Preceding the crash, McKenzie was one of, if not the standout performer during fall camp. Miami Head Coach Randy Shannon praised the talented incoming freshman and was cited as saying that McKenzie hadn't dropped a ball throughout the entire camp. However, despite the injury, McKenzie believes that everything has worked out for the best and the accident has been a blessing in disguise.
"Red-shirting isn't a bad thing," McKenzie said confidently. "During the summer when we were doing workouts, I was expected to play, I look at the accident as a set back at first, but it really helped and it matured me a lot and physically I think that it helped me."
He also believes that his knowledge of the game has developed exponentially.
"I've been reading the coverages from high school and in college, and defenses get tougher here, so mentally, that is what I worked on. I think that is my biggest attribute going in to next season. With being red-shirted, I now understand the tempo, the speed, and everything else that goes into being a wide receiver."
McKenzie began working out full-time and in pads about a month and a half prior to the end of the season. Before that, Shannon wouldn't allow McKenzie to play or even put on a helmet due to the injuries he suffered to his neck. While many would think that an injury like the one McKenzie suffered would be considered a set back in their collegiate career, the 6-foot-2, 170 pound wide out disagrees.
"I don't think it hindered me at all," McKenzie said. "If anything, it helped me mentally and physically. The game, I needed to get stronger, putting on a helmet, I now feel good. I just come out here and work hard and it hasn't really hindered me at all."
McKenzie considers his freshman year as one that he was able to improve upon himself in areas that he would have struggled in during his first year because of his lack of real experience at the wide out position in high school.
"In high school, the workouts and the environment were just different," McKenzie said. "The workouts were a lot tougher then in high school. In high school I didn't do much or lift that much weight or even worry about my (playing) weight, so in college it was a big jump for me."
His high school career was not the most prototypical for that of a four-star wide receiver. During his junior year, McKenzie only caught 33 balls. In his senior season, because he moved to a Wing-T offense, he rarely caught the football. He only recorded 17 catches.
So, what has made McKenzie the player that was wowing coaches with his hands, speed, and route running? Finding experienced mentors in his life. The first just happens to be one of the most productive and acclaimed collegiate wide receivers of all time.
"Peter Warrick, that is one of my biggest critiques," McKenzie said. "It was privately, over two months during my senior season. Every Saturday and Sunday I went to a YMCA in Sarasota and worked with P-Dub one-on-one. Just two hours a day, two good hours. It was the biggest thing for me."
McKenzie would work on his agility – something that Warrick was widely known for during his days at Florida State – and route running.
"I just worked on the things that i knew Miami wanted me to be a wide out," McKenzie said. "During my senior year, after practice, I'd just go out and run routes, and that is how my routes became so precise."
Now, as a Hurricane, McKenzie has developed a relationship with another battle tested wide receiver, Darnell Jenkins.
"I try to pattern my game behind somebody like Darnell Jenkins," McKenzie said. "He has been here and has the big game experience. I am just doing the things that I see, because I want to see what he sees. (Darnell and I) talk a lot. It has been a big thing for me."
Outside of his outside influences, McKenzie credits his fall camp success on developing a proper mindset.
"Throughout the whole summer, my mindset was to come in, work hard and catch every ball," McKenzie said. "I wasn't worries about the speed of the other players or myself, the only thing I was worried about was catching the ball and getting up field. That is why I never drop a pass. I was just so focused. I had this intense mindset coming in."
In catching up for lost time, McKenzie has taken his practice schedule in his own hands. After practice, McKenzie joins his room mate Robert Marve and suitemates Tyler Horn and Daniel Adderley in extra practice repetitions at Greentree field, up to an hour after practice. Joining him are upperclassmen Jenkins, Khalil Jones, and former Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas. Together, McKenzie and Marve have begun developing chemistry that they believe is vital to their success as a future tandem for the Hurricanes.
"We don't have many hand signals," McKenzie said. "But when (Marve) checks a route, he always knows that wherever he throws the ball I'm going to get it. Coming from Alabama together and working together, that is basically out connection and we have been down every since."
The bond between McKenzie and Marve has transcended the football field. The two players have a poster on the wall that states ‘Work Hard' on it. Each and every time they exit or enter the room, they will tap it as a reminder of how to live their lives.
"Robert wrote the sign," McKenzie said. "Every night we go over the material (our coaches) have told us and really focus. We told each other that every day we have to touch the sign and get it done."
This season, McKenzie has worked on scout team.
"Coach Shannon and Coach Nix have been using me as a decoy for what they've been seeing on Saturdays," McKenzie said. "I'm just taking it all in and working hard."