When a player decides to de-commit, a lot of questions come up. You can hang most of those though as James McKinney didn't change his mind in mid-season or even just before the fateful signing day approached. He did it in May and because of that, he's got time to look all around the country and yes, they all have time to take another very hard look at him.
And, that's exactly what they are doing.
"A lot of the schools that are calling now were calling before, but after I committed, they just said that they respected my decision and that was it." McKinney stated. "Once my decision to look around some more got around though, they are all calling again."
It's little surprise as to McKinney's popularity. The 6'3", 275 lbs. defensive line prospect is coming off a junior campaign that saw him rack up 70 tackles (20 of those for loss) and 9 sacks, while on the offensive side as a tight end, he caught 14 passes, totaling 290 yards and scoring twice.
James' athleticism is obvious and something he attributes to his success as a pass-rusher for his Central high school team. "My first step is my biggest strength." McKinney stated. "I can get off the line quick enough that I am really effective on the edge."
I know what you are thinking. 275 lbs. Defensive end. It doesn't match up. McKinney will be playing tackle in college. Well, believe it or not, if he does, that will be one of the first times as this super-lean (13 percent body fat) athlete stated that he's played just about every position but on the interior of the defensive line. "My whole career, I've played most of the skill positions." he said. "Fullback, defensive end, linebacker or tight end, I don't play DT."
And, yes, the offers he's gotten and the positions those offers are for reflects that desire in staying outside so that he can do what he likes to do best. In fact, the position he plays right now is referred to as the "quarterback killer".
James likes to think he takes that title particularly serious in how he approaches the position. In fact, he wants to make sure the QB knows that as well. "Oh, I let him know I am coming." James said. "And, after I get there, I let them know that I am coming back."
It's no surprise that the QB sack is his favorite moment of any game, but there are certain kinds of sacks that he likes the best. Those that he refers to as "free lunches". That's when the QB (for whatever reason) doesn't see him coming and he is looking at a clean blind-side shot. "You get one of those, you need to make it count." he said. "Make sure that he is looking for where you are every play after that."
Chances are, the QB is looking for McKinney even before the game starts, but James does like to leave an extra impression.
And, it's one that he's made on schools with his recent change of mind, all the schools that were previously recruiting him, coming back and more coming into the fray. McKinney said it's made for a busy phone, but it's something he was hoping for in making sure that the next time he decides, he won't have any second thoughts. "That's all I am trying to do." McKinney said. "I just want to be sure where I am going is everything I want it to be. I want it to feel perfect when I finally decide where I want to go."
McKinney will basically have his choice of schools, almost 30 being the total of offers he has in writing right now. The criteria in choosing that school will come down to a couple key desires for that school at the next level. "I am playing in majoring in computer information systems." McKinney stated. "So, I am looking for a school that has a good program there. But, I also would like to go to a place where it isn't real hot. I'd rather be cold than hot."
James' desire may be for more cold than hot, but his stock is definitely leaning more towards the opposite. Since his de-commitment, the phone is ringing, the mail is coming and the attention is back with a fury. Because of that, McKinney is hoping to re-narrow his choices down to a nice manageable number before his final season as a prep begins. "I want to have a top five before my season starts." he said. "I'd rather have five teams calling me a week than forty-five. I think that would get a little old."
As to those five teams he's looking at, James said he hasn't even really begun the process to figure those out. Michigan is certainly still in the picture as you don't go from committing to a team to just dropping them off your list entirely and you can figure many of the local teams are going to be in there somewhere as his family would like him to stay close.
James himself though, he's not looking at narrowing any team out based on just that criteria, because he wants what isn't just best for his immediate future, but long term as well. "It's too early to think about playing in the NFL." he said. "But, you always look for a place that has coaches with backgrounds from there. And, if I see someplace that gives me that kind of feel that I know I can become a much better player and have a chance down the line, I don't care where the school is at."
Changing your mind this early in the season, most are doing it because they didn't know just how popular they would be and once they found out, it was time to look around again. McKinney's motivation is just making sure that wherever it is, that's the place he's going to feel totally sure about as possibly that will be his home for the next four to five years. The Kentucky standout was already popular. He was already coveted and he was already considered one of the best at his position in the entire country.
Now, it's just all starting over again.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619