KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The time is now for Tennessee defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie.
McKenzie has yet to live up to his 5-star rating as a prospect out of high school in his 20 games in a Tennessee uniform.
The Concord, Calif. native said the whole team believed it was time to live up to the hype.
“As a team, we feel like the time is now or never,” McKenzie said. “We’re just out here ready to shock the world and do what we all came here to do.”
McKenzie started his first game of his career against Alabama last season but suffered an injury to his pectoral muscle in the same contest. He missed the remainder of the season. The junior recorded 12 total tackles in seven games.
McKenzie said his status as an upperclassman has helped him grow as leader of the defensive line unit.
“We’re a team so you don’t try to think too much about yourself,” McKenzie said. “More about what you can do and how to help the guys around you. How to help my team, help my defense and my d-line.”
The growth of McKenzie has pleased coach Butch Jones, as well.
“I like everything I see from him, and not just on the field but in a leadership role as well,” Jones said. “For a defensive lineman, right now it’s just all about your technique and the use of your hands and the fine details. We’ll know more obviously when the pads go on.”
McKenzie has slimmed down five pounds over the summer and entered camp at 320. The loss of weight could contribute to a more productive season.
“It’s a lot easier to move and things like that,” McKenzie said. “You can be more of a quick twitch and things like that. It’s all attention to the little details. You can do that more and be more detail oriented when you’re in better shape. Pre-snap recognition and all that type of stuff comes a whole lot easier.”