Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. reportedly staying with Vols after all

Western Carolina's Detrez Newsome tries to evade Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. during a 2015 game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE - A weekend meeting of Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt with linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Kirkland's parents produced a change of heart for the player.

Kirkland, who announced last Thursday that he intended to leave the Volunteers as a graduate transfer, is going to stay at Tennessee, Pruitt told reporters in Destin, Florida, during the first day of the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings Tuesday.

ESPN was first to report Kirkland's decision Tuesday after Gridiron Now reported Monday that Kirkland was likely to stay at Tennessee.

"He can definitely help us," Pruitt told ESPN.

Kirkland's decision to return, if it stands, is a relief for Tennessee on several fronts. Though he has battled injuries throughout his career, he is a proven playmaker and potential leader on a roster that has few of either.

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