Temple opened up its first spring practice of the Geoff Collins era Monday morning at Edberg-Olson Hall. The Owls will go through 14 practice sessions before the annual Cherry and White spring game, which will take place April 22 at Edberg-Olson Hall.
All five quarterbacks – true freshman and mid-year enrollee Todd Centeio, redshirt freshman walk-on Tommy Wyatt, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, and redshirt junior Frank Nutile – received reps in the 20-minute portion of practice open to reporters.
Collins had two units working on both ends of the field, which allowed two quarterbacks to throw simultaneously. He compared it to the way Bill Belichick runs his practices with the New England Patriots.
“There are 66 to 44 kids at one time practicing,” Collins said. “We’re maximizing the amount of reps. There’s a lot of people doing a lot of things.”
The quarterback spot will continue to be an open competition, but Marchi and Nutile worked with the first and second team units, while Russo, Centeio and Wyatt were on the other end of the field.
Marchi connected on a deep touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Ventell Bryant, who beat graduate transfer cornerback Mike Jones down the field.
“The big part for us is the leadership ability,” Collins said when asked how he will evaluate the quarterbacks. “Their presence with the team, their presence in the locker room. And obviously they can spin it. They’ve all got talented arms, some have great feet in the pocket (and) scalability and those kinds of things.”
“We just have to find out what each kid can do and bring the offense around them,” Collins added.
You can listen to Collins' entire session with reporters here.
New receivers coach
Collins has been running the Temple football program for about four months. He has hired three wide receivers coaches in that time period.
Following the departures of Frisman Jackson to the Tennessee Titans and Keith Gaither to East Carolina, Collins hired Stan Hixon last week to be the third receivers coach in a four-month stretch.
Hixon has 36 years of coaching experience, including a stop at Georgia Tech, where he coached the receivers while Collins was a graduate assistant with the Yellow Jackets.
Hixon also served as Nick Saban’s associate head coach and receivers coach at LSU, where he won the 2003 National Championship.
“We have a great group of receivers,” Collins said. “They’re physically talented, so we wanted to hire somebody to take their natural gifts to a whole other level and that’s what we try to do at every position.”
The Owls boast a talented receivers group that includes Bryant, along with redshirt sophomore Isaiah Wright, redshirt junior Brodrick Yancy and redshirt seniors Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings.
Redshirt sophomore Cortrelle Simpson, who started off as a wide receiver, was working as a defensive back during Monday’s practice.
When Collins was asked about Simpson’s position change, he stressed the importance of position flexibility.
“That’s what we’re doing in our entire program,” Collins said of playing multiple positions. “There were five defensive linemen that were down there doing some offensive line stuff today. We want to make sure every kid in our program is versatile.”
Collins said Bryant could switch to cornerback in red zone situations, while Kirkwood could also move out to free safety.
Collins brought up the Patriots once again – this time admiring their ability to prepare players to play different positions.
“We want to have position flexibility across our roster,” Collins said. “The more kids that can do multiple things, it markets them better, it helps them prepare and so once they’re done playing here, it gives them a better shot to play at the next level.”
When asked about specific players who have stood out in offseason workouts, Collins mentioned Kirkwood and redshirt sophomore linebacker Shaun Bradley, who came away with an interception towards the end of practice.
Kirkwood was awarded a single digit No. 5 earlier this month. Collins is continuing a tradition originally started by Al Golden, who gave out single digit numbers to the toughest players on the team. Former head coach Matt Rhule also used this tactic.
“The way Keith Kirkwood attacked the offseason program spoke volumes to him as a leader, as a kid, as a future player in this program and beyond,” Collins said. “I just thought it was the right time honor somebody that has put so much into the program and so much into offseason conditioning.”
“Shaun Bradley had a really good offseason,” Collins added. “But I can go on and on.”
Collins tossed passes with Russo after talking with reporters.
Collins said he woke up at 2 a.m. in anticipation of his first spring practice as a college head coach.
Redshirt senior offensive tackle Leon Johnson did not participate in practice. Johnson is still recovering from offseason surgery.
Junior running back Ryquell Armstead had his right foot taped up. He received a limited number of snaps in the portion of practice open to reporters.
Temple hosted Lovell Armstead, a class of 2018 athlete from Hayfield Secondary School in Virginia, for an unofficial visit Monday.