Agoal of signing athletic offensive linemen has garnered two verbal commitments for Ole Miss from two of the best in the state of Mississippi in Byhalia’s Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin.
A third commitment from an offensive linemen that meets the goals of being physical and very nimble all at the same time could come from the Sunshine State in Miami native Denver Kirkland.
The Booker T. Washington High standout is 6-foot-5 and checks in at 320 pounds. He was labeled “mammoth” by analyst Larry Blustein of South Florida High School Sports.com. Kirkland, who was named to the Associated Press Class 4A All-State team as a member of the first team, had an impressive showing at last week’s Under Armour All-America game.
“He’s a four-year starter. As a ninth and 10th grader, he dominated. He’s just a big, strong, agile, athletic kid. I watched him in the Under Armour practices and game he was just killing people. Talking with some of the coaches that worked with him they just said he was so physical and if he made a mistake, he would come back and make up for it. He’s just a prize line recruit. There is never a guarantee but here is a kid that comes to you as a well schooled, athletic, disciplined lineman and that’s tough to find,” said Blustein, who added Kirkland had really gotten into better shape since his junior season. “Last year he kind of shut it down a little bit. He kind of got overweight but then something went off in his head and it was the Nike camp last spring, he had to be about 330, maybe 350, he was just way overweight but in a two-month period, he trimmed down and this year he was as good any offensive lineman in the state.”
Kirkland’s coach at Washington, Tim Harris Sr., said Kirkland was a special prospect before listing his accolades and describing how he has become this four-star prospect that seems to have been offered a scholarship by almost every school in the country.
“Denver is really balanced. He’s got to be balanced run blocking and pass blocking out of a two-point stance when he goes to college, but the biggest thing I can see where Denver has improved has been his knowledge understanding the fronts and the defensive alignments and the calls,” Harris said. “That has helped him to be more aggressive and physical because he is not thinking as much. He’s understanding exactly what his responsibilities are and what the defense is trying to do. That’s helped him be a better run blocker as well as pass blocker.”
Kirkland is rated as the ninth-best offensive tackle prospect by Rivals.com, but Blustein felt he would be better suited to play guard at the next level.
“I think he’ll be a guard. He’s got just such a strong presence at that position where he pulls real well. He’s a good run blocker and as a pass blocker, but he has tendency to grab out to much as opposed to keeping everything within his body,” Blustein said. “But he’s learning and this year they played some pretty tough competition. I didn’t see him ever have any holding calls. He played Miami Central and some other good teams. He’s done a good job.”
Blustein credited Harris with the way he run such an organized football program, one that has immense discipline and class in the manner in which they show up to games, as other reasons why Kirkland was such a key prospect. Washington finished the 2012 season with a 13-1 record, the 4A title and a final ranking of No. 15 in the country from MaxPreps.com.
“It’s the most unique inner city school you will see. They don’t have any magnet kids from that come from luxury homes and they are the most well behaved kids,” said Blustein, who added he didn’t think Kirkland would make a choice until signing day. “They were the only team of the 16 schools that wore jackets and ties to state championship games. It’s just their coach, their coach understands you have to harness them.”
Harris said he understood that there was more to football for his players when they got to college and talked highly about education and earning a degree.
“That’s what we try to make sure of. I had the ability to work with Coach (Randy) Shannon a few years at the University of Miami and I understand what those kids have to be able to do and that when they get to college they’re not lost and they really understand what they have to do at that level. We try to keep those kids situated and balanced to where they understand where they’re going when they get to college,” Harris said. “That’s one of the main things we focus on is our transcripts. That’s something (Kirkland) understands and something all of our student-athletes understand, the books before football concept and how important it is that his GPA and his transcripts are in order so he can continue to play. He understands how important it is when choosing a college and what he’s going to major in and what’s he trying to do after football. He really does understand that part of it. It’s about having that degree at the end of the day.”
Ole Miss is one of the finalists for Kirkland because of the way co-defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff has recruited him and the respect he has shown his family. Harris and McGriff have a relationship from their days at Miami, where McGriff coached defensive backs under Shannon.
“I’m very satisfied with how Coach McGriff has recruited him. He’s done an excellent job and not just because of our relationship but how he has done with Denver and his parents,” Harris said. “He’s done an excellent job as being a recruiter, meeting with the parents and doing the things they have to do to show that their university is going to be there and for him. They decided to visit there because the coach came in and did an excellent job in that area. Denver has been modeling everyone else off of that visit. He felt comfortable at that visit and when it comes to make a decision on Signing Day.”
Kirkland visited Oxford officially during the football season. He has also visited Florida State and Harris said he will make three more trips before making a choice, which he confirmed would come on National Signing Day on Feb. 6.
“He’s going to South Florida this week and then the next week he’s going to go to the University of Miami and then the final week he’s going to go the University of Arkansas,” Harris said.
Arkansas is a new addition to the list due to the recent hiring of Shannon as linebackers coach.
–firstname.lastname@example.org (January 10, 2013, Page 7)