Tennessee added a huge piece to their 2015 recruiting class on Monday evening when 4-star inside linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. announced that he had committed to the Vols during a ceremony held at Lawrence Central High School.
Kirkland Jr. is a 6’2, 235 pound early enrollee who looks poised to step in and add immediate depth to Tennessee’s inside linebacker position from the moment he arrives to campus. Kirkland is ranked as the 174th best player in the country by Rivals.com and the best player in the state of Indiana for the 2015 class. 247Sports.com ranks Kirkland as the 216th overall player and the 3rd-ranked player in Indiana.
Steve Stripling and Tommy Thigpen were Kirkland’s primary recruiters, and the tandem deserve a lot of credit for landing the onetime Michigan commit. Kirkland Jr. selected the Vols over Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Texas.
Kirkland Jr. is Tennessee’s 25th commit for the 2015 class and will enroll at the University of Tennessee in January; but not before playing in the U.S. Army All-American Game on January 3rd.
With the loss of Cecil Cherry last month and the void left by A.J. Johnson at the inside linebacker spot, Kirkland was just what the doctor ordered for Tennessee’s defensive staff. His ability to enroll early and get a head start on the defensive schemes and in the weight room should give him the opportunity to make an impact on the field during his freshman season
Here’s a look at Kirkland’s senior highlight video and thoughts on his ability from RTI:
Kirkland is an extremely disciplined and talented football player who would be a great fit in John Jancek’s system as a middle linebacker. He is very patient in his assessment of each play and reacts very quickly once he recognizes what his responsibility is. He has excellent reaction time and has very little wasted motion in his form when he goes to make a play. He is solid in pass coverage over the middle, picking up running backs and tight ends with relative ease in his film, but would certainly need to expand his coverage abilities at the next level. He has good speed for his size, but his real strength is his ability to shed blockers, get to the ball carrier and get them to the ground with solid tackling form and technique. With Tennessee looking to replace a lot of production with the graduation of A.J. Johnson, Kirkland is a player that would have the opportunity to see the field as a freshman.