4-star Florida OL: 'Coach Caldwell is a legend'

4-star Florida OL: 'Coach Caldwell is a legend'

Recruiting

4-star Florida OL: 'Coach Caldwell is a legend'

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Come Sept. 1, college coaches can begin directly contacting 2023 prospects in the junior class. 

Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips four-star offensive lineman Payton Kirkland believes an offer from Clemson may be coming his way, based on what he has heard from offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell. 

Kirkland (6-5, 330) is ranked as the No. 9 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 123 overall prospect regardless of position in the 2023 class, per the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“Coach Caldwell told me to look for it September 1st, we got something for you,” he told The Clemson Insider.

Caldwell has been Kirkland’s primary recruiter for the Tigers.

“It means a lot,” Kirkland said regarding Clemson’s patient recruiting approach. “The majority of programs offer you because someone else offers you, but I really like that they’ve been taking the time over these past — it’s been over two years that I’ve been in contact with Clemson — I feel like it’s finally about to take it to the next level pretty soon.”

“They’re very genuine. They’re actually interested in you as a player, especially following through over these past two years,” he added. “It means a lot more than just being offered and never talked to again.”

Kirkland is quite fond of Caldwell and the rest of Clemson’s coaching staff.

“Coach Caldwell is a legend,” he said. “There’s not too many offensive line coaches that can do what he does. My impression of Coach Caldwell, he’s a great guy.”

Kirkland didn’t want this to come across as being mean, but he views Caldwell, 67, as a grandpa-Esque figure, especially because he doesn’t have a grandfather himself. 

According to Kirkland, Caldwell is a fan of his size, but he also likes the fact that he can move very well for his stature.

Kirkland got to take in Clemson earlier this summer, but it wasn’t exactly the experience he had hoped for. 

That’s because he had gotten injured the day prior to his Clemson visit, so he wasn’t really able to work out. He was taken around in a golf cart and admitted that it was hard to be a spectator at the Dabo Swinney Camp.

“I’m blessed that they’re still interested in me and that everything worked out,” he said.

Kirkland enjoyed the tour and what Clemson had to offer, but it was also tough for him because he had to crutch around the facilities.

“I’ll be definitely getting back up there, so I can actually take a visit this time,” he added. 

Kirkland doesn’t think he’ll be able to make any gameday visits this year, but he certainly plans on taking a couple of visits following the season.

Fortunately, Kirkland has received a clean bill of health and was only sidelined for three weeks after his initial injury. 

Now that he’s back healthy, Kirkland said that first and foremost, there’s a championship mindset that comes with his junior season. He’s also been able to go up against four-star outside linebacker DeMario Tolan every day in practice. 

Iron sharpens iron.

Tolan joined Dr. Phillips High School for his senior campaign and received plenty of interest from Clemson, including an official scholarship offer, before eventually committing to LSU.

With that being said, how would Kirkland describe himself as a player to someone who hasn’t seen him play before?

“I would say physical, very physical and that I play very passionately,” he said. 

Kirkland constituted his strengths as his explosiveness and playing through the whistle/his ability to finish plays.

As far as a school at the next level is concerned, Kirkland looks at players at his position and their success. He also is interested in those players who didn’t follow through with football coming out of those programs because he’d like to see life after football.

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