Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has coached some great offensive linemen – many who have gone on to play in the NFL.
So when he passed out a compliment to true freshman offensive lineman Denver Kirkland (6-5, 348) on Sunday at the Razorbacks' Media Day, it carried some weight.
"I will say this – I have had a very nice run of very talented freshmen offensive linemen and Denver Kirkland is probably the most efficient pass pro freshman I have ever seen," Bielema said. "He may be one of the best on the team. His feet are incredibly gifted.
"He weighs about 350, actually told me he was down to 348 yesterday and I am just blown away with his athleticism and what he can do," Bielema added.
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who has elevated Kirkland to second-team right tackle already, also marvels at the athleticism of the freshman big man from Miami.
"He is a guy that has the feet of a 200-pound guy and that is the amazing thing about him," Pittman said. "He is a massive young man – 350 pounds or whatever – but he has the feet of a tight end type guy. You don't find a whole lot of guys at his size that's got that kind of athletic ability.
"He has done a really nice job for us here early," Pittman added. "Done a nice job of learning the playbook. He is getting a lot of reps right now and we will see where that goes."
Kirkland knows he has the size to be great, but knows it is also about his mindset.
"I think that I have just got it mentally," Kirkland said. "Nobody is going to get around me. Nobody is going to get to the quarterback. I am not going to let anybody touch my quarterback in pass pro.
"I worked on it in the pool and so I guess it reflects that on the field," Kirkland added. "I am quick on my feet and stuff. I do a lot of ladder drills so I guess that is why."
Kirkland is fired up about the opportunity to work with Pittman on a daily basis.
"Coach (Pttman) is great and is the best coach I have been with," Kirkland said. "Everybody is going to get better with him. It's going to take time and not happen overnight, but everybody is going to get better."
Kirkland was a huge recruiting get for Arkansas - a four-star offensive lineman that chose the Razorbacks over Miami, Florida State, Ole Miss and Auburn as well as many others.
"I came from a program that was based on not getting beat," Kirkland said. "That's just my mentality with whoever gets in front of me. We can compete in practice, but when it is game time, somebody might get hurt."
He knows that after one week he is not ready to start, but stresses that is his goal at some point this season.
"That is like every freshman's goal – come in and compete and get one of those number one spots," Kirkland said. "That is what I am working hard, but I have a lot to work on. I am going to work a little ways up each day and get there."
Kirkland took some heat from people in Miami for not staying home and playing for the Hurricanes, but he said it was about the Arkansas coaches more than anything.
"It was a hard decision for me because I had a lot of schools coming after me and calling all the time," Kirkland said. "It got aggravating at a certain point. A lot of schools were just calling just about football, football, football.
"But this (Arkansas) coaching staff here always called me and just asked me how I was doing and told me I could call them and talk about anything," Kirkland said. "So that was a bond thing and that is what helped me make my decision to come here."
Kirkland Makes His Move
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