Temple football: Previewing the linebackers

When talking about the linebacker position for Temple football, one name will always come up in that conversation; Tyler Matakevich. The 6”-1′ 230 lb. junior linebacker from Stratford, CT stuck out last season for Temple. He was arguably the best player for the Owls all year long and proved that he was a leader not only on the field but also on the sidelines.


Tyler Matakevich celebrates after big play against Army on homecoming day. Photo Credit: Howard Smith- USA TODAY Sports

Matakevich is no stranger to being the standout player for Temple’s defense. During his freshman year in 2012, Matakevich won the Big East Rookie of the Year award and also finished fourth in the Big East for tackles with 9.2 a game. Good numbers for a freshman who got off to a slow start. Fast forward to his sophomore year in 2013 and Matakevich only improved.

To be the leader in the NCAA in solo tackles is no easy accomplishment. Ask Luke Kuechly who is now with the Carolina Panthers after being drafted ninth out of Boston College. Kuechly topped that list twice during his years at BC. Tyler Matakevich can now see his name on the top of that list after his sophomore year. His 8.8 solo tackles a game is a number that will keep defensive coordinator Phil Snow pleased.

To go along with Matakevich’s 8.8 solo tackles, he also averaged 11.4 total stops per game and in 7 out of the 12 games he played, Matakevich had 10 tackles or more in each of those seven games.

Besides the talent that is Matakevich, the Owls also have another young man in the linebacker position who can be a big boost for Temple’s defense in 2014, Nate D. Smith. Smith’s versatility makes him a big asset for the Owls defense which will be going up against some big offenses during the 2014 season such as Penn State, UCF and Cincinnati.

Smith, a redshirt junior from Highland Park, NJ has played in every game during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Temple’s homecoming game against Army could arguably have been Smith’s best game as an Owl. Playing in the MLB spot, Smith finished the day with 9 tackles, a career high, a fumble recovery for a TD and helped secure a 33-14 Temple win, their first of the year.

Jared Alwan is a name to remember as a possible threat to opposing offenses for seasons to come. Alwan was a true freshman in 2013 and made his Temple debut on the big stage at Notre Dame Stadium. Alwan was just one of three true freshman to play in all 12 games of the season. Though he did not constantly play in the linebacker position he was still a key part of the defense and special teams and finished the year with 20 tackles.

2014 Temple commit Brenon Thrift is a 6”-3′ 230 lb. ILB from Monroeville, PA. Thrift received offers from West Virginia, PITT and Temple, ultimately choosing Temple as his school to play college football. During Thrift’s senior year at Gateway High School he finished with 102 tackles, 72 of which were solo, a fumble recovery as well as 16 sacks. When his four years of football were complete at Gateway he finished with 354 tackles to his name, impressive numbers. Head coach Matt Rhule, Phil Snow and the rest of the coaching staff as well as fans are looking forward to see this young man put on the Cherry and White colors and be a big assets to the Temple Owls for the next four years.