One potential distraction appears to be off the board for Temple as it prepares for Saturday's American Athletic Conference championship game at Houston.

Multiple sources have told The Inquirer that head coach Matt Rhule is no longer talking to Missouri about its vacant football job. A source confirmed that the two sides met on Sunday morning in Philadelphia.

Behind the scenes a source says that Temple has been in negotiations with Rhule to ensure that he will stay. And apparently, these negotiations were happening well before Missouri sought permission to speak to Rhule.

Rhule had signed a contract extension in June through the 2021 season. According to sources, he will earn approximately $1.5 million this year, including incentives.

Rhule refused to talk about specifics, but for the second straight day was asked at his press conference if the coaching rumors posed as a potential distraction.

"I think our team is way too strong to be distracted about anything with me," Rhule said. "I am honest with our players and tell them everything."

That statement was echoed by Temple linebacker and All-America candidate Tyler Matakevich.

"He has told us what is going on and it is as simple as that," Matakevich said. "The only thing we can do is come out here, get ready and finish what we started two years ago."

Matakevich says the team refuses to let any rumors get in the way of preparation for Houston.

"We are a family," he said. "Everybody is sticking together. We know what is going on and we are staying focused."

Rhule has one bit of advice, not just for his players but the Temple fans.

"This is a unique wonderful week in Temple football history and fans and everybody don't waste it thinking about me," Rhule said. ". . . I told our players, this is championship week, don't waste it thinking about me."

Friend returns

A day after saying that center Kyle Friend wouldn't play against Houston, Rhule reversed fields. He spoke on Monday before the team had practiced.

Friend has missed the last four games with a knee injury.

"Kyle is a different kind of a guy," Rhule said. "I didn't think he would be able to play."

Brendan McGowan, who Rhule said got banged up at the end of Saturday's 27-3 win over Connecticut, has played in Friend's absence. Rhule said if a third center is needed, guard Shahbaz Ahmed, who has started 11 of 12 games at left guard, could also move over to center.

Rhule doesn't think that will be needed.

"To be quite honest, I think Kyle is going to be 100 percent," Rhule said. "He looked really good out there."

Young to Senior Bowl

Rhule announced on Tuesday that cornerback Tavon Young will play in the Senior Bowl, Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala. Earlier it announced that Matakevich and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis would play.

Young missed the Connecticut game after rolling his ankle but will play on Saturday.

"I feel good and am ready to play," Young said.

@sjnard