Temple's Keith Kirkwood has added pass-rushing skills this spring

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Temple's Keith Kirkwood catches a pass in a game last season.

While the No. 1 topic of interest when Temple has its Cherry and White Spring game on Saturday is likely to be the quarterbacks, the defensive development of Keith Kirkwood is also interesting.

The four players vying for the quarterback spot - redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and freshman Todd Centeio - have all been competing for a job that isn't expected to be decided until the fall.

Kirkwood, meanwhile, has long established himself as one of Temple's top receivers. He caught 42 passes for 648 yards and four touchdowns last season, including the game-winner with one second left in a 26-25 win at Central Florida.

The unknown is how Kirkwood will adapt to double duty. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Kirkwood has also been working at defensive end this spring.

Kirkwood said he hopes to see action on defense in Saturday's game, which begins at noon at Temple's practice facility, Edberg Olson Hall. When new coach Geoff Collins suggested taking some reps at defensive end, Kirkwood was a willing participant.

"I love the versatility and the faith Coach Collins has in me, and I am pretty excited that I can play both sides of the ball pretty well," Kirkwood said after Thursday's final spring practice before Saturday's game.

Collins has raved about Kirkwood's defensive development.

"He has done some special things," Collins said. "We put him out to see what would happen, and he pops a spin move on the pass rush, and we were saying, 'Whoa, we have got something.' "

Kirkwood, who transferred to Temple after a freshman season at Hawaii, never played defense at New Jersey's Neptune High, although he was also a punter and kicker.

Temple had great success last season using since-graduated tight end Romond Deloatch as a situational pass rusher. Deloatch - an NFL hopeful - recorded four sacks and three other tackles for loss in limited time.

Kirkwood and Deloatch were roommates last season and remain good friends. When asked if he hopes to top Deloatch's defensive output, Kirkwood, said, "I hope so. I am excited for Romond and think he will do really well in the NFL, and I hope to pick up where he left off."

Deloatch's defensive success has provided motivation for Kirkwood.

"Seeing him do as well as he did playing tight end and also rushing the quarterback, I think I am definitely going to be able to incorporate that as well," Kirkwood said.

Notes

Redshirt junior Ventell Bryant, Temple's top returning receiver, said he has been bothered by a slight hamstring problem but that he expects to play on Saturday. . . . Fullback Nick Sharga sat out practice but said he had assorted bumps and bruises and is hopeful of getting some action on Saturday. . . . Senior defensive end Jacob Martin has been sidelined due to injury but expects to be ready for fall camp. Martin, who had 2 1/2 sacks last season, has been coaching up his teammates and will do more of the same on Saturday. "I will be making sure everybody knows what they are doing and that they are doing their job," he said.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

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