Over the next 49 days, Gator Country will preview the players that make up the 2013 Florida Gators football team as we inch closer and closer to the season.
Each day we will count down using the player whose jersey number corresponds with how many days there are left until Florida kicks off against Toledo in the Swamp on August 31.
Today we take a look at senior linebacker Darrin Kitchens.
Kitchens was a member of the 2010 recruiting class, choosing Florida over schools like Florida State, Syracuse, Maryland, Wake Forrest, UCF and FIU.
Kitchens played defensive end in high school, tallying 75 tackles while leading Dade County with 19 sacks.
As a freshman, Kitchens saw game action in nine games – all on special teams – and recorded two tackles. He saw an increased role during his sophomore season, playing in all 13 games including his first career start. Kitchens recorded career-high 12 tackles in that start against Furman.
Kitchens gave Florida fans – and all college football fans outside of Tallahassee – a scare when he went down after a helmet-to-helmet hit on the kick coverage team in the regular season finale. Kitchens was down on the field for about 10 minutes before being carted off on a stretcher. He gave a thumbs up while being wheeled of the field and was later diagnosed with a concussion.
He entered his junior season healthy but was on the wrong end of a time-share at SAM linebacker. Kitchens played in every game – starting the last two games of the season – but only tallied 14 tackles all season.
Kitchens is a very athletic linebacker with more than adequate speed. His experience playing defensive end in high school is evident in his play. Kitchens excels when he can blitz, using his quickness and athleticism to get off the edge and harass the quarterback.
The biggest deficiency in Kitchens game is how he struggles in coverage. Kitchens was moved to WILL LB this past spring, mainly because of depth issues with injuries. I don’t see Kitchens being able to make a major impact at WILL based on his coverage ability.
What to Expect
Kitchens will likely fill the same role he did in 2012. He will find a spot in the rotation at linebacker but his main contributions will be on special teams this season.
What could hurt Kitchens playing time is the return of Ronald Powell. In the last depth chart that was released, Powell was listed as the starting SAM linebacker. If Powell works mainly at SAM, it will be hard for Kitchens to find meaningful time with Powell, Daniel McMillian, Neiron Ball, Alex Anzalone, Michael Taylor and Jeremi Powell all vying for playing time as well.
However, Kitchens is a versatile player that Will Muschamp and D.J. Durkin can plug into all three-linebacker positions and rely on.