After a stellar freshman season, Temple quarterback P.J. Walker took a step back in 2014, a campaign that was marred by an ankle injury. That's why the hiring of quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas is among the most significant offseason developments for a team looking to improve on its 6-6 record.
Thomas, 37, comes with strong credentials and high expectations. For the last seven years he was an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons, including the last three as quarterbacks coach.
If Walker can revert to his freshman performance, Temple could continue its improvement in coach Matt Rhule's third season.
As a freshman, Walker completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,084 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for 332 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season he completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 2,317 yards with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Walker rushed for 324 yards and three touchdowns.
As spring football practice begins Monday, the work of Thomas with Walker and the rest of a young quarterback group will be one of the big stories leading up to the Cherry and White game on April 25.
"I think P.J. brings a lot to the table and if we just bring more comfort to him in game situations, I think the arrow is up with him," Thomas said last week at his office.
Thomas began coaching as a student assistant at Texas Tech. After college, he landed a job at Division II Midwestern State in Texas, where he coached from 2001-07 and spent the final three seasons as offensive coordinator.
During his summer break at Midwestern State, he landed a job volunteering as a coach at training camp with the Baltimore Ravens, where he first met his future boss, former Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who was a Ravens assistant at the time.
In 2008, Thomas was hired by Smith in Atlanta, where he was an offensive assistant before becoming quarterbacks coach in 2012.
In Atlanta, he worked with Penn Charter graduate Matt Ryan. During Thomas' three seasons as quarterback coach, Ryan averaged 4,643 yards passing yards, 28.6 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His passer rating for those three years was 94.1.
And even though it's like night and day working with an established NFL quarterback and a developing college player, Thomas has high expectations for Walker.
"I don't think you ever lower expectations," he said. "I am expecting the best. We want to strive for perfection and don't want to settle for anything less."
When the Falcons' coaching staff was let go after the 2014 season, Thomas became available. Rhule didn't know Thomas, but the recommendations he received were enough to make the hire.
Thomas received a strong recommendation from Temple offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, who knew him. In addition, Temple linebackers coach Mike Siravo was an assistant at Boston College when Ryan played there, and the two talked about Thomas before he was hired at Temple.
"He told me Matt Ryan glowed about Glenn, and Matt didn't know he was up for a job," Rhule said. "To have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL give you a strong recommendation is impressive."
Rhule says it's not just Walker who will benefit from Thomas' experience.
"Behind P.J. we have nobody who played before and several young quarterbacks we have to develop," Rhule said. "Glenn is a great addition."