Vandals Sign Oklahoma Standout

With the graduation of senior Blair Lewis, one of Idaho's biggest needs this recruiting season was restocking the runningback depth chart. Idaho brought in 2 talented freshmen, and solidified the class last week with an outstanding JC prospect in Oklahoma-native and former University of Tulsa RB <b>Kevin McKenzie</b>, who comes to Moscow via Independence Community College.<br> <br> Many thanks to ICC Head Coach and Director of Athletics <b>Kent Keith</b> for helping us learn more about Kevin.

Photo by Bob Harris / DJ's Photography
Kevin McKenzie
5-10, 190 Pounds
Chickasha, OK

Junior College: Independence CC
2002 Honors:
  Honorable Mention, All-Conference, RB

High School: Chickasha HS
Career Honors:
  Honorable Mention, All-State, RB
  3rd-Team, All-State, Kick Returner
  Max Emfinger's Oklahoma Super Top 30 (26th)
  District 5A-2 Player of the Year, RB
  Named to Daily Oklahoman "Red Chip" list
  Invited to play in 64th Annual Oil Bowl

Idaho was in need of a runningback to bridge the gap between the seniors on this year's team and the freshmen recruited to Idaho this spring. Coach Cable and his staff found a gem in Oklahoma native Kevin McKenzie, who comes to Idaho via Independence Community College. He brings everything you want in a back, including size, speed and vision. He also brings something you rarely find with a Junior College transfer : Division 1 starting experience.

In 2000 as a senior at Chickasha High School in Chickasha, Oklahoma, Kevin was a force in a state loaded with D-1 college talent. In the end, his hard work earned him an invitation to the 64th Annual Oil Bowl, which pits the best high school talent in Oklahoma against the best high schoolers in Texas. His naming to the All-State team, coupled with district Player of the Year honors and recognition on Max Emfinger's Oklahoma Super Top 30 list, and recognition in the Daily Oklahoman as a "Red Chip" prospect, were a fitting end to a stellar career for this talented athlete. The four-year starter ended his high school career as the second-leading Class 5A rusher his senior season (1,959 yards on 196 carries, 25 TDs), and ended his career with 5,400 rushing yards on 675 carries and 81 TDs (in one game his senior year he rushed for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns). As a linebacker his junior and sophomore years he recorded 108 tackles, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions. In all, the effort helped earn him a scholarship offer from University of Tulsa of the Western Athletic Conference.

He accepted the offer, and in 2001 played for the Golden Hurricane as a true freshman. He played in 10 games, with a season-best 84 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries against Rice University. Unfortunately, he ran into some academic problems in the spring of 2002, and transferred to Independence CC in Kansas. The Tulsa coaching staff told ICC head coach Kent Keith they wanted Kevin back as soon as he met his eligibility requirements.

Photo by Ron McIntosh,
ICC Journalism Instructor

At Independence, Kevin excelled both on the field and in the classroom. In one season with ICC Kevin earned the starting tailback job. He rushed for 768 yards this year, with an average of 5.1 yards per carry (in one game he raced for 194 yards on 17 carries for the Pirates). He also recorded 155 yards receiving, 130 yards in kick-off returns, and 5 touchdowns on the season. The effort earned him honorable mention All Kansas Jayhawk Conference honors. He also bumped his cumulative GPA up to a 3.1, and was eligible to return to Tulsa in January.

Unfortunately, Tulsa went through a coaching change in December, and the "understanding" that Kevin would rejoin his teammates vanished. If that weren't enough, Kevin wasn't informed until less than a month before Signing Day that Tulsa, under a new coaching staff, was no longer interested. Kevin's name was not on ICC's Sophomore List and recruiters were not informed about him because he was planning to return to Tulsa. By the time the news came down from the new Tulsa staff, most schools had already extended all of their offers.

The ICC staff went to work with Kevin, and immediately began calling schools, sending film, e-mails, etc. Signing Day passed without any offers, and it looked like it might be too late. Finally, in late February their hard work paid off, and a few schools who had scholarships to offer began calling.

Kevin began to draw interest from Idaho, Utah State, Wyoming, New Mexico and Louisiana-Lafayette. Kevin, who researched all these schools and was interested in them all, was tired of the whole ordeal and had decided to sign with the first school to bring him in for a visit. Utah State had been working on travel arrangements, but it was the Idaho coaching staff who moved the fastest to bring Kevin in quickly.

"Kevin had a great visit," said ICC head coach Kent Keith, "and is looking forward to being an Idaho Vandal!"

Coach Keith went on to add, "Kevin is a tremendous young man. I know he will do a great job for Idaho."

Zach Gerstner
5-10, 202, Sr
Kevin will be joining two seniors in the Vandal backfield next year, both of whom have starting experience. Malfred Shaw joined the Vandals last year and played in 10 games. He started 4 games (Oregon, SDSU, UW and Montana), rushed for 301 yards (5.0 yards per carry), and an impressive 51 yard scoring burst against the Ducks. Fifth year senior Zach Gerstner started 2 games (BSU and WSU) and played in 12 total. He rushed for 287 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and a TD, and he caught 17 passes for 146 yards and 3 TDs. Also in the mix will be redshirt freshman Mike Lowry from Boise, Idaho (a walk-on last fall), and 2 freshman recruits in this year's class, Akeem Anthony from Washington and Cliff Mason from southern California.

In addition to bringing a solid infusion of talent, Kevin's addition to the team should take pressure off finding another JC transfer runningback next spring. The only thing that would have made Kevin's decision to play at Idaho better would be if he was going to be participating in the Spring Game. But this talented junior, who has 3 years to play 2, should be finding himself with plenty of playing time early.

Welcome to Moscow!


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