LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. to stay with Vols

Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. has decided to remain at Tennessee and plans to finish his career with the Vols, head coach Jeremy Pruitt confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday.

Kirkland, who has been plagued by injuries throughout much of his time at Tennessee, announced on Twitter last Thursday that he planned to leave the program as a graduate transfer. But Pruitt told ESPN that he met with Kirkland and his parents over the weekend, and they decided it was best for Kirkland to stay at Tennessee, where he's expected to be a key cog in the Vols' defense if he can stay healthy.

"The injuries have been hard on him, but he wants to be here and we want him here," Pruitt told ESPN. "He can definitely help us."

Gridiron Now reported on Monday night that Kirkland and his family had a meeting with Pruitt and that Kirkland was likely to remain at Tennessee.

Kirkland, a former Freshman All-SEC selection, missed all of last season while recovering from knee surgery after being injured in preseason camp. He was limited this spring for the Vols and didn't participate in the spring game. He still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Kirkland started 16 games at middle linebacker during the 2015 and 2016 seasons and has 111 career tackles.