Kirkwood ready for another chance as Temple receiver

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Temple head coach Matt Rhule throws a football around with his players after practice.

Not having the opportunity to play for most of last season proved to be the perfect motivator for Temple redshirt junior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood.

Kirkwood separated the AC joint in his shoulder during the second game of the season a year ago against Cincinnati and received a medical redshirt.

When Temple's first depth chart was released on Monday, Kirkwood was listed as one of the three starting receivers. Temple opens Friday at Lincoln Financial Field against Army.

"I came a long way," Kirkwood said after Tuesday's practice. "Hard work and dedication really brought me to where I am today."

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Kirkwood and redshirt sophomores Marshall Ellick and Brodrick Yancy were listed as the first-team receivers.

Not listed at the top was last year's leading returning receiver Ventell Bryant, who had 39 receptions for 579 yards and three touchdowns.

Bryant was not made available for comment. Regardless of whether Bryant is in the doghouse, Kirkwood has vaulted to the top of the depth chart with a successful offseason.

"Redshirting last year was a great opportunity for me," he said. "I got to learn a lot from the receivers like Robby Anderson and John Christopher."

Anderson, a preseason sensation with the New York Jets, and Christopher were two of the leaders among the receivers.

"I just built from those guys and what they instilled in me," Kirkwood said.

Kirkwood began his career at Hawaii, where as a freshman in 2013 he caught 12 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns.

Upon transferring, he was granted a hardship waiver and became eligible at Temple in October 2014. That season, he caught four passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in eight games.

After his brief time last season, the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Kirkwood is a much different player, according to quarterback Phillip Walker.

"Keith has a different mindset and attitude this season. His approach to the game is different," Walker said. "I have been around him three years, and overall he has become a more mature and confident player."

Coach Matt Rhule agrees.

"Kirkwood is [nearly] 6-4, who runs a 4.4 and redshirted last year, and now he has confidence," Rhule said.

A graduate of Neptune (N.J.) High School, Kirkwood said he appreciates playing after having to sit so much a year ago. For him, Friday can't come soon enough.

"It feels great to be back and battling on the field with guys who helped me get through my struggles and everything I have been through," he said. "Having this setback and to build back to where I need to be is a great opportunity for me."

Notes

Army coach Jeff Monken said on a conference call that junior Ahmad Bradshaw has taken most of the first team reps in practice and will start. Last season, he rushed for 468 yards (3.6 avg.) and five touchdowns in the triple option. Also likely to see action at quarterback is sophomore Chris Carter, who has recently returned to practice after battling a hamstring injury. . . . Rhule says that a number of freshmen could see action on Friday for Temple. Among the freshmen that he mentioned are center Matt Hennessy, safety Benny Walls of St. Joe's Prep, cornerback Linwood Crump, linebacker William Kwenkeu, defensive back Sam Franklin and receivers Isaiah Wright, Freddie Johnson and Randall Jones. . . . Freshman linebacker Shaun Bradley from Rancocas Valley is out with an undisclosed injury. Rhule said that safety Jyquis Thomas, who had offseason shoulder surgery, is sidelined, and safety Khiry Lucas, who missed last season while recovering from ACL surgery, isn't at full speed.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard