Darrin Kirkland Jr., a former 4* LB out of Lawrence Central, will graduate from the University of Tennessee and complete his remaining two years of eligibility at another school.
Kirkland Jr. hit the ground running in Knoxville, starting 10 games and recording 66 tackles for the Vols in 2015, but was slowed in the 2016 season by a high ankle sprain, and had his entire 2017 season derailed with a torn ACL.
He missed spring camp at Tennessee this season while he completed his knee rehabilitation, and was unsure of his role in new Vol head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s system, and has decided to see if a change of scenery improves his injury luck.
When healthy, Kirkland Jr is an elite tackler from the inside linebacker position. At 6’1, 240, he blows up running backs in the hole and has the strength to fight off blocks and get to the ball. I’ve heard a few Tennessee fans (my wife is from Knoxville and her family are ALL VOL BABY GO BIG ORANGE!) bemoan his constant injuries because they felt like he was an All-SEC linebacker in the making.
I have no idea if Purdue is interested in Kirkland Jr. or if Kirkland Jr. is interested in Purdue, but man, it would make so much sense.
Purdue has a wide open depth chart at linebacker right now. It’s Markus Bailey and ..... I have no idea, probably Derrick Barnes on the inside, but that’s certainly not written in stone. What better place for an Indiana kid coming off an ACL to play than Purdue? He already has a Boilermaker certified knee injury, so he’s already completed his Purdue right of passage. Purdue plays a downhill, attacking scheme under Nick Holt, which would seem to play into Kirkland’s strengths. He’s not quite as big as former Boilermaker Ja’Whaun Bentley, but he’s a better overall athlete and was decent in pass coverage for the Vols.
You can never have enough talent on the roster and Kirkland is certainly talented, and Purdue has some space left. Adding an experienced difference maker like Kirkland Jr. to the linebacker rotation this late in the game would be a major coup for Nick Holt’s defense.
Here are some Kirkland Highlights:
WATCH LaTroy Lewis (@MrPrimetime4) Force The Fumble vs. Missouri, Recovered By Darrin Kirkland Jr. (@KIRK_Era) #Vols pic.twitter.com/zhpORkBCdY— Tennessee Fan Base (@VolsFanBASE) November 22, 2015
WATCH Tennessee's Darrin Kirkland Jr. (@KIRK_Era) Make The Interception vs. Kentucky & Butch Jones Loves It! #GoVols pic.twitter.com/Cgi60Bo7my— Tennessee Fan Base (@VolsFanBASE) November 1, 2015
The Running Man x Dab?!#TheOpening alum Darrin Kirkland Jr. (@KIRK_Era) gets the dance party started early #Vols pic.twitter.com/y6Raufvu9Z— The Opening (@TheOpening) January 1, 2016