Interview with Top UCF Football Prep Prospect Payton Kirkland

One of UCF’s top Orlando prospects, Payton Kirkland, visited the UCF campus this past weekend, and he provided details about his visit and his recruitment.
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Signing elite Central Florida prospects will be a focus for UCF football moving forward. From Clearwater Beach to Cocoa Beach, UCF is looking to keep as many of the top prospects home as possible. This initiative stems from the underclassmen ranks as well.

One of the key prospects from the class of 2023 would be Payton Kirkland, the 6’6 ½”, 330 pound offensive tackle is a national recruit. He attends Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips, and his offer list includes UCF, Florida, Florida State, Miami, USF, FAU, FIU, Oklahoma, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Penn State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan, Southern Cal and Ole Miss among others.

Kirkland took the time to discuss his recruitment with Inside The Knights, especially his thoughts on the UCF football program’s top personalities in his eyes -- Head Coach Gus Malzahn and Defensive Coordinator Travis Williams -- to provide insight into the program. Kirkland also provided some thoughts about other programs as well.

Top three things that you liked about your UCF visit?

“I would say, the coaches having their families there as well as us (the recruits) having our families there. Second thing is a high-energy family environment. All the coaches bring the energy. Then thirdly, you can be comfortable there; they show you a great time.”

Did you have a difference in perception from prior to visiting UCF to after visiting UCF?

“Yeah, I kind of walked in there, you know what I’m saying, I kind of lowered my expectations, you know what I’m saying. It’s not one of those more talked about programs.

“So, after that visit, after finally meeting (UCF Head Football) Coach Gus Malzahn in person, after about two years of talking, I definitely got a great idea of what he has planned for the program. And I definitely believe in the vision for sure.”

Is there anybody on the staff that stood out to you as bringing energy or personality?

“On the staff, I would probably say Coach Malzahn and Coach T-Will. I definitely did not expect Coach Malzahn to be as vocal as he was and as high energy as he was. Coach T-Will, you know, he get to it (laughing). That’s that dude right there.”

Kirkland recently took in a University of Georgia camp and banged up his knee, so he’s rethinking his unofficial visit strategy for this summer. When asked about visiting UCF again, it was still good news for the Knights.

“Honestly, it’s probably to be determined. I’ll probably visit a couple of schools in July, and in the season, but as of right now, all I have planned is two, three more visits to UCF this month. Just get to know the (UCF) staff a little better.”

With Kirkland’s recruitment being a highly competitive process, he was asked if he already had a college decision date planned?

“The plan is to make my decision sometime around next August (2022). I probably won’t announce it until closer to (national) signing day.”

Moving to the arms race that is college football facilities, Kirkland commented about the University of Florida Facilities.

“UF is beautiful. The facilities they’re top of the line you know. I’m pretty sure they are opening up something else new. I like Florida too.”

How would you compare Florida’s facilities to say UCF or Miami?

“I like Miami’s facilities better than Florida’s. I like UCF’s facilities. They are very simple, but they get the job done for sure. UCF has nice facilities, too.

What do you like about the University of Miami facilities?

“They are beautiful. State of the art. Technology, all of that, you know. They are building a new locker room right now. It’s under construction. So like, I’d say, indoor (facility), training area, the lobby is beautiful, all the trophies and rings. Then, you have the upstairs hallway, the team room, I’ll show you a picture of that. It’s beautiful right there.”

Florida State, what do you think about their facilities?

“Florida State, I mean, I’ve seen the blueprints for the new facilities. They will probably be one of the top three facilities in my opinion, them and Nebraska.”

What schools, right now, do you like the most?

“I really don’t like any schools the most right now. I have schools that are recruiting me harder than others though.

“Like, Texas A&M is recruiting me pretty hard. Southern California, Miami...UCF, uh, who else...Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, Penn State coming pretty hard. Then Texas, too.”

Thanks to Kirkland for taking the time out of his day and providing such a detailed interview. Very insightful.

Final Thoughts

Kirkland is a prospect that the Knights would love to keep at home. It is very early in his recruitment, but he’s already landed numerous scholarship offers. The UCF coaching staff will be provided an opportunity to host him two or three more times this month, and that could allow the Knights to gain an advantage with Kirkland’s recruitment.

With all the recruiting news that’s happening after Bounce House Weekend, here are some other recent articles to delve into and learn about the UCF football program’s recruiting efforts.

Recent UCF Recruiting Articles:

Recruiting Expectations Following UCF’s Bounce House Weekend

UCF Football Recruiting Looking for Versatile Linebackers

33 Prospects Make Visits to UCF Football

UCF Football’s Alabama Prep Connections Will Pay Dividends

You will find me on Twitter @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation