Darian Kinnard was recruited to become Kentucky’s next star at offensive tackle. Despite the hype, even he did not expect to get immediately thrown into the fire.
Kentucky’s second-highest ranked recruit in the 2018 class, Kinnard was a four-star prospect that played in the All-American Game before enrolling in the summer. A left tackle in high school, he was prepared to start his career at guard. That all changed once Landon Young suffered a season-ending injury in the final preseason scrimmage.
“I kind of worked every position except for center.” But if push came to shove, Kinnard believes he could play the position. “Honestly, I used to snap when I was little.”
Bouncing between guard and tackle, offensive line coach John Schlarman finally settled the Cleveland native in at left tackle. Kinnard was not only playing the same position as Young, he was in the same scenario Young faced two years prior as a true freshman left tackle replacing an injured veteran. To call it a quick adjustment would be an understatement.
“You really just don’t have anything that will prepare you for college ball,” Young said. “I always had people tell me what to do to try to get prepared, what to do with my body and how to imagine the game, but you’re never going to get that until you get into the game.”
Kinnard made appearances in nine games, starting in two of the last three. Unlike Landon, Kinnard’s practice preparation was much closer to an in-game simulation because he was lining up against the College Football Defensive Player of the Year every single day.
“Josh Allen is one of the best. That guy is good,” Kinnard told KSR. “I saw it as an opportunity because I love people who are better than me. I just gives me another chance to step up my game. Josh was always great with his hands and always an encourager. He was somebody I always shot for. It was always good for me to get reps against him, and it honestly made me a better player.”
Young is back but Kinnard is too good to keep off the field. To resolve the problem, the sophomore is on the move again, filling George-Asafo-Adjei’s spot at right tackle. Even though he’s played on each side of the center, the switch is never simple.
“It’s like trying to write with your left hand when you’ve been writing with your right hand your whole life. You have to continually work on your craft, continually work on crossing t’s, dotting i’s. You have to continually beat on your craft and make sure it becomes where you’re ambidextrous.”
The left side came much more naturally to Kinnard, thanks to his background in shot put (something else he also shares in common with Young). He’s still working out the kinks at right tackle. The minor mistakes have not discouraged Schlarman one bit.
“His ceiling is really high. He’s a talented player,” said Schlarman. “Sometimes I gotta still remind myself that it’s only his second year. He didn’t redshirt and he’s still seeing some things for the first time ever. I gotta continue to remind myself that, but I think he’s doing a really good job on the right side. I think he’s just going to continue to grow and get better. I like what I see out of his game.”
Hear about how Kinnard crafted his shot put shoe, his famous cousin and more in this conversation with KSR.
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