Tennessee’s linebacking corps just got a little more thin. And the move comes from a somewhat surprising source.
Darrin Kirkland Jr., a multi-year starter for the Vols at linebacker, announced via Twitter on Thursday evening that he’s planning to transfer from Tennessee’s football program. He stated that he plans to use his final two years of eligibility (he missed all of last season due to injury) as a grad transfer to another school.
Lord please guide me on this journey 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/80WJaxV7Se
— Darrin ‘DK’ Kirkland (@KIRK_Era) May 24, 2018
Kirkland started 16 games and played in 21 total games during his Vol career. He was voted to the All-SEC Freshman team after the 2015 season, and he looked to be a pivotal part of the Vols’ defense under first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt for the upcoming 2018 season as well.
Injuries marred what could’ve been a sterling career for Kirkland at Tennessee. After playing in all 13 games and making 10 starts as a true freshman, Kirkland missed five games as a sophomore due to a high ankle sprain. He then suffered a season-ending injury in fall practice prior to the 2017 season, missing all 12 games last year.
Coming out of high school, Kirkland was a high four-star prospect and was rated as the No. 4 inside linebacker in the 2015 class per 247Sports. He played in the US Army All-American Game in 2015 and came into Tennessee with high hopes and plenty of hype. And he looked ready to deliver on all that after a stellar freshman campaign.
But injuries and bad luck kept him from reaching his potential. And now he’ll look to go fulfill that potential elsewhere.
Kirkland finished his Tennessee career with 111 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, an interception, two passes defended, and a forced fumble in his 21 career appearances.
The Vols now have Daniel Bituli, Will Ignont, and Dillon Bates as the only true inside linebackers on the roster. Quart’e Sapp saw time there this spring and flourished in the role, and it’s possible incoming freshman J.J. Peterson could slide inside to play one of the two inside linebacker positions as well.