The important recruiting week for the Texas Longhorns got off to a poor start when Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr announced his commitment to the Tennessee Volunteers in a ceremony at his high school on Monday.
The 6'2, 235-pounder chose Tennessee over finalists Texas, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss.
Formerly committed to Michigan, Kirkland is the No. 175 player in the country, the No. 4 inside linebacker, and the No. 2 player in the state of Indiana, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
He also held offers from the likes of Arkansas, Florida, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, USC, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin, among others.
The fact that Kirkland moved up his announcement from the US Army All-American Bowl had seemed to bode well for the Longhorns, especially after head coach Charlie Strong held his in-home visit with Kirkland Jr and his parents lastTuesday.
He was also said to have a good relationship with charismatic Texas wide receiver target Ryan Newsome, who was on an official visit with the big linebacker to Oklahoma for the loss against Baylor in early November, as well as the official visit both took to Austin in early December.
And even though Texas didn't offer Kirkland Jr until last April, Strong and his staff were one of the first schools to recruit him, offering the hard-hitting linebacker in June of 2013 and then hosting him on a visit not long after -- there were some deep ties there between the Indiana product and the current Longhorns staff.
There had also been some major swings in his recruitment in the last few weeks. Kirkland Jr decommitted from Michigan in early November, just after taking an official visit to Ole Miss that sparked a major trend for the Rebels in his 247Sports Crystal Ball. Then an official visit to Tennessee, one of the early favorites for his services, sparked a swing for the Volunteers in his Crystal Ball.
In the days before his commitment only one prediction came in for Texas, while three came in for Tennessee, muting any optimism about the late Longhorns surge.
Texas remains the favorite for former Tennessee linebacker commit Cecil Cherry, who will likely sign with the Longhorns on National Signing Day. While Cherry is hardly a poor consolation prize, the more prototypical size of Kirkland Jr and his exceptional instincts make the Indiana prospect the more highly-rated player.
And the staff will surely hope that the news improves later this week when five-star linebacker Malik Jefferson and teammate DeAndre McNeal make their respective announcements, though neither one is thought to be leaning towards Texas at this time.