In a recent Husky Stadium workout, Jaxson Kirkland appeared noticeably heavier as he was photographed running agility drills.
Much larger but not looking like a fatty body.
This was “big” news.
We were wondering how big?
The University of Washington offensive tackle — the Pac-12’s most decorated returning player as a two-time, first-team all-conference selection — wasn’t made available to speak about it, with the school presumably saving him for next week’s league media day in Hollywood, California.
However, according to Montlake sources, Kirkland currently weighs in at an eye-popping 340 or close to it.
The school listed him at 327 two years ago and at 310 last season.
While 40 percent of the Husky roster was encouraged to lose weight once Kalen DeBoer took over as coach and brought strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery with him, the 6-foot-7 Kirkland apparently has everyone’s blessing to bulk up.
The idea is he’ll need to be heavier to become a top-level NFL player so why not get this sixth-year senior playing at the higher weight now.
Also, Kirkland gave up his first two career sacks last season while working against Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, later drafted No. 2 overall by the Detroit Lions, and the big Husky tackle surely won’t be content unless he’s a dominant player himself.
When Husky fall camp begins soon, Kirkland will reclaim his No. 1 left tackle position and become the UW’s second recent five-year starter, matching center Luke Wattenberg, who accomplished that feat last season.
DeBoer couldn’t have asked for a better offseason gift than that, possibly gaining the league’s top offensive lineman for his debut season in Seattle and the launch of his high-powered offense.
Kirkland is coming off offseason ankle surgery, the main reason he didn’t enter the NFL draft last April and subsequently petitioned the NCAA for another season, which he was permitted with a pandemic allowance.
However, by the length of the decision process and the reluctance of UW coaches to address the situation in the spring (see above video), it became obvious that a Kirkland decision was never a slam dunk and possibly could have been denied. No doubt there were outside issues involving his eligibility that needed to be sorted out.
Kirkland has returned to show pro scouts he’s healthy again. The Vancouver, Washington native was injured early in the fourth quarter of last season’s UW-Oregon State game, which the Huskies lost 27-24 at Corvallis.
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At the time, media members noticed Kirkland was replaced by Troy Fautanu at the beginning of a scoring drive, sidelined while the Huskies drove down the field for Sean McGrew’s 39-yard touchdown scamper.
TV game footage appears to show the Husky tackle get hit from behind while pass-blocking. On the play, Beavers cornerback Rejzohn Wright came off the opposite end unblocked and sacked Husky quarterback Dylan Morris for a seven-yard loss. Wright’s momentum seemed to carry them into the unsuspecting Kirkland.
The UW lineman was able to play the next game against UCLA before sitting out two games and then playing the final four. It was a struggle. Later, Kirkland revealed he played only at 60 percent of his ability in his wounded state.
UW LEFT TACKLE DEPTH
1) Jaxson Kirkland, 6-7, 340, Sr., Vancouver, Wash.
2) Julius Buelow, 6-8, 319, Soph., Kapolei, Hawaii
3) Samuel Peacock, 6-6, 286, R-Fresh., Gig Harbor, Wash.
Kirkland brings the most starting experience at any position to this Husky team by a wide margin — with 39 game-opening assignments, 14 at left tackle and the rest at right guard. This sort of versatility should make him attractive to the pros on multiple fronts. His objective now is to stay healthy.
Fautanu took most of the spring snaps at left tackle in Kirkland’s absence, but he’ll move to another position now that his veteran teammate is back. If needed, Fautanu would step in for him again.
Behind Kirkland on our depth chart is Julius Buelow, who’s still just a sophomore and underwent a spring position change. He moved from left tackle to left guard.
Last season, Buelow started the first five games in the interior position before giving way to Ulumoo Ale, who started the next six games, before both stepped aside for Fautanu, who started the Apple Cup. Neither Buelow nor Ale are guards anymore, with the latter moving to defense, as the new coaching staff tries to make better use of its inherited linemen. The knock on Buelow wasn’t enough of a street fighter in the trenches. There’s still time.
Samuel Peacock is part of the Huskies’ 520 crew — one of five offensive linemen signed for the 2020 recruiting class. He’s still putting on weight, learning his trade and waiting for players like Kirkland to leave so he can move up.
Conclusion: Kirkland could have left for the NFL after each of the past two seasons and been a mid-round draftee, but he’s determined to get healthy and become a first-rounder. After all the agony he went through in 2021, Kirkland is due for a stress-free and highly productive final college season, and equally uncomplicated transition to the pros.
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