When former Owls’ coach Matt Rhule departed for Baylor University on Dec. 6, he brought several members of his staff with him, including defensive coordinator Phil Snow and offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas.
Though coach Geoff Collins has brought in new coaches to fill out his staff, he has kept one of Rhule’s traditions: awarding single-digit numbers to the team’s toughest players.
Redshirt-senior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood became the first player under Collins to receive a single-digit number when he was awarded the No. 5 by Collins in a team meeting on Tuesday. Kirkwood wore No. 19 in 2014, his first year with Temple after transferring from the University of Hawaii, before he switched to No. 89 for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Running back Jahad Thomas, who wore No. 5 for the past two seasons, presented Kirkwood with his new jersey.
At his Wednesday press conference during Temple’s Pro Day in the Student Pavilion, Collins mentioned Kirkwood first on the list of players he’s most looking forward to working with.
“The thing that’s really stuck out to me about Keith is how he’s come to work every single day this offseason,” Collins said. “He has not had a bad day. He’s worked and grinded and really put his heart and soul into it, and I think days like today show him, ‘Hey, I just continue to do what I’m doing, and it’s gonna pay off.’”
Kirkwood finished second on the team with 648 receiving yards in 2016 and had four receiving touchdowns to tie for second on the team with senior wide receiver Adonis Jennings and redshirt-junior wide receiver Ventell Bryant. Kirkwood caught the game-winning touchdown with one second left in Temple’s game against Central Florida on Oct. 15.
Temple will lose five single-digit players heading into the 2017 season. Avery Williams’ No. 2, Stephaun Marshall’s No. 6, Haason Reddick’s No. 7 and Phillip Walker’s No. 8 are still available.
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling. Follow The Temple News at @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.