Former four-star LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. decides not to leave Tennessee after all

Update: Now this is what you call an about-face. Less than a week after Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. announced on Twitter that he was transferring, it now appears he will be staying with the Vols. 

First-year coach Jeremy Pruitt confirmed to ESPN's Chris Low on Tuesday that Kirkland will remain at Tennessee. Gridiron Now previously reported on Monday night that Kirkland had changed his mind. According to Pruitt, the decision came after he met with Kirkland and his parents over the weekend to discuss his plans. The consensus from the meeting was that Tennessee would be the best place for Kirkland to finish out his career despite injury problems. 

Kirkland's original tweet has since been deleted. 

Original story

Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr.'s career started out with a bang, when he finished fourth on the team in tackles as a freshman in 2015 and earned freshman All-SEC honors. 

It abruptly ended on Thursday when the redshirt junior announced his transfer from the program.

The 6-foot-1, 238-pound native of Indianapolis notched 45 tackles in eight games in 2016, but an ankle injury suffered in the middle of the season prevented him from playing a full season. The injury bug bit Kirkland again in 2017, when he suffered a knee injury in late August that ended his season before it even began.

He was limited in spring practice after a minor procedure to address a torn meniscus, but new coach Jeremy Pruitt seemed upbeat about Kirkland's future when he addressed it in late March.

"Darrin had his knee cleaned up, so he'll back, probably in two or three weeks," Pruitt said. "He had done really well, progressed, worked in the offseason and (had) just a minor little clean-up there, so he'll be back ready to go."

He might be ready to go, but it won't be in Knoxville.

The former four-start prospect will have two seasons of eligibility at his new school.

Of the 30 players in Tennessee's 2015 recruiting class, 15 have left the program for various reasons. Three of those -- running back Alvin Kamara, defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie and running back John Kelly -- left for the NFL (although Kamara's eligibility would have been exhausted by 2018). Fourteen members of the class either transferred or were dismissed from the program.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, while also hosting on ESPNU on SiriusXM Radio channel 84, the... Full Bio

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