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A Salute to the 2016 Seniors: Korren Kirven

Alabama’s dependable back-up is finally getting his opportunity to shine

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Michigan State vs Alabama Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Korren Kirven is the Process incarnate.

At Brookville High School in Lynchburg, Virginia, Kirven was a star defensive lineman. During his senior season alone, he racked up 15 sacks as the Bees went 14-0 on their way to a state title. Kirven earned every one of his 4 stars, and he was the 16th defensive tackle in the 247 composite for the Class of 2012 and the 5th best recruit in Old Dominion. Fitting with his blue chip status, he was one of 80 selected for the Under Armour All America game.

Kirven had his pick of the litter with over 20 scholarship offers. The lineman ultimately chose to roll with the Tide, committing to Bama on National Signing Day over Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech. He joined an impressive class with future stars like Landon Collins, T.J. Yeldon, Reggie Ragland, and more.

His first season in Tuscaloosa was largely uneventful as he redshirted. He saw the field in five games in 2013, with his first action against the Georgia State Panthers. Kirven came out in the second half of that beatdown, and notched two tackles while playing nose tackle and defensive end.

On this play, he’s the nose tackle heads up over the center. Kirven gets low and keeps the center at distance, driving towards the playside. He yanks the center down and gets off the block, freeing him to make the stop for just a two yard gain.

He’d finish the year with four total tackles, adding one each against Arkansas and Tennessee.

Kirven remained buried way down in Alabama’s defensive line rotation as a redshirt sophomore, only appearing in three games in 2014. Despite coming in as the highest ranked defensive lineman in his class, other players were seeing a lot more snaps than him. Kirven wouldn’t give up and transfer, though. He stuck it out.

With thinning depth on the offensive line, particularly at offensive tackle, Kirven dutifully did his part and converted to offense because that’s where his team needed him. He wasn’t expected to win a starting job, and he didn’t. But he still worked his tail off, recovering from an injury during fall camp; and his patience paid off. Dominick Jackson was battling a nagging ankle injury for much of November, so Saban decided to rest him against Charleston Southern. Korren Kirven was the next man up.

On this play, Alabama’s in the pistol; and Kirven (#78) has two tight ends to his right. He ignores the defensive end and immediately moves up to the second level. He smashes into the linebacker, walls him off, and drives him to the sideline. He creates a lane, which Derrick Henry easily dashes through for a gain of almost 20 yards.

He returned for his fifth year, probably expecting to serve primarily as a back-up again. Cam Robinson was limited during the spring, so Kirven stepped up once more. He served as the starting left tackle for A-Day, regularly opposite Tim Williams. It certainly wasn’t pretty for Kirven, but he did what was asked of him as Robinson recovered.

Alabama’s offensive line rotated through several different combinations during the fall and then the regular season. Lester Cotton and Ross Pierschbacher opened the year at left and right guard respectively but flipped after just two games. This lasted for the next six games until Saban tweaked it again. Unsatisfied with Cotton’s development at right guard, Saban called on his dependable lineman once more.

Kirven earned his second career start against Mississippi State. He did split time with Josh Casher against the Bulldogs, but Kirven would also start the following week against Chattanooga. When Cam Robinson went down against the Mocs, Kirven left his new position and slid back outside to left tackle because his team needed. He also had to leave the game because of an injury; but he resumed his spot at right guard and didn’t miss a beat, starting against Auburn and then Florida.

I became a big fan of Kirven’s after I saw his quiet conversion to offensive line before the 2015 season. He was a former 4 star recruit who had spent three seasons on campus already. He could’ve pushed to graduate early - he ended up graduating last December - and transfer somewhere less crowded seeking playing time. But he didn’t.

Kirven committed to Alabama in the first place because he wanted to play with the best. So he stayed with the best, and he made the switch to offense because that’s where he had a shot at contributing and that’s where he was needed. He focused on what was in front of him, learning his new craft.

That attitude and focus put him in position to take advantage when opportunity came. He was ready for Charleston Southern in 2015. Afterwards, he went right back to being a reserve; but he kept at it. When Alabama needed him again, he was there again.

I don’t know how anybody could look at Kirven’s path and not just be flat out impressed by him.

No one predicted the elite high school defensive tackle would end up making his mark on the offensive side of the ball, but that’s what Korren Kirven has done. He took it one step at a time, demonstrated his versatility and utility, and has gotten to play a crucial role in an SEC championship run and possibly a national championship run. His hard work was recognized by the coaching staff, and he was one of four players to win the Iron Man Award, which is described as:

To the player(s) who have shown the most dedication to the individual and team goals of the Crimson Tide's year-round strength and conditioning program

Kirven has at least one more game, hopefully two.

Congratulations, Korren, and Roll Tide.