Visits to Tennessee, Arizona exceeded Kahlil McKenzie's expectations

Kahlil McKenzie before the Oakland NFTC - Wescott Eberts (SB Nation)

The big defensive tackle has a top group of schools.

HAYWARD, Calif. -- Perhaps the top overall prospect in attendance at the Oakland Nike Football Training Camp on Sunday at Chabot College was four-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie.

That's not necessarily by the rankings, however -- it was more about the type of performance that McKenzie put on. Simply put, it was dominant, and it earned the Corona (Calif.) De La Salle his invite to The Opening, the prestigious camp put on by Nike every summer that features 150 of the top prospects in the nation.

Todd Huber of Student Sports thought it was a performance that was much better than merely worthy of one of those coveted invites, however:

Still not convinced? Most of the reps that McKenzie took, whether in the initial portion of one-on-ones or later in the Final 5 that pitted the top performers against each other, looked a lot like these two:

Prior to abusing the offensive linemen put in front of him, the consensus top-10 defensive tackle nationally spoke with SB Nation Recruitng about the current state of his recruitment.

Less than a month ago, McKenzie named a top five of the Arizona Widlcats, Tennessee Volunteers, Oklahoma Sooners, Wisconsin Badgers, and USC Trojans.

On Sunday, he backed off of that stance a little bit, perhaps in part because several schools have recently entered the competition for his services.

"It's more like a top 12 with five schools that are really standing out," he said. "Now that I've taken the last couple of visits, I have to go back in and really look at some of the schools. So really I have more of a top 12 of schools that I'm looking at right now."

Those recent visits include trips to Arizona, Arizona State, Tennessee, UCLA, and Oregon.

Among those, two really stood out for the 6'4, 330-pounder.

"Tennessee and Arizona stood out," McKenzie said. "Arizona really exceeded my expectations a lot and Tennesee was just everything that i thought it would be and a whole lot more. I really hadn't been to either one of those campuses ever, but both were really, really impressive."

It sounded like the trip to Tucson was really the first time that McKenzie saw himself as a strong fit in the Wildcat program.

"Arizona wasn't really a place that I thought would be a really great place for me, but once I got there I loved everything about it. I love the coaches, I loved the facilities, I loved the city. It wasn't too hot when I was there visiting, which was nice. Everything was really nice about it."

For the Volunteers, the expectations were much higher because of a much greater familiarity with the program. McKenzie's father, Reggie, played linebacker at Tennessee, as did McKenzie's uncle. With plenty of family members still in the Knoxville area, the program wasn't exactly a mystery going into the visit.

"I like Tennessee because I have a ton of family there in Knoxville and around," McKenzie said. "I had never really been on campus and seen anything that they had done with the football stuff, so it was really cool to get in there and see all the new changes that they have made to the football facilities and meet the coaches to see what type of guys they are. I met some of the players and, of course, being in Knoxville I know a whole lot about the place. It was really cool to be there."

Since the departure of longtime head coach Phil Fulmer, and in fact even before his departure, the Volunteers have struggled to reach their previous heights. New head coach Butch Jones is attempting to change that and has had some early success in recruiting, which is hardly surprising when hearing McKenzie how described the former Cincinnati head man.

"I have some really good faith in coach Jones. I think he's a really good coach and a great guy. He's real, he's soft-spoken -- I know he can yell because I've seen it in games -- but he's just a real genuine guy and I feel like I could talk to him forever, so that's really cool."

Another school that made McKenzie's initial top five is also a school to which he has some deep ties.

"Oklahoma is a school that I've loved since I was a little kid. When I went there, that place is awesome. I love Norman, I love that small city feel about it. I love coach Stoops and coach Montgomery, so everything about Oklahoma was great, too."

In fact, Reggie McKenzie may have ended up a Sooner if he had been allowed to make the decision totally on his own.

"It was my dad's favorite school when he was growing up and that's where he wanted to go play college football, but his dad hates planes and he and his brother both went to Tennessee and they loved it anyway. Oklahoma and Tennessee were the first schools that I heard about growing up and Oklahoma as time went on was better, so I started watching them."

The Texas Longhorns are one of the schools that recently extended an offer to the massively strong defensive tackle. He said that he does have some interest in the program.

"Yeah, it's my brother's favorite school, so he was excited about that. He grew up a Longhorns fan and I was a Sooners fan," McKenzie said.

The competing alliances were occasionally a source of tension for the two growing up.

"We clashed about that when we were younger, but I got to meet some of the coaches when they came by and they seemed cool. I know my dad speaks highly of head coach Charlie Strong, so it's definitely a school that I'll look at."

A visit to Austin could be on the horizon if McKenzie can make it fit with his summer plans.

"If I can. I'll have to see with my football schedule because we have workouts, but if I can I will."

The Alabama Crimson Tide are another program that recently offered McKenzie and are another school in which he has interest.

"Yeah, I definitely have interest in Alabama," he said. "Their defensive coaching staff is awesome and they brought in a guy who originally played at my high school, Tosh Lupoi, as a recruiting coordinator, so I've been talking to him a lot and he's awesome. He was the defensive line coach at Washington when coach Sarkisian was there and then moved to Alabama. I've gotten to speak with coach Saban a couple of times now and it's definitely awesome to talk to coach Saban, so it's definitely a school that I'm looking at."

The schools that are recruiting him the hardest are actually schools that haven't shown up as much on his list -- Oregon State and Washington State, the former of which sends him a large quantify of letters. Of course, as a highly-coveted prospects, several fan bases are making their voices heard as well, including Tennessee.

"Tenessee fans are absolutely crazy. They're awesome, but they're crazy about Vols football."

He said that Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Arizona fans are also vocal.

McKenzie also has a developed idea of what he's looking for and the second part of his answer isn't particularly common among recruits who often cite the coaches or the depth chart.

"The first thing I really look for academics, which is the main thing for me," he said. "After that, I look for the types of guys that they are bringing in around me. I want to know what type of guys I'm going to play with and whether I fit with them, because that's kind of important. If I'm playing with good guys, but i don't really mess well with them, it's not going to be as advantageous for either of us."

At this time, McKenzie plans on taking all five of his official visits, but he doesn't yet know which school will receive those visits, though he would like to have a better idea by the end of the summer. Schools in the mix for visits until then are Alabama, Notre Dame, and Texas Tech, with Texas another possibility.

And for a current timetable, that isn't entirely clear either, just like his summer visit schedule. McKenzie did say that unless "something pops" he'll wait until Signing Day, but could decide before his senior visit.

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