Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. not transferring from Tennessee after all

Darrin Kirkland Jr.

Former Freshman All-SEC linebacker selection Darrin Kirkland Jr., has reversed course and will not transfer away from Rocky Top, as Gridiron Now reported Monday night and ESPN’s Chris Low confirmed Tuesday morning at the Southeastern Conference’s annual Spring Meetings in Sandestin, FL.

Key to the decision for the 6-foot-1, 238-pounder was a weekend meeting that Pruitt hosted with both Kirkland and his parents, mother, Stephanie, and father, Darrin Kirkland Sr.

“He wants to be here, and we want him here,” Pruitt told ESPN. “He can definitely help us.”

A late-December 2014 addition to the Vols’ 2015 signing class who enrolled in January ‘15, Kirkland made an immediate impact and carved a starting role during his debut season. The former U.S. Army All-American had selected the Vols over Michigan, among myriad suitors, and wasted no time as he posted the fourth-best season by a Vols rookie with 66 stops.

Per sources, Kirkland had heard from multiple Big Ten schools, as well as ACC programs and the Pac 12’s Oregon and Washington after he tweeted late last week that he would seek to finish his career – Kirkland has two seasons’ eligibility remaining because of redshirting last fall – elsewhere.

A torn biceps sidelined Kirkland before the 2017 season ever kicked off, an historically bad campaign that saw the Vols go winless in SEC play for the first time in program history and saw Butch Jones fired in early November.

Pruitt was hired in early December and has now persuaded Kirkland to remain on the heels of an incredible month of recruiting for the 2019 class as well.

RELATED: Can Jeremy Pruitt’s coaching make up for Vols roster deficiencies?

(You can follow John Brice on Twitter @JohnDBrice1)

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