Portland (Ore.) Jesuit offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland has made huge offseason strides and said he feels better and is playing better than he ever has.
The UCLA Bruins commit has been a huge part of the Crusaders' unbeaten march through the Metro League, a part of one of the best offensive lines in the West.
"Not a lot of people know this but we went 0-9 as freshman and then won the state last year and won the Metro again," said Kirkland. "We've just focused and proved to everyone what we can do."
Last Friday, Kirkland had probably his toughest matchup of the season to date, going against three-star defensive lineman Brandon Pili from Portland (Ore.) Westview.
And it was a matchup that Kirkland won pretty handily.
"That was pretty fun going against him," said Kirkland. "I don't see many Pac-12 talents like that through the Metro League but he's really talented and it was a lot of fun to block him and go against him."
Kirkland also got the upper hand more often than not playing on the defensive line against Pili.
"Oh that was so fun too because I finally got some credit on that side of the ball too," said Kirkland.
It has been that kind of season for Kirkland, who said he feels like a different player from a year ago.
"Physically, I definitely feel like a different player," said Kirkland. "When I look back on last year's film, I just look so much faster this year. I played really high last year and I've really focused on that this season to play lower."
Kirkland said he would love to play with Pili in college, with the Bruins having offered him recently. In the meantime, he's also trying to make a case for a couple of his teammates.
UCLA tight ends coach Rip Scherer, who recruits Oregon, was by last week to see Kirkland and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm will be by in December.
"Coach Rip came by and Coach Klemm is going to come up later in the season, probably in early December," said Kirkland. "I'm planning to take my official visit after the state playoffs, so probably in December."
Despite his August commitment to the Bruins, there have been a few schools who've reached out to Kirkland to see how solid he was, but he said those conversations don't last long.
Kirkland said that the opportunity to play left tackle at UCLA is something that he's hoping is becoming more realistic.
"I think I've showed this year that I'm a true left tackle but it all depends on what Coach Klemm wants me to do but I think I'm able to do it," said Kirkland.
This weekend, Kirkland and Jesuit begin their title defense when they play South Eugene (Ore.) in the opening round of the playoffs.