In his first two seasons on the Forty Acres, Kirkendoll appeared in 17 games and even started five games last season, but only tallied 21 catches for 221 yards and one touchdown. However, almost a quarter of those catches occurred during the Fiesta Bowl win, including a key fourth-down conversion on the game winning drive. Quarterback Colt McCoy certainly made note of Kirkendoll.
"In our offense, when you have a guy that you can count on like that for every play, it really helps," McCoy said recently of the Round Rock junior receiver. "Fourth-and-three, you have to make it in the Fiesta Bowl, and he comes up with a big play. That gains a lot of trust from a quarterback's perspective. I think at that point, he earned a lot of respect from our team. He is playing really good where he is. He is smart enough to play all three receiver positions on the field, so we will be able to use him in a lot of different ways."
Head Coach Mack Brown has been very complementary of Kirkendoll this August camp as well.
"Right now, the two receivers that are playing the most consistent are Jordan (Shipley) and James Kirkendoll," the head man said.
The opportunity certainly exists for Kirkendoll to step up his pass catching opportunities with the loss of Quan Cosby (90 receptions last year) and even to a lesser extent, running back Chris Ogbonnaya (46 catches last year). Kirkendoll can play all three receiver spots. Also, as the tight end injury bug continues to bite, the likelihood of more three and four wide receiver sets increases.
"I worked really hard this summer getting stronger, getting faster, and getting smarter on the field. Things are slowing down for me," Kirkendoll said. "I just feel like I really gained (McCoy's) trust that last bowl game. We got a lot of work in this summer."
Senior Jordan Shipley has certainly noticed Kirkendoll's effort and play.
James is just rock-solid. He's one of the most consistent guys we have I think, but all of those guys look good," Shipley noted. "He had a good bowl game. He had a couple of really big plays for us. I think he was coming on at the end of last year in general. He's kind of found his role, and he's definitely making some big plays for us."
So, is 2009 his season to break out of the shadows and onto center stage? Maybe it will be in Dallas at the Red River Rivalry game. That game certainly will mean something extra special for the one-time Sooner pledge.
"Everyday when we get on the field, we say we've got to compete like everyday is against Oklahoma," Kirkendoll said of his approach to practice.