HS
Frank Nutile, QB, 6-4, 199, Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep
Delvon Randall, WR, 6-0, 190, Gateway (Pa.) HS
Jaelin Robinson, OL, 6-7, 300, Wilbur Cross (Conn.) HS
Aaron Ruff, OL, 6-3, 300, Imhotep (Pa.) HS
Jyquis Thomas, DB, 6-1, 182, Plant (Fla.) HS
Brenon Thrift, DL, 6-3, 230, Gateway (Pa.) HS
Lenny Williams, QB, 5-10, 196, Sto Rox (Pa.) HS
Brodrick Yancy, WR, 5-11, 184, Manatee (Fla.) HS
Cequan Jefferson, DB, 5-10, 170, Fork Union Military (Va.)
Shahid Lovett, DB, 6-2, 205, Vineland, Lackawanna (Pa.) CC
Derrek Thomas, 6-4, 185, Milford Academy (Conn.)
Alex Wells, DB, 6-0, 202, ASA College (N.Y.)