Kyle Flood remains hot on the recruiting trail for the Texas Longhorns with the surprise commitment of offensive tackle Payton Kirkland, adding to an already solid offensive line group.
Kirkland’s journey to the Class of 2023 was a long and winding narrative that ultimately ended with his pledge to the Longhorns. For the majority of his commitment, it seemed like Texas was on the outside looking in for the big tackle from Florida. The Longhorns missed his top 5 initially and were not listed among the finalists when he announced his commitment date.
When recruiting experts began to predict that he would pick the ‘Horns, Kirkland doubled down on social media and even re-posted his announcement graphic with Texas left out of the mix. However, it seems as if Flood’s pre-existing relationship from his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide allowed Texas to open the door and secure the commitment.
The No. 274 player overall and the No. 25 tackle in the cycle, Kirkland joins a class with a ton of potential, especially with the need for added depth and versatility in the offensive line group — even after the monster haul in 2022. At 6-foot-6 and 345 pounds, Kirkland not only fits the edict of big humans but he slots in as one of the players most likely to stay at tackle on the Forty Acres.
Kirkland is the fifth offensive lineman to join the class and is likely the last take for the group, barring something unforeseen.
Analysis (by Daniel Seahorn):
Kirkland is a soon-to-be three-year starter at offensive tackle at Orlando (FL) Dr. Phillips high school. Prior to Dr. Phillips, Kirkland was at West Orange high school where he played offensive and defensive tackle as a freshman. Kirkland logged snaps at right tackle in 2020 before flipping over to left tackle in 2021, so he has experience on both sides during his prep career. At 6’6, 345 pounds Kirkland possesses great size for the position and has good length that he uses to his advantage often on tape. Shows solid flexibility for his size and shows the ability to come off the ball with a low hat. Consistently beats defenders to the punch by using his length as an advantage and brings his feet upon engagement. Shows a good punch and good play strength on tape, as he is able to consistently displace defenders from the LOS. Plays with good aggression and looks to finish his blocks. Plays with a bit of an edge to him, but will also be the guy who will peel you off the turf after flat backing you. Shows good body quickness at the snap in pass protection, but needs to get a little more depth in his kick set at times. Anchors well when defenders try to come down the middle of him and does a good job of widening defenders when they want to try to run the arc. Does a solid job of recovering when defenders were initially able to slap his hands down.
I think Kirkland has a chance to stick at tackle at the next level due to him having the requisite athleticism that you need, but he will still need some polish as a pass protector and continue to improve his agility so that he can stay in front of FBS edge rushers. I think he is plus run blocker at this point in his development and even if he has to kick inside long term he will have a chance to blossom into a nice player at the next level.