Elite 2023 OT Payton Kirkland Praises The Michigan Staff

Eric Rutter

Michigan was set to host one of the top 2023 offensive lineman in the entire country back in March, but Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips OT Payton Kirkland had to postpone his visit to Ann Arbor due to a quickly established recruiting dead period.

At the time, Kirkland was going to be visiting U-M as part of a larger recruiting swing, one starting at Florida State and Georgia Tech and ultimately ending in Big Ten country, making stops at Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. Instead of carrying out those plans, Kirkland was forced to adjust how he planned to learn about his prospective suitors.

“It's tough. It's what it's doing is pushing my decision date back,” Kirkland told Wolverine Digest. “I'm doing virtual tours and communicating consistently, once or twice a week with some schools. That's all you really can do. I've taken virtual tours with Florida, Kansas State, Nebraska and Michigan State.”

In terms of Kirkland's connection with the Wolverines, U-M offensive line coach Ed Warinner has made a positive impression on the 6-7, 315-pounder already.

“He's a really down to earth guy,” Kirkland said. “He told me what I need to work on,” Kirkland said. “He told me he'd like to get me on campus.”

Kirkland does not hold an offer from Michigan at the moment, but he is quite interested in picking up a scholarship from the Wolverines.

“It's a real high energy school,” Kirkland said. “I love Coach [Jim] Harbaugh. Coach Warinner has a great background. Everything just falls into place personally.”

So far, Kirkland has already picked up nearly 30 offers, and some of the top programs in the mix include Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss and Penn State, so the 2023 O-Lineman has a bevy of options at his disposal very early on in the process.

“I'm looking for somewhere that I can go and develop and learn as more than a football player but as a man and an entrepreneur,” Kirkland said. “I'm trying to set myself up for the future.”

In order to keep his recruitment flowing smoothly, Kirkland has been busy over the offseason and worked hard on refining his pass protection skills over the summer month. Last season was Kirkland's first on the offensive line, so he's still learning the ins and outs of the position.

“Really my flexibility,” Kirkland said of his focus this offseason. “That's a big part of it for me. My h ops, I've bee working on my hip flexors a lot. I'm working on explosiveness because we're a run heavy school now, so I'm moving constantly. I've gotten a lot faster and more explosive. I feel great.”

Kirkland mentioned that a final decision will come down tomorrow regarding when the Florida high school football season will begin, but he is anxious to get back on the field. This fall, Kirkland is aiming on a clean sheet with no sacks allowed and would also like to pickup four pancakes per game, so the blue chip prospect has high expectations for his sophomore campaign.

Given Kirkland's interest in the program, do you think Michigan should extend an offer? How does Kirkland compare to some of the top underclass offensive lineman across the country? Let us know!

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