published Friday, July 11th, 2014

Touted Kahlil McKenzie commits to Tennessee Vols

KNOXVILLE -- A handful of legacy players formed the foundation of Tennessee's 2014 football signing class.

The Volunteers went back to that well to land a big piece of the 2015 puzzle.

Kahlil McKenzie, a highly rated defensive tackle out of California and the son of former Tennessee linebacker and current Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, committed to the Vols over Arizona, his other finalist, on Thursday at "The Opening" on Nike's campus in Oregon.

"It's just a second home," McKenzie said after putting on an orange Tennessee bucket hat during ESPNU's coverage of The Opening. "Everything about it I loved, from top to bottom. Everything about it was the perfect fit for me."

The 6-foot-4, 340-pound McKenzie, who recently transferred from California football powerhouse De La Salle High School to Clayton Valley Charter High in Concord, is rated as a five-star prospect and the nation's 10th-ranked player by 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com rates him as a four-star player and the No. 31 overall prospect.

McKenzie, who visited the Vols in April, backed up those ratings with a strong performance at The Opening, earning defensive line MVP honors at the showcase camp for some of the top high school talent in the country.

Before narrowing his choices to Tennessee and Arizona, McKenzie trimmed his list in May to 12 programs, including Alabama, Oklahoma, Southern California, Oregon, Ohio State, Florida, UCLA, Miami, Wisconsin and Texas Tech in May. He named Tennessee his leader at that time.

"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," McKenzie posted on his Twitter account shortly after his announcement aired.

Two other Tennessee commitments, receiver Preston Williams and linebacker Cecil Cherry, also received invitations and performed at The Opening, and McKenzie gives the Vols' 2015 class, now at 20 commitments, another top-tier prospect.

The other defensive line commitments in Tennessee's class are Alpharetta (Ga.) end Andrew Butcher, Buford (Ga.) tackle Quay Picou and Maryville end Dylan Jackson.

Tennessee landed recruits with family ties to the Vols in the 2014 class -- including linebacker Dillon Bates, who committed at The Opening last year -- and McKenzie certainly falls into that category.

Reggie McKenzie was a four-year letterman for Tennessee and totaled 108 tackles in 43 games, including an 89-stop senior season in 1984. The Los Angeles Raiders picked him in the 10th round of the 1985 draft, and he went on to start 40 games in four seasons for the franchise.

After spending a year as a graduate assistant with the Vols in 1993, McKenzie worked in the Green Bay Packers organization for more than a decade as a scout and eventually the director of player personnel and won two Super Bowl rings in 1996 and 2011. The Raiders named him their GM in 2012 when he was Green Bay's director of football operations.

Reggie's twin brother, Raleigh, was at Tennessee at the same time (1981-84) and played in 36 career games as an offensive lineman. The Washington Redskins took him in the 11th round of the 1985 draft. He spent 10 seasons with the franchise, winning two Super Bowl rings.

He finished his 16-year NFL career with the Packers in 2000 after stints with the Eagles and Chargers.

Raleigh was hired into the Raiders organization in 2012 after coaching high school football in Virginia.

The two brothers, who played at Austin-East High School in Knoxville, were honored as legends of the game before Tennessee's win against Cincinnati -- coached by current Vols coach Butch Jones at the time -- in 2011.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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