To anchor the Washington offensive line, football talent is mandatory. Jaxson Kirkland can do everyone one better. He carries a blueprint.
He's the son of Dean Kirkland, a former Huskies offensive guard, three-year starter and Rose Bowl captain.
Jaxson Kirkland is second-generation UW greatness, diligently following in the family footsteps.
With the graduation of two-time, first-team, All-Pac-12 selections Trey Adams and Nick Harris, the younger Kirkland assumes the role of Husky headliner up front. He's now the one in the trenches with the most upside, the great size, the beckoning pro football future.
This is another in a series of profiles on prospective UW football starters. With spring practice canceled because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated will continue to provide uninterrupted coverage.
After two seasons as the UW's starting right guard, the 6-foot-7, 323-pound junior from Portland moves to No. 1 left tackle, the glamor position vacated by the hopefully NFL-bound Adams.
"After a while, it became natural, and all the nerves and butterflies went away," Kirkland said in 2018 of becoming a starter. "This is my goal, to play no matter. To get on the field, no matter what."
Kirkland has the bloodlines and motivation to be the best player up front. He's been on a faster track than Adams, Harris and even his father to rack up Husky starting assignments and try to convert them into a lengthy pro career.
He's not only working out in the weight room and a boxing ring like a madman, trying to sculpt his body and develop footwork unlike the typical 300-plus collegian, he's bent on becoming the leader for everyone to follow during the 2020 season.
Kirkland wears No. 51, same as Dick Butkus and same as his overly physical father, giving him a calling card for aggressive if not nasty line play.
And, to think, he nearly didn't become a Husky.
Jaxson Kirkland was courted more feverishly and was orally committed to UCLA at one time, an recruiting option for the Huskies depending on what 5-star local recruit Foster Sarell decided. Once Sarell chose Stanford, the Huskies offered Kirkland.
"I had been committed to UCLA for half a year, but I had kind of always wanted to be a Husky," Jaxson told the Seattle Times in 2018. "That was always in the back of my mind and I was a little upset early in the recruiting process that they didn't show me love as much."
He didn't hold it against the Huskies. After a redshirt season, he moved immediately into the starting lineup and showed them that he deserved better. Any perceived slight was good for his motivation.
Kirkland played solidly through 10 games in 2019 before getting injured at Colorado and missing both the Apple Cup against Washington State and Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.
Pro Football Weekly still saw enough of his game sample to select Kirkland as a second-team All-Pac-12 choice. The UW coaching staff saw enough to make him a starting left tackle. Dean Kirkland sees enough in his son to make him incredibly proud.
Only Jaxson has a copy of this diagram for success.
SUMMARY: He has the size, motivation, experience and now the strategic position to get everyone's attention in college football.
GRADE (1 to 5): Kirkland draws a conservative 4 in advance of his time at left tackle, only because he's in transition and not established at that position yet. He's got all the tools to make it a memorable experience and grade higher.