Senior linebacker and team captain Raphael Kirby is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the team announced Sunday night.
Kirby left the field at the 6:54 mark in the third quarter of Miami’s 30-20 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday. Kirby, who leads the Hurricanes with 44 tackles, was running toward tight end Kevin Cline when his right knee buckled. The leader of the defense did not even wait until the end of the play to call Miami’s trainers onto the field.
“I’m crushed,” Head Coach Al Golden said in a teleconference call Sunday night. “He represents what we want in a Miami Hurricane. He’s a leader, unselfish and a big part of who we are.”
Kirby will undergo major season-ending surgery on Wednesday. The 6-foot-1, 238-pound native of Stone Mountain, Georgia is the third Canes linebacker lost for the season. Sophomore Darrion Owens is out for the year with a knee injury of his own, and sophomore Marques Gayot suffered a season-ending neck injury in practice nearly a month ago.
Golden said sophomore defensive lineman Trent Harris and redshirt freshman Terry McCray are capable of playing Kirby’s “Mike” linebacker role. Sophomore linebacker Juwon Young came in for Kirby against the Hokies and made his first career interception shortly after entering the game.
“Kirby’s always telling me to stay on his level, so I try to beat him out at practice, and it just helped me a lot in the game when it was my time,” Young said after Saturday’s game. “I got to be the captain [with Kirby out]. That’s it. Point blank, period. I’m the ‘Mike’ of the defense.”
Kirby was one of 51 players named to the preseason watch list for the 2015 Butkus Award, which is given to the top linebacker in college football.