Maybe it’s a foregone conclusion that Friday’s Belk Bowl will be the final time Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk will pull on a maroon jersey and compete with his Aggies teammates.
Kirk, a junior and team captain, insists he’s made no such decision on his future, whether he stays for a final season with new coach Jimbo Fisher or starts immediately prepping for the NFL draft. Kevin Sumlin, Kirk’s now former coach, predicted last summer that his talented receiver, and the best offensive recruit he signed while at A&M, would be playing his final season this fall. The reasoning? The lure of first-round money surely would entice Kirk away from College Station.
But there’s no consensus, as yet, on whether Kirk is a first-round lock.
Noted NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper recently projected Kirk as a second-day selection, meaning he’d be picked between spots 33 and 96.
Need some confusion? NFLDraftScout.com says Kirk is an obvious first-rounder, listing him as the 15th best prospect available. The site figures the NFL is all in after teams selected three receivers among the top 10 picks of the 2017 draft, so the “thirst for play-makers has never been more obvious.”
Kirk has asked the NFL underclassmen committee for an opinion. But that decision won’t be ready until after the bowl game against Wake Forest.
“I think you have to weigh in all the factors,” Kirk said before the Aggies left for Charlotte, N.C. “I think you’ve got to talk with your coaches and family and make the decision that’s in the best interest for you.”
Fisher, who was hired Dec. 4, has met with Kirk a couple of times. It’s not clear whether he’s making the hard sell to keep him an Aggie, or even if he did so whether such a request would work. Maybe it’s not necessary. Kirk said he’s gleaned from his conversations that Fisher knows how to win games.
What Kirk needs, and probably deserves, is a good, productive game. He hasn’t enjoyed very many of those this season. He was stunning against Arkansas in late September, returning a kickoff for a touchdown and catching the winning score in overtime. He notched two 100-yard games. One came against the Razorbacks, the worst team in the SEC West, and the other was against New Mexico.
The Aggies’ passing game averages only 230 yards a contest, a low mark for a Sumlin team, with A&M relying on raw quarterback Nick Starkel (a redshirt freshman) and even rawer Kellen Mond (a true freshman). With the quarterbacks struggling, any good defense would negate Kirk with bracket coverage.
As a freshman, Kirk caught 80 passes for 1,009 yards. Through 12 games his junior season, he’s caught only 58 passes for 730. He was the best all-purpose player in the SEC a year ago. But Kirk returned only eight punts this season, which isn’t enough to qualify for the national rankings. His kickoff return average of 22.86 was only seventh best in the SEC.
“The numbers aren’t there,” Kirk said, adding that the offense was different this season because the Aggies were forced to play freshman quarterbacks. “I don’t go out there and play for my draft stock. I go out there to try and play to win games.”
Texas A & M vs. Wake Forest, noon Friday, ESPN, 1370