A key piece of the Big Blue Wall is coming back to Lexington for the 2021 season.

Right tackle Darian Kinnard told reporters on Monday morning that he would come back to Kentucky for another season. Kinnard, who was a third-team Associated Press All-American, spoke with former UK pass rusher Josh Allen, who also came back for a senior season, before he made his decision. Kinnard said he received a second-third round grade from the league’s evaluations and he wants to come back and be a “lottery pick.”

“I know personally I have all the confidence in the world in my abilities and how I can play,” he said. “But sitting down and talking to Josh on the phone, it just made me really sit back and think, this whole last month was very stressful. Just trying to make this decision. But after talking to Josh, I understand where he came from and what he went through, this is probably the best decision for me and my family. I want to be able to go to the NFL like everybody else. I’m so close, but I know there’s some things I need to work on to make sure I can stay in the NFL for a long time. I’m just going to come back and work on myself and better my team.”

Kinnard said the recent season played during a pandemic, and the related NCAA eligibility waivers didn’t play a role in his decision.

“At the end of the day it’s football,” Kinnard said. “You go out there every Saturday night prepping for an opponent and you play to the best of your ability. That’s all you can do, it doesn’t matter if it’s a season where you’re playing all in-conference or playing a regular season. That’s the kind of outlook you need to have going into every year and every week, just prep for that opponent, play to the best of your ability and then move on to the next one.”