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Payton Kirkland, All-American Bowl offensive tackle, has high praise for Florida Gators as decision nears

Dr. Phillips High School four-star offensive tackle Payton Kirkland discusses his top suitors as his decision nears

Dr. Phillips High School (Florida) offensive tackle Payton Kirkland is a special athlete.

The 6-foot-7, 345-pound offensive tackle moves with the fluidity of a much smaller person but maintains every bit of strength that his frame suggests.

Perhaps that's why Kirkland, an All-American Bowl selection, has compiled more than 50 scholarship offers.

Hoping to put an end to the frantic recruiting process, the Orlando product has set a commitment date of July 23, where he will be committing alongside two fellow bluechip prospects.

“The whole purpose of doing that is that all three are committing — me, [linebacker] Malik Brown and [defensive lineman] Derrick LeBlanc— same event, same day, same night, same time," he said.

Whether or not one school will be the big winner or if three schools will be celebrating major commitments on that day remains to be seen.

But Kirkland is clearly a major prize regardless of who joins him in college. 

This week, he'll take a visit to Florida, who some feel has the inside track for his commitment.

Kirkland hasn't named a leader, but he does have high praise for the Gators.

“Well, you know, this new staff has really made a great push and rolled out the orange carpet for me as they say," he said. "I’m working on God’s timing and my decision will be based through Christ, because I can’t go out here and move based off of my own knowledge. It’ll be an amazing opportunity, but only time will tell and only God can tell.” 

Kirkland said football is too unpredictable to make the deciding factor in his recruitment, so he will instead consider the rest of his factors and let the football chips fall where they may.

In prior visits to Florida, it checked those boxes. 

“When it comes down to the football-aspect of (my recruitment), that’s not a priority for me whatsoever because football takes care of itself," he explained. "Football is a game of inches and it’s a game that cannot be predicted. It’s really about being around the right type of men. (Florida) showed me all of the things I asked to see, like the civil engineering program. They hadn’t shown anyone else that before that’s come on a visit. That’s what I mean by rolling out the orange carpet.”

Still, several other suitors remain in the fold.

Miami recently hosted Kirkland on an unofficial visit, and he felt it was an offensive line Mecca. 

“That’s offensive line Heaven out there right now,” he said. “They have six coaches hands-on with the offensive line full time. One of those coaches is the head coach. You’re not going to get that anywhere else as an offensive lineman. It’s an amazing thing to see and I’m excited to get out there this weekend.”

Michigan State, Oklahoma and Alabama also remain firmly in the mix - with the Tide making a big impression last fall during his visit for the game against LSU.

"When it comes to coach (Nick) Saban’s teaching philosophy and leadership, I feel like it really fits me well," Kirkland said. "I am a true leader and I love to soak up information and be pushed past my limits. That’s huge for me when it comes to Alabama.” 

Kirkland will take June official visits to all five of his finalists - Alabama, Florida, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State and Oklahoma - in June, let the excitement where off to set the stage for his late-July decision.