Last Saturday didn’t mark Darrin Kirkland’s first visit to Michigan, but it was unquestionably his best. The 2015 standout had previously made it up to the Great Lake State for the Nebraska game a few weeks prior, but the atmosphere and action he witnessed during the match-up with Ohio State last weekend suddenly cast the Maize & Blue in a new and very different light.
“It was an unbelievable experience from start to finish,” said Kirkland. “I’ve still got chills. It was an amazing game. I expected it to be a game and everything (but) I didn’t expect it to be toe-to-toe, back-and-forth, back-and-forth. It was an amazing experience. I bet team 134 was proud of the way they fought. I’m sure they wanted to come out with a W, but they have to be proud of how far they came.”
The Wolverines’ courtship of Kirkland appears to have come just as far. They went from exhibiting lukewarm interest at the beginning of the season to major interest in the aftermath of his strong junior campaign.
“Individually I had 108 tackles and 7-1/2 sacks. I just transferred from a 2A school to a 6A school. So it was a big jump for me and I adjusted really well and I think I came out with a pretty good season. I was all conference and hoping to be on the All-State team, so I think I did pretty good.”
“I’d say in the last month or so (the Michigan coaches) have been picking up really strong on me, started sending me a lot more handwritten letters and the communication with the coaches has been really consistent.
Kirkland’s interaction with multiple Michigan coaches has helped the make a very favorable impression on the Hoosier State star.
“Coach Mallory is my recruiter, but I (also) talk to Coach Mattison and then Coach Smith,” Kirkland stated. “I have a really great connection with them so far. I like the way they actually recruited me. The first contact I ever got with them was at my last game this season. Coach Smith came to my school during the day and he came to my last game. He was watching me from the sideline. That was pretty cool and awesome. Just the contact that they always have with me, I think it is really personable, so I like that a lot.”
Despite all of the attention, Michigan hasn’t yet extended an offer. According to Kirkland, however, that could change in the very near future.
“Coach Smith really loves the way I play and he said that he is really excited about me and he would be really excited to get me pretty soon,” he said. “They want to use me more as a hybrid… one that can play in space, inside and outside. Kind of what Jake Ryan plays. Coach Mattison and Coach Smith really like me a lot, so I’m hoping that (an offer comes) soon.”
To date Kirkland has already garnered offers from Virginia Tech, Louisville, Indiana, Illinois, Akron, Toledo and Northwestern, but he claims no favorites among them. He insists that open-mindedness would persist even if Michigan joins the fray. That said, it’s definitely clear that there is a great deal he likes about the Maize & Blue and a great deal more he hopes to find out.”
“(The factors in my decision will be) the one school that fits me educationally the best, playing time is really important early, and just my relationship with the coaches… how I fit in, as well as proximity to home,” Kirkland explained. “I really don’t want to go outside that eight hour radius from Indianapolis. Whatever is most comfortable for me and my family and is the best decision is the school I’ll choose.”
“I’ve done all the football stuff that there is to know about Michigan. I need to see the campus and all that kind of stuff, but I really like where the staff is headed so far. I like the horses that are coming in with this 2014 class. A whole bunch of great guys are coming in, as well as the 2015 class, the commitments that are already there. It is exciting to be a part of it right now and I really think Michigan football is headed in the right direction.”