As per tradition, I’m spending the offseason working my way through the upcoming recruiting class. I’ll be taking a look at the tape of our current Class of 2024 commitments, getting a feel for their skills and talent, and assessing where they might fit on our roster. You can my find other 2024 UW recruiting profiles here.
The Husky coaches received a welcome boost when 4-star defensive lineman Dominic Kirks, hailing from Villa Angela-St Joseph HS in Ohio, committed to the University of Washington. Kirks’ decision to choose UW over offers from esteemed programs such as Wisconsin, Pitt, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota further solidifies the Huskies’ reputation for attracting top defensive talent.
Standing at an impressive 6’5” and weighing around 250 pounds, Kirks possesses the versatility to excel both on the edge and potentially on the interior. His commitment comes as exciting news for the Huskies, as his disruptive play, based on length and explosiveness, bodes well for his transition to the collegiate game.
Looking ahead, the Huskies anticipate the departure of Bralen Trice and ZTF to the NFL draft following the current season, and the addition of Kirks is the most promising sign that the coaching staff has a strong succession plan for the future. With Maurice Heims, Lance Holtzclaw, Zach Durfee, and Jacob Lane already in the program, Kirks has an opportunity to compete for playing time immediately, but let’s take a look at where he fits into the defense.
As I mentioned above, the first thing that stood out when I started my research was Kirks’ size. It’s not every day that you see a 6’5” 250 lb rising senior with his athleticism on the West Coast. He has the prototypical size that you’re looking for in a conventional Even front DE (4-3), but there’s always some hesitancy when labeling a recruit as a “prototype” or “plug and play” in college, and the guys that deserve those labels are usually 1st overall pick types. It’d be doing Kirks a disservice to tag him with that type of hype, but there is a lot to get excited about.
Kirks has a lot of pop for his size, but he’s not the type of twitchy speed rusher that fellow 2024 commit Noah Carter is. While he possesses a good first step, he occasionally struggles with consistency in his get offs. Other than that, Kirks demonstrates proficiency in executing the swim move and rip move, showcasing his potential as a disruptor. However, he may need to improve his flexibility and bend around the edge to consistently execute the swim move against higher-level competition.
One key area for development would be for him to improve his utilization of length when rushing from the edge. He tends to allow blockers into his chest too often, limiting his effectiveness. Incorporating a long arm technique could help him maintain separation and utilize his length to his advantage, enhancing his pass-rushing repertoire. It also appears that he lacks a defined pass rush plan before the snap, resulting in occasional false steps and defaulting to a questionably set up speed rush. With some time with Schmidt, Kirks can refine this aspect of his game, allowing him to become a more polished and effective pass rusher.
Looking to his projected role, I think Kirks instead projects more to a strong/field side EDGE role with more run stuffing and edge setting responsibilities while still bringing the heat on a down-to-down basis. Kirks exhibits good upper body strength, enabling him to stack and shed blocks effectively. He demonstrates sound technique when setting the edge and taking on lead blockers. Depending on the staff’s development plan, Kirks has the frame to fill out into the 270-290 lb range, but if he can stay on the lighter end of that range while adding lower body and overall strength and explosiveness, he could be a high-end multi-role EDGE.
As I’ve mentioned in numerous EDGE and DL breakdowns in the past, I always look to see if they have the ability to impact passing game outside without getting pressure on the QB. Kirks demonstrates proficiency in this area, effectively utilizing his hands to swat passes and disrupt the quarterback’s vision. Again, he’s less of an off-ball coverage threat and leans more DL than OLB in his projection at EDGE, so swatting passes and closing passing lanes will be important in the narrower focus of his projected role.
Drawing a comparison to University of Washington’s 2023 DL recruit, Anthony James, reveals similar attributes between the two prospects. Both possess imposing frames with room for further physical development on top of a high athletic floor. While they may receive looks as strongside or field EDGE players in base packages, their future roles will likely also include 3-tech defensive tackle roles in sub-packages. Their combination of size, burst, and strength presents a well-rounded skill set without any notable weaknesses, aside from technical refinement that will naturally come with experience and coaching.
Kirks’ commitment adds an exciting prospect to the defensive line. He should immediately add quality depth to our rotation while also elevating the ceiling of the EDGE group with his ability to rush the passer, impact passing lanes, stack and shed blocks, and set the edge. While he may need to refine certain aspects of his game, like his first-step consistency and use of length, his combination of size, burst, and strength positions him well for success at the next level.