Jaxson Kirkland (Brandon Huffman)

Commitment Impact - Jaxson Kirkland

The Washington Huskies may have finished out their 2017 recruiting class in a big way, as Jaxson Kirkland announced his verbal commitment to UW Monday night. But what does Kirkland's commitment mean for the Huskies?

https://twitter.com/jaxson_kirkland/status/826312150180196353

http://www.scout.com/player/203713-jaxson-kirkland

Here is a link to Kirkland’s senior highlights, mostly on the left side of the offensive line

What to like

At 6-foot-7 and well over 300 pounds, Kirkland is big. Bigger than Foster Sarell, and size is one thing you can’t teach. But Kirkland isn’t sloppy. His father, former UW lineman Dean Kirkland, has personally trained Jaxson over the years and he’s also used a personal trainer to make sure his feet have remained as quick as they can be. 

Obviously the other thing that immediately stands out about Kirkland is his lineage. With his dad having played at UW during the late 80’s and early 90’s, Jaxson knows all about the Huskies and what the program can be like when all cylinders are firing. 

The offer from Washington, which came right before his de-commitment from UCLA, is admittedly a dream offer for Kirkland. He grew up thinking about the purple and gold and will be motivated to pave his own way at Montlake. 

 

What needs work 

As big as Kirkland is, the one knock will obviously be his ability to play low and with leverage. If Washington Offensive Line Coach Chris Strausser can get Jaxson playing low consistently, he clearly has the size and natural strength to dominate. When Kirkland plays under his pads, he drives the opposition and clears huge holes. 

There’s no question - as it is with nearly all first-year offensive line recruits - Kirkland needs at least a year in the weight room to redefine his body. There’s no question Tim Socha can sculpt Kirkland into whatever the Huskies want. I seriously doubt they are going to want him much bigger than 320, but with his frame he can handle that kind of weight with ease. With the right distribution, Kirkland could turn into a physical monster at the Pac-12 level. He has all the building blocks you want. Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together, and I suspect he’ll have two years locked in the weight room to make that happen.  

How he fits 

Because he was just so much bigger and stronger than everyone else at the high school level, Kirkland made a natural left tackle. And there’s no question he could become UW’s left tackle of the future after Trey Adams departs. But Jared Hilbers will probably be one of a couple of current Huskies that will have something to say about that. 

Strausser will want Kirkland to be able to play both tackle spots in a pinch, but don’t be surprised if his first spot at UW is right tackle. With Kaleb McGary a possible early draft departure after the 2017, Kirkland could fight for that spot after a redshirt year. 

If McGary decides to stay on and exhaust all his eligibility, that would give a player like Kirkland two years to get ready to take over. That would be an ideal scenario for Strausser, as two years would give Kirkland enough time to settle in to the college experience, get his bearings, learn the playbook, and establish his place in the pecking order. 

Either way, a player of Kirkland’s size and potential certainly makes sense at tackle.

Projected 2017 UW Tackle Depth Chart

Left Tackle

Trey Adams (6-8, 306, Jr.)

Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 313, Sr.) OR

Jared Hilbers (6-7, 282, So.)

Jaxson Kirkland (6-7, 305, Fr.)

Right Tackle

Kaleb McGary (6-7, 300, Jr.)

Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 313, Sr.) OR

Devin Burleson (6-8, 301, So.) 

Jaxson Kirkland (6-7, 305, Fr.)

How he impacts the 2017 class

This commitment should quell some Husky fans’ fears about not signing enough big bodies or not taking the offensive line as seriously as they should. Kirkland will be the third offensive line signing for 2017, following the commitments of Henry Bainivalu and Cole Norgaard. 

Kirkland has the body to compete right away, but as we saw with Nick Harris in 2016 there’s no way of knowing how the depth chart will work itself out below Adams and McGary. The Huskies have tackles that have played in games ahead of a true freshman like Kirkland, but they could have said the same thing about Harris and all the guard depth last year. 

Strausser would love to lock Kirkland away for at least a year, but you never know. Obviously a lot of that is dependent on what kind of shape Kirkland shows up in, as well as how quickly he adapts to life in the Pac-12, but I wouldn’t rule out Kirkland as an option this coming fall. It wouldn’t be ideal, but if the player shows he’s ready and he’s the best option, the UW coaches have shown they won’t hesitate to throw young boys right in the first if they give the Huskies their best chance at success. 

The Bottom Line

From a fan’s point of view, the continuation of the Kirkland legacy is cool. It’s always fun to see if the son can fill the shoes of the father, and in the case of Jaxson Kirkland we know Dean Kirkland’s shoes are sizable. But Kirkland, like his father, is a big man with big dreams. 

Many sons shy away from wanting to follow in their parents’ footsteps, but Kirkland seems fully willing to embrace this opportunity. It’s something he’s openly talked about, and now he’s gotten that chance. What he does with that chance is up to him. 

With his size, natural strength and training, Kirkland will show up to Montlake this coming summer in prime position to make an immediate impact. But if the Huskies are lucky enough to stow Kirkland away for at least a season, the young man should emerge a year from now bigger, faster, and even stronger for the experience.  


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