In arguably the best collegiate conference, Darian Kinnard '18 is among the best linemen.
Kinnard has been named to the Sports Illustrated Preseason All-SEC team.
Kinnard's selection is but a mild surprise to those who have watched his career at the University of Kentucky closely. From day one, Kinnard has had a major impact on the Wildcats.
The 6'5", 347-pound offensive tackle drew plenty of eyes as a highly touted recruit at Saint Ignatius. Kinnard earned a selection to the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, among the best of the best high school football players in the country.
In his true freshman year, Kinnard played in nine games, a rare feat for a first-year player. He even started a pair of games at left tackle for Kentucky. The Wildcats' offense thrived with him paving the way.
As a sophomore, Kinnard played even better. He started all 13 games at right tackle, and pundits from coast to coast took notice. Pro Football Focus named Kinnard to their second-team squad, grading his run-blocking at 89.1. That grade ranked fifth-best at his position in the country. As PFF writes, "When the Wildcats ran inside zone, Kinnard was making plays left and right and raised his run-blocking grade to an FBS high 93.4. All-in-all, Kinnard finished the year with the fifth-highest WAA among right tackles and was the highest among sophomores/freshman." PFF ranks Kinnard as the #12 returning linemen in the country.
According to his Kentucky bio, in 13 games last year, Kinnard tallied 32 knockdowns. And in 706 snaps, he had only one penalty. Pretty amazing numbers.
Kinnard should be poised for another huge season in 2020. And after this season, he will be eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft, if he chooses.
Either way, Kinnard is a force of nature and will be a delight to watch this season and beyond.