Big-time OL felt ‘warm embrace’ from the Tigers

Big-time OL felt ‘warm embrace’ from the Tigers


Big-time OL felt ‘warm embrace’ from the Tigers


Clemson played host earlier this month to one of the Sunshine State’s best offensive linemen and a top-100 national prospect in the 2023 class regardless of position.

Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips four-star tackle Payton Kirkland visited Clemson at the beginning of June and felt welcomed by the coaches as soon as he stepped foot on campus.

“I really enjoyed it,” Kirkland said to The Clemson Insider regarding the visit. “The staff gave me a warm embrace when I got there, and the environment was pretty great.”

The 6-foot-8, 310-pound rising junior was on campus when the Dabo Swinney Camp kicked off with its first session June 2, although he did not work out.

However, Kirkland still got plenty of face time with Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell.

“I really spent the most time with Coach Caldwell,” Kirkland said. “Coach Caldwell’s message to me was really just keep pushing.”

Kirkland made the trip to Clemson with several other Sunshine State standouts in the class of 2023 — Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy five-star outside linebacker Malik Bryant, Kissimmee (Fla.) Osceola four-star defensive end Derrick LeBlanc, Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange three-star wide receiver Asaad Waseem and Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater four-star athlete Cedric Baxter.

“They really enjoyed themselves, too,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland is friends with a fellow Orlando-area native on Clemson’s roster, rising junior defensive tackle Tyler Davis, and Kirkland had a chance to kick it with Davis and some other current Tiger football players while he was on campus.

“I’d say the highlight of the visit was probably getting to hang out with the players a little bit in the players’ lounge and stuff,” Kirkland said. “I’ve been building a relationship with Tyler Davis for a while now, so I was chilling with him and D.J. (Uiagalelei) and a couple other guys.”

So far, Clemson has offered just one offensive lineman in the 2023 class – Mount Pleasant (S.C.) Oceanside Collegiate Academy four-star tackle Monroe Freeling – with Kirkland among other candidates to eventually earn an offer from the Tigers.

Kirkland lists more than 40 offers from major programs such as Ohio State, Florida State, Florida, Miami, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Michigan and Penn State, to name some.

Rivals tabs Kirkland as the No. 79 overall prospect in the 2023 class, while he is ranked as the No. 8 offensive tackle and No. 87 overall prospect in the country for the 2023 class by the 247Sports Composite.

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