Kinnard wrapping up dominant season for Cats

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 9, 2021

Offensive tackle Darian Kinnard turned down a chance to start his NFL career to return to UK for his senior season. Just like he did last year, he’s had a dominant season for the Wildcats going into the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl against Iowa.

He is one of six semifinalists for the Outland Trophy given annually to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman. The 6-5, 338-pound Kinnard is also a semifinalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award given to a lineman who combines on-field performance with the character and discipline of former NFL Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi.

Kinnard, a two-time SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week this season, has already accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl where he will be able to showcase his skills to a bevy of NFL scouts.

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“When he gets his hands on you, it is over. He projects as a day one starting tackle (in the NFL) and there will be some thought about moving him to guard,” Jim Nagy, executive director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, said.

“He will play tackle and probably move inside and play some guard (at the Senior Bowl). I think he will be in that small group of lineman we talk about at the top of this year’s draft.”

Kinnard has consistently graded high in both run and pass blocking — something he’s had a chance to show that he can do well this season because of UK’s more balanced offense under new coordinator Liam Coen.