Where did he come from?
Very blessed to be part of vol nation. To all the great fans of Tennessee I assure you we will rise to national prominence once again #GBO
— Kahlil McKenzie (@KM1_Era) July 11, 2014
McKenzie committed to Tennessee from De La Salle High School (Concord, CA), where he transferred from Southwest High School (Green Bay, WI) after his father, Reggie McKenzie, was hired as the General Manager of the Oakland Raiders. He will play his senior football season at Clayton Valley Charter School (once his eligibility waiver is granted) following his transfer from De La Salle, allegedly due to a rift with the football coaching staff over McKenzie's decision to attend a prestigious recruiting event, The Opening, rather than De La Salle summer workouts. UPDATE: McKenzie may also have chosen to transfer schools in order to more easily complete class work so that he can qualify as an early enrollee.
How did he end up at Tennessee?
McKenzie is a double Vol legacy with both his father and his uncle starring for the Tennessee football team, and his grandfather was a longtime Knoxville municipal employee. For more on McKenzie, including a video he shot of himself for the Opening, check out our feature piece on him: Who Is Kahlil McKenzie?
Butch Jones most emphatically did not take McKenzie's commitment for granted, staging a daily photo scavenger hunt on twitter featuring the travels of a Tennessee bucket hat, which appeared with Vol legends (Peyton Manning, Jamal Lewis, Eric Berry), friends of the program (Jon Gruden), potential accolades (individual and team trophies won at Tennessee), and famous Tennessee sights (Neyland Stadium and the Rock). For more on Kahlil's love of bucket hats and Butch's recruiting genius, read our piece on the whole thing: Butch Scavenges for Elite DT and follow all the pictures on Kahlil's twitter https://twitter.com/KM1_Era (#bucketgang).
McKenzie is a five star player in the 247 Composite and a consensus five star player by the individual services. He is in the top 30 overall recruits, and with continued improvement could push to be the number one rated defensive tackle (and player) in the nation. McKenzie holds scholarship offers from virtually every big name school in the country, including Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Oregon, and Texas.
How will he fit into the Tennessee defense?
McKenzie is a physical specimen with surprising speed and agility for his size, running a 5.27 second 40 despite weighing in at a whopping 341 pounds. He finished with a Nike SPARQ score of 101.04, which placed him eighth among lineman (OL/DL) at the Opening, despite outweighing his competitors by an average of almost 80 pounds. At 6'3.5, McKenzie carries his weight with the flexibility and grace of a much smaller man. He already looks like a college defensive tackle as a rising senior in high school; with time in the weight room and on a college nutritional plan, it's likely that he could be physically prepared to play in the NFL after his freshman year at Tennessee. SBNation's Recruiting Director Bud Elliott scouted McKenzie earlier this year, and his report can be seen here: Powerful Defensive Tackle McKenzie.
Last year, McKenzie led the De La Salle defensive line with a team-high 12 sacks and 74 tackles, earning him second-team All-American honors. Then, in the spring, McKenzie showed his power and versatility by winning the North Coast Section Meet of Champions shot put title, earning a trip to the state finals in Clovis, where he placed 11th overall. McKenzie is currently competing with other elite defensive and offensive line prospects at the Opening, where he's rarely lost an individual matchup (for video and clips of his dominance, check out our article: Decision Day: Come Home Kahlil.
John Henderson's High School Highlights
Kahlil McKenzie's High School Highlights
Barring injury, McKenzie will merit a starting position at defensive tackle as soon as he steps foot on the Hill. With his rare combination of size, power, and speed, he is a throwback to late 90s Tennessee defensive linemen like John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth, players who could both penetrate and hold the point of attack at the same time. McKenzie is the rare defensive lineman who can change the entire offensive gameplan, as coordinators must plan how to deal with his disruptive ability in the interior line, leaving one-on-one matchups on the outside. Tennessee's highly rated defensive line recruits from the 2014 class like Dewayne Hendrix and Joe Henderson will greatly benefit from the presence of an interior threat like McKenzie, because his ability to collapse the pocket means that quarterbacks lose an escape route. Expect the Vols to decisively move out of the defensive line doldrums with McKenzie's commitment.