Officials lined up for 4-star OT Kirkland

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Denver Kirkland (Miami/Booker T. Washington) entered the room with a big smile on his face. And who could blame him?

As the offensive tackle checked in at the Under Armour All-America Game, he made the rounds seeing the jerseys, gloves, cleats and other gear that would soon be his own. This, though, is just the start.

Practicing all week at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports against other top prospects has its own appeal.

"It is a good feeling knowing that you've made it here and stuff like that," Kirkland said. "It is a good experience. And it will be a good experience to go against guys I haven't met before."

The UA Game, which kicks off at 5 p.m. ET Friday live on ESPN from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., marks the final high school football game for Kirkland and the other prospects. From that perspective, the opportunity will be relished.

"That is mainly it," he said. "High school is mainly over after this and it is on to the big leagues. I am looking forward."

Kirkland has already been to official visits at Florida State and Mississippi and plans to use the last three he's allotted. Those trips have now been set and scheduled as signing day draws closer.

"I am going to South Florida on Jan. 11," Kirkland said. "Jan. 18, I am going to the University of Miami. On Feb. 1, I am going to TCU."

The Horned Frogs, a new team on the radar, apparently have made an 11th-hour impression. Enough to get an official visit, anyway.

Academic purposes have spearheaded TCU's newfound appeal and Kirkland wants to take a long, hard look.

"Nobody really knew about TCU. I really like the setting," he said. "Smaller class sizes and stuff like that. It is a great football team and it is just something I am looking into."

Nobody expects Kirkland to tip his hand this week at the Under Armour practices. Keeping it close to the vest and letting everyone guess has been the norm.

So out of his finalists, it is not surprising that everybody is level.

"Everybody's even," he said.

ESPN ranks Kirkland as a four-star prospect and the No. 19 offensive tackle prospect in the country.