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Getting to know Tennessee's class of 2007: No. 15, S Nevin McKenzie

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Introducing No. 15 in Tennessee’s class of 2007, safety Nevin McKenzie.

Help wanted

Remember how we began DeAngelo Willingham’s profile? By pointing out that Tennessee’s three best cornerbacks from last season -- Jonathan Wade, Antwan Stewart, and Roshaun Fellows -- had been drafted, graduated, and ousted, respectively? Well, now add to that the fact that safety Demetrice Morley was also ousted (for academic reasons) shortly after the Vols’ loss to Penn State in the Outback Bowl, and the entire secondary has been decimated. Well, the Vols signed juco cornerback DeAngelo Willingham to help out at the cornerback position, and they signed juco player Nevin McKenzie to help out at safety. They knew they needed immediate help, and they went out and got it.

Great reputations

Originally from Salem, N.J., McKenzie started as a defensive back for three years and as running back for two years at John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in his junior season and for 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns his senior season at John Jay. Mostly, though, he was busy developing a reputation for absolutely unloading on unsuspecting receivers and crushing ball carriers from the strong safety position.

McKenzie committed to play for Kansas State out of high school, but he "didn’t have the grades," and he ended up enrolling at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. Apparently, no one has any idea what stats the two-year starter accumulated at Trinity. Tennessee’s official site says that he had over 199 tackles as a freshman, but I couldn't find that figure anywhere else, and frankly, it sounds implausible. The site also says that that he had over 90 tackles and five sacks as an all-conference sophomore, which is much easier to believe and is actually confirmed by one other source. But . . . three other sources say that McKenzie had 74 tackles and two sacks his sophomore year. Yet another source reports that he had 182 tackles and eight sacks in his two years at Trinity, so who really knows?

Warning: merely watching may inflict physical pain

The video, however, has no such credibility issues. Alas, you must be a Rivals subscriber to see it, but trust me, I’ve been watching these things pretty intently over the last month or so, and they’ve become pretty unremarkable. We’re getting a lot of fantastic players, and even excellence can become a bit monotonous.

McKenzie’s tape, though, actually elicited several audible outbursts from me as I watched it. Wait until you see him. Dude can hit.

Indeed, his coach at Trinity says that he is a "tenacious . . . extremely aggressive, physical, reckless player," and a "violently aggressive tackler." Shoot, even when the coach tries to describe McKenzie's football intelligence, he comes right back to brutality: "He's an extremely intelligent player that understands the concepts involved, but more than anything, he understands the violence and likes that part of the game."

Have you seen that video of Florida’s Reggie Nelson defending a receiver where the poor guy simply fell over and soiled his silver britches when he realized Nelson was running toward him with malicious intent? You know, this one:

Watching his recruiting video, you get the felling that Nevin McKenzie is that kind of player. Frightening. I mean, the guy wants to major in kinesiology. Yes, such a major will teach him to hurt people with technical precision.

Gators offer? Yes. No.

So it’s little wonder that the Florida Gators came calling as soon as they learned that Nelson would be turning pro. And here, I need to explain something. I cannot tell if the Gators ever actually offered a scholarship to McKenzie. You’d think that if a recruit took an official visit to a school that one could presume an offer had been made. But try as I might, I can’t confirm that Florida ever actually offered him. Rivals' profile page says that they did , and all of their stories indicate that McKenzie had an offer from Florida. But Scout says no, and it’s not just that they’re silent on the matter – their profile of McKenzie affirmatively says that Florida did not offer. In the end, I split the difference and gave McKenzie 50 points for half of a Florida offer. If I could have confirmed an offer had indeed been made, he would have been a seven jar guy and tied for 11th in this year’s class instead of 15th.

Cardinal flies to Falcons

Another drama in the recruiting battle for McKenzie centered around Louisville. McKenzie really wanted to be a Cardinal, and apparently made statements that made it sound like he would commit to them. But head coach Bobby Petrino took off to Atlanta and took McKenzie’s desire to go to Louisville with him. McKenzie also turned down offers from Arkansas and Oklahoma, and, according to Rivals anyway, offers from TCU and Texas-El Paso.

Speaking of Rivals, they have McKenzie as a four-star prospect, the No. 5 juco defensive back, and the No. 12 juco prospect overall. They also labeled him the "impact newcomer" for the Vols. Scout awards McKenzie four stars.

How can I help you?

Florida may have gotten him (assuming they offered him) had it not been for Tennessee’s own emergency at the safety position. As mentioned previously, Demetrice Morley was booted from the team for academic reasons in mid-January, between the bowl game and signing day. The Vols were likely recruiting McKenzie already anyway, but now they had the perfect pitch. Being a junior college player, McKenzie’s top priority was to find an opportunity to play early. Rather than tell McKenzie what he could do for them, Tennessee coaches emphasized what they could do for him. As long as McKenzie met the expectations Tennessee had of him, the strong safety position was his spot to lose. Both Nevin and his mother liked the sound of that, and McKenzie committed on January 27, 2007.

Back in April, there was a report of a recruiting violation that brought McKenzie’s eligibility into question, but it appears to be an easily-remediable technicality that should not prevent McKenzie from donning the orange this fall.

Rocky Top Talk Mnemonic

Help wanted. Only
The most brutal need apply
McKenzie hired

Nevin McKenzie, welcome to Tennessee! Don’t hurt any guys in orange.

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