WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – Temple defensive end Haason Reddick hasn’t renounced the Owls’ ambition to return to dominant form this season, but he also isn’t blind to the fact that several attempts at improving play have been hampered.
The most recent issue, which has been a slew of mental errors, came in the form of penalties in Temple’s 34-27 loss to Penn State last Saturday, as the Owls committed a total of 13 penalties for 118 yards.
To Reddick, self-inflicted wounds are unacceptable, but they shouldn’t overshadow the team’s lack of execution on assignments.
“I don’t feel like we haven’t been dominant. I just feel like we haven’t been paying attention to the little details,” Reddick said earlier this week. “It could be the smallest details such as staying in your gap or even smaller like making sure you’re not peaking in another gap. Those are things we’ve got to focus on.”
Reddick, who made seven tackles against Penn State, was praised by head coach Matt Rhule following Tuesday’s practice at Edberg-Olsen Hall.
“Haason Reddick was as good as we’ve had him play, really ever,” Rhule said. “It was probably one of the best games he has ever played.”
While Rhule has expressed trust in the players on his roster, he also believes that, in order to right the ship, players must first display confidence in their own abilities.
“We feel like we lost the football game because we did a bunch of things we normally don’t do,” Rhule said. “We’ve got good players. And when you’re a good player and you feel like you belong, you don’t start doing something else. You do that when you don’t think you’re good enough and you’re trying to get yourself motivated to play above your head. We don’t have to play above our head. Just trust yourself and be a good player. Good players don’t try to do something different. They just go out and do what they do.”
After falling to Army at Lincoln Financial Field on opening night, senior linebacker Avery Williams volunteered to take the heat for Temple’s defensive blunders. With three games now in the books, Reddick wants leadership stock as well, and hopes that his teammates will come under his wing.
“Avery is pretty much the vocal leader on defense,” Reddick said. “He gets the guys hyped up and things like that. I believe I’m also one of the leaders on defense, but I focus on more disciplinary things like being in your gap. The little details, that’s my thing.”
Reddick’s leadership abilities will be put to the test this Saturday, as Temple (1-2) looks to return to the .500 mark against the Charlotte 49ers in its last non-conference game of the season before opening American Athletic Conference play the following week against Southern Methodist.
Despite a 37-3 victory over Charlotte last October, Temple’s defense struggled in finding a solution to the Niners’ ground game, allowing 125 rushing yards to senior halfback Kalif Phillips, who is expected to play on Saturday with a minor hamstring injury.
“The tailback gave us fits last year. We could not tackle Kalif Phillips last year,” Rhule said. “They’re going to give us a bunch of different formations and just really test us from a schematic perspective. They’ve got good players at a number of positons.”
To enhance the level of play and performance, Reddick understands that lackadaisical efforts must be left behind, even when a matchup appears to be in the Owls’ favor.
“The first thing is to understand that you can never take your opponent lightly, not undermining the opponent, not getting relaxed, especially when you come off a loss,” Reddick said. “I feel like we’re way hungrier, so hopefully we’re going to come out this week, try to get this win and not keep having these high and low points.”