Florida State received some criticism in the spring for its production on the recruiting trail. The Seminoles have flipped the script over the last few months and are poised to enter the fall with a top 20 class in the country.
READ MORE: Former Florida State quarterback commits to SEC program
Three-star defensive back Kenton “KJ” Kirkland committed to Florida State over Kentucky on Monday night. The Seminoles and Wildcats have battled for Kirkland the past few weeks. In the end, the relationships he built in Tallahassee over the last year won out.
Kirkland is the 10th prospect to commit to Florida State since early June.
The Florida native has visited Florida State’s campus five times in 2022, more than any other program. He recently attended the Seminole Showcase on July 30th. Head coach Mike Norvell’s energy is something that has impressed him.
“It’s always great energy coming from Coach Norvell. He’s always excited to see me, every time I come on campus his eyes light up,” Kirkland told Dustin Lewis of NoleGameday in an earlier interview. “It’s a great thing to see that he’s really interested in me. Some coaches just try to talk you out of it, but I know every time I come here, it’s the same energy.”
Outside of the coaching staff, working in the Seminoles’ favor was the fact that current commit, offensive lineman Roderick Kearney, was also pursuing Kirkland. The two are from the same area, and Kearney insists that Kirkland join the tribe.
“Rod [Kearney] is a local man. We’re both from Jacksonville, so he’s pretty much in my ear all the time,” Kirkland told NoleGameday’s Dustin Lewis in an earlier interview. “He’s trying to get me to come in and move on and make that decision to go to Florida State now.”
“It means a lot. It lets me know I’m a high priority here,” Kirkland continued. “Especially a guy from Jacksonville. So if I had to commit, I would feel right at home. I would have someone to reflect with.’
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The Raines High School product has a long, lanky frame that the coaching staff wants to take advantage of at the next level. Kirkland’s skill set gives him the flexibility to play corner, safety or nickel. The Seminoles see him as someone they can move around in the defensive backfield.
As a junior, Kirkland recorded 20 tackles, two tackles for loss, 12 pass deflections and one interception in ten games. He helped lead the Raines to an 8-3 record and a district title. Kirkland also anchored the gold-winning 4×400 team at the FHSAA Class 2A state track meet. He placed third in the 400 meters.
His best football is ahead of him, as Kirkland only recently started playing on the defensive side of the ball as a sophomore. Kirkland will take his official visit to Florida State in late December. He also plans to take an official visit to Kentucky sometime in the fall.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound defensive back is considered the No. 491 overall prospect, No. 44 S and No. 91 recruit in the state of Florida in the class of 2023 according to 247Sports.
Kirkland becomes Florida State’s 14th commitment in its class of 2023. The draft is considered the No. 20 class in the country according to 247Sports.
READ MORE: Former Florida State defensive back lands in Big Ten
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