Kahlil McKenzie is taking his talents and bucket hats to Knoxville, Tenn.
The five-star defensive tackle from Concord, Calif., committed to Tennessee over Arizona tonight during ESPNU’s broadcast of The Opening in Beaverton, Ore.
McKenzie narrowed his college choices to the Wildcats and Volunteers last month and tonight made it official that he’s headed to Knoxville. There, he’ll follow in his father’s footsteps. McKenzie’s dad Reggie, the current general manager of the Oakland Raiders, was born in Knoxville and starred at Tennessee.
McKenzie announced his decision during an interview with ESPN’s Tom Luginbill.
“For the next few years, I’ll be attending the University of Tennessee,” McKenzie said. “It’s just a second home. Everything about it I loved, from top to bottom. Everything about it was a perfect fit for me.”
McKenzie would have been the star of the UA’s recruiting class had he committed to the Wildcats. The UA currently has 18 commitments for the 2015 class, and only one of them — offensive tackle Keenan Walker — is rated higher than a three-star prospect.
The Wildcats went all in on McKenzie in recent weeks, breaking out every trick in the book to try to land the defensive lineman. Coach Rich Rodriguez and recruiting coordinator Matt Dudek both have worn bucket hats — McKenzie’s favorite —during video interviews in recent weeks. But Arizona has been viewed as the underdog in McKenzie’s recruitment in recent weeks and tonight that was validated.
Rodriguez and his staff will likely continue to recruit McKenzie with six-plus months left until national signing day. The Wildcats learned last year that a verbal commitment from a five-star recruit isn’t always solid. Cornerback Jalen Tabor committed to the UA on national TV in January, only to reverse his decision seven days later.