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Kahlil McKenzie’s Projected Freshman Impact

It was the day Tennessee fans waited for. Kahlil McKenzie enrolled at the University of Tennessee this past week.

McKenzie, the second-generation Volunteer and son of alum Reggie McKenzie — and nephew of Raleigh McKenzie — is the top prospect for the Vols’ 2015 recruiting class. Not only does he have the pedigree, but also the size and ability to make an immediate leap to the SEC.

The Concord, California native dominated the Nike Opening last summer and was named top defensive lineman. During the event he committed to Tennessee by donning his signature bucket hat with the power T emblem.

McKenzie has been a major presence in the Vols’ recruiting class. He bolstered the team’s ranking upon his committment and has been recruited fellow prospects to Knoxville.

Tennessee fans have salivated at the thought of McKenzie joining a defensive line that already includes Derek Barnett and will also add fellow defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, as well as defensive ends Kyle Phillips and Andrew Butcher, all of whom enrolled in January. Now, the Vols are one step closer to seeing their dream defensive line in action.

McKenzie waited longer than some of his fellow freshmen teammates to enroll but it shouldn’t hurt his chances at starting in Tennessee’s season opener. As the No. 10 overall prospect, he’s one of the most likely freshmen to be ready to play in 2015.

“I hold myself to probably a higher standard than anyone, probably outside of my dad,” McKenzie told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in May. “I like to hold myself very accountable. I like to go out and earn things and prove people right or wrong. I want to prove people right for that five-star rating. You want to prove people wrong who say you’re not.”

“That’s the main focus of mine, and those are my own expectations. I’m going to come in, and it’s going to be a nose-to-the-ground kind of grind. I want to get myself in good shape so I can start putting in some work and trying to contribute to this team and help us win some games next season.”

Barnett’s emergence as a true freshman also opens the door for McKenzie to make an immediate impact. Butch Jones and staff are not opposed to playing the most talented players regardless of lack of experience.

McKenzie will fill that role and the starting defensive tackle vacancy left by Jordan Williams departure. It will be the first year of a dominant career in Knoxville for the second-generation star in the making.

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