Florida State received some criticism during the spring for its production on the recruiting trail. Over the last few months, the Seminoles have flipped the script and are primed to enter the fall with a top-20 class in the country.
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On Monday evening, three-star defensive back Kenton "KJ" Kirkland committed to Florida State over Kentucky. The Seminoles and Wildcats have been jockeying for Kirkland over the past few weeks. In the end, the relationships that he built in Tallahassee throughout the last year won out.
Kirkland is the tenth prospect to commit to Florida State since the beginning of June.
The Florida native has visited Florida State's campus five times in 2022, more than anyone other program. He was recently in attendance for the Seminole Showcase on July 30. Head coach Mike Norvell's energy is something that stood out to him.
"It's always great energy coming from coach Norvell. He's always excited to see me, every time I come to campus, his eyes light up," Kirkland said to NoleGameday's Dustin Lewis in an earlier interview. "That's a great thing to see, that he actually has interest in me. Some coaches, they just try to brush you off but I know every time I come here it's the same energy."
Outside of the coaching staff, it played in the Seminoles favor that a current commitment, offensive lineman Roderick Kearney, also pursued Kirkland. The two are from the same area and Kearney has been pushing for Kirkland to join the Tribe.
"Rod [Kearney] is a local guy. We're both from Jacksonville so he's pretty much all in my ear all the time," Kirkland said to NoleGameday's Dustin Lewis in an earlier interview. "Trying to get me to come over and to go ahead and make that decision to go to Florida State now."
"It means a lot. It lets me know that I'm a high priority here," Kirkland continued. "Especially a guy from Jacksonville as well. So, if I were to commit, I would feel at home. I would have somebody to kind of reflect with."
The Raines High School product has a long and lengthy frame that the coaching staff wants to take advantage of at the next level. Kirkland's skillset provides him the versatility to play corner, safety, or nickel. The Seminoles see him as someone they can move around in the defensive backfield.
As a junior, Kirkland recorded 20 tackles, two tackles for loss, 12 pass deflections, and an interception in ten games. He helped lead Raines to an 8-3 record and a district title. Kirkland also ran anchor for a 4×400 team that captured gold during the FHSAA Class 2A State track meet. He placed third in the 400-meter dash.
His best football is ahead of him as Kirkland only recently started playing on the defensive side of the ball as a sophomore. Kirkland will take his official visit to Florida State in late December. He also plans to officially visit Kentucky at some point during the fall.
The 6-foot-1.5, 187-pound defensive back is regarded as the No. 491 overall prospect, the No. 44 S, and the No. 91 recruit in the state of Florida in the 2023 class according to 247Sports.
Kirkland becomes the 14th commitment for Florida State in its 2023 class. The haul is regarded as the No. 20 class in the country according to 247Sports.
READ MORE: Former Florida State defensive back lands in Big Ten
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Lewis joined NoleGameday in 2016 and has held the position of lead writer and editor since 2017. A graduate of Florida State, Lewis contributes to football, recruiting, and basketball coverage. Connect with Dustin on Twitter at @Dussttin.