Elite OL building special bond with Caldwell

Elite OL building special bond with Caldwell


Elite OL building special bond with Caldwell


One offensive line prospect firmly on Clemson’s recruiting radar for the 2023 class is Sunshine State standout Payton Kirkland.

Kirkland, one of the nation’s top tackles, is focused on winning a state championship as he prepares for his junior season at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla.

“Everything’s going good,” he said regarding offseason workouts with his squad. “The team’s coming together. We’re starting to realize who the leaders are on the team, and we’re just getting ready to try to take it all the way this year.”

Kirkland, a massive and talented 6-foot-8, 310-pound prospect, knows what his best attributes as an offensive lineman are and what he needs to improve upon heading into his upcoming campaign.

“I feel like my strengths at this time are really my knowledge of the game and my athletic ability,” he said. “And what I’m working on going into the season is just getting back into football shape, being stronger … because it’s hard to keep that same strength in the offseason.”

Kirkland visited Clemson with a group of prospects from the Orlando area on June 2, when the Dabo Swinney Camp got underway. He also made trips last month to Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State, UCF, FAU and FIU.

When Kirkland looks back on the Clemson visit, one thing stands out to him more than anything.

“What stuck out to me the most is the intensity that (offensive line) coach (Robbie) Caldwell coaches with,” he said.

Kirkland, the country’s No. 11 offensive tackle in the 2023 class per the 247Sports Composite rankings, has kept in contact with Caldwell since the visit and is building a unique, familial-like relationship with him.

“I talked to Coach Caldwell a couple times since then,” Kirkland said. “Coach Caldwell’s a great guy. He’s cool to talk to.”

“He’s kind of like a grandpa, I’m going to be honest,” Kirkland added, laughing.

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.

So far, Clemson has offered only one offensive lineman in the 2023 class – Mount Pleasant (S.C.) Oceanside Collegiate Academy four-star tackle Monroe Freeling.

Kirkland isn’t sure exactly where he stands with the Tigers as far as a potential offer but is staying patient and leaning on his faith as he waits for one to possibly come.

“I’m on God’s timing,” Kirkland said. “So, whenever God feels it’s great for me to have the offer, then I’ll be blessed to accept it.”

Kirkland said he will likely start to narrow down his list of college choices during the season.

The Tigers would sit well with Kirkland and be in a good spot in his recruitment if they pull the trigger on an offer moving forward.

“Oh, most definitely,” he said.

Kirkland is ranked as high as the No. 79 overall prospect in the 2023 class regardless of position by Rivals. He will hit the road again later this month to check out Ohio State and Michigan State.

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