football

Michigan lands Kirkland

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Rivals250 linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. had planned to make his commitment at the end of the summer, but a weekend visit to Ann Arbor, Mich., sped up his timeline.
"I've committed (to) the University of Michigan," Kirkland told Rivals.com on Sunday. "I'm feeling great right now. We just got some Michigan gear and are headed back home now."
Michigan had been one of just 10 schools that made the cut when Kirkland narrowed his list of more than two dozen scholarship offers earlier this month. Originally Kirkland had planned to announce on the final day of May, but after several new offers he pushed that timeline back to August. After two days in Ann Arbor, though, Kirkland saw no reason to wait.
"This weekend overall was one of the best times I have had on a college visit," Kirkland said. "It felt like home as soon as I got on campus. This is a special place and everything they showed my family, it just made us feel that we'd be comfortable here for the next four years. I didn't want to be at any other place than here."
The other schools in Kirkland's top 10 list were Kentucky, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin. Michigan, however, always stuck out to Kirkland as a top contender even among his favorites.
"They were always there for me," Kirkland said. "I was telling the coaching staff that I came here seven years ago for my first game at the Big House with my dad and it was just an awesome experience. To have an opportunity to play on that field, it is unmatched."
Kirkland scheduled his weekend visit to Michigan mid-week with assistant coach Curt Mallory. He planned to stay Saturday night with Michigan freshman linebacker Mike McCray, whom he and his family have known for several years.
"My uncle actually played with Mike McCray Sr. in high school," Kirkland said. "They have been friends ever since and my uncle introduced me to [McCray Jr.] as he was being recruited and we've been friends ever since.
"I stayed the night with Mike McCray and just really had a great time with the guys. They were really good guys and were telling me I was wanted here. I really just asked him why he chose here, because we had some similar offers. He said there is no other place where you can go and feel like home."
Kirkland was scheduled to meet with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke on Saturday, and finish up his visit Sunday. Before he left, however, he informed the coaches he was ready to be a Wolverine.
"Actually, when I called Coach Hoke he was in church," Kirkland said. "Coach [Greg] Mattison, Coach [Chris] Singletary and Coach Mallory gave me a big hug and we had a nice, little celebration in the locker room and on the field."
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Kirkland plays for Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. He is the state of Indiana's top ranked prospect in the 2015 class, the No. 6 inside linebacker nationally and No. 183 in the Rivals250.
Josh Helmholdt is a Midwest Region football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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