FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After making his 34th consecutive starting along the offensive line during Arkansas’ convincing 45-23 win over Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, junior Denver Kirkland announced via twitter on Monday that he will forego his senior season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft.
“I would like to thank the University of Arkansas football program, the fans and the Fayetteville community for making my experience so rewarding. After much thought, prayer and consultation with my family, I have decided to forego my senior year ad take the next step toward fulfilling my lifelong goal of playing in the NFL. While pursuit of my dreams will lead me to other places, my heart will remain in Fayetteville.”
A preseason first team All-American by Sporting News, Kirkland slid out from right guard to left tackle as a junior, starting all 13 games there while extending his consecutive starts streak to 34 over his three seasons. He participated in nearly 900 snaps and graded out at more than 80 percent in nine of 13 contests this season, including the last seven games.
The Miami native has played a pivotal role on an offensive line that has helped pave the way for four 1,000-yard rushers over his three seasons, as well as a league-best five 200-yard rushing games in SEC action this year. Kirkland and the rest of the Arkansas offensive line helped running back Alex Collins set a new program record with 20 rushing touchdowns while running for over 1,500 yards. The SEC’s best pass blocking unit, Arkansas’ offensive line led the conference with just 14 sacks allowed and have led the SEC in that category each of the last three years under head coach Bret Bielema.
In his first two seasons, Kirkland started in 21 consecutive games at right guard. As a sophomore in 2014, he was dominant at the position, allowing just one sack and three penalties despite playing a team-high 750-plus snaps. He also posted a team-high tying 79 percent overall grade.