Countdown to Kick-off: USF LB Tyrone McKenzie

With the 2008 USF football season right around the corner, USFNation got a chance to talk with several annointed leaders of the Bulls. In today's excusive interview, senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie talks about the linebacker unit, his USF record amount of tackles, becoming a team leader and much more. Only on Get it First, Get it Fast!

Tyrone McKenzie Profile


How does it feel going into your senior season as a Bull?

"It feels great. I'm very excited for this year. I'm excited to see the potential that this team has, and what we can accomplish this season."


What was it like going through your first season at USF?

"It was a great experience, and I learned so much during the season and the off-season. It was a fun ride going up to No. 2, having all the publicity and hype of us possibly playing in the National championship game.  We didn't follow through with our expectations and lost a few games we should have won. But things like that happen, and adversity is going to hit you. I think this off-season is about getting ready for next season and when adversity hits, we'll be prepared for it this time."


What do you attribute your USF record setting 122 tackles?   

"I attribute that to the coaching I received from Coach Wally Burnham who doesn't let me lose a step. Also the conditioning, that's probably what people over look a lot of the time. Just going out there and working hard during the off-season and giving it all you got every single day. Being on the same page with the weight trainer is big, and strength Coach Ron McKeefery and I are like two peas in a pod."  


How does your relationship with Coach McKeefery help in your conditioning?

"We know each other and he knows I'm willing to work hard, and he just has to tell me what to do and I'll do it. That's where a lot of the success comes in the fourth quarter that extra push that you get from all the conditioning."


Why is your commitment in the weight room so important for you?

"My commitment to the weight room is important because that's where everything starts. You gain strength, size and speed, and then take that on to the field, but you have to have that extra drive, and I do. I want to get better, stronger, every year, no matter what the situation is."


How do you feel about starting out at MLB heading into the fall?

"I worked out at all three positions since I've been here, but this summer I‘ll be starting at MIKE in base, and when were in nickel I'll be at WILL. I started at MIKE my sophomore year at Iowa State, so I know the position very well. It's a great position especially when you can go sideline to sideline, and that's not a problem for me." 

Is it similar or totally different making the transition into the middle?
"It was a bit different and I had to get used to it again, getting back in the middle and getting down hill. You have protection on the outside, but inside you got to stay more down hill. You got to finish your blocks, got to get your pass coverage down. There's so much to do. The skills you use are similar to being on the outside, but it's a whole different mind set."

What are the hardest and easiest elements of making the switch?
"Nothing is really that hard because I've played it before. The coach just has to teach me, and I have to learn, but anything can be done. It all depends on how hard you want it. Wherever the coach needs me I'm going to play."

With Ben Moffitt the last of the trio now gone, are you finding yourself in a leadership role?

"Yes I do. It's been put on me and I gravitate to it pretty well. It's been a great off-season and the leadership role was there, and someone had to pick it up. I just picked it up and am carrying it on my back as we go on."  


What are your feelings on the linebacker unit in general?

"I feel great about the unit. We have some great athletes, and right now we're not sure where everyone will fit, but that's like our entire team. We got great athletes, and we just got to figure out where everyone going to fit best. At linebacker we got Brouce Mompremier, Chris Robinson, and Sabbath Joseph, Kion Wilson, and Alonzo McQueen. We have so much talent and so many players that can play for any other program. That's what pushes everyone to make everyone individually better, and that will help us as a whole come game day."

How have you progressed as a player since the season ended?
"As a player, I'm more of a leader, and more outspoken. I've leaned so much this past spring. I actually know the exact moves that the D-line is doing in front of me. Before I call a different stunt or something, I know what every guy on the defense is doing, and that helps me do my job well."

Have you changed physically?
"I'm in the best shape ever. I'm at 6'2-235, but my muscle mass has gone up and my body fat has gone down so I'm 235 solid right now. I've worked out hard, and gotten faster. I feel great about my body and my physique right now. I probably belong on a beach somewhere shirtless."

What makes you stand out as a player?
"I have great ability to go sideline to sideline. I can come up, get in the hole and deliver a hit. At the same time, I can use my hips and get back into pass coverage. My versatility helps out a whole lot also. It's something that not every linebacker possesses, and I take pride in it."

Which areas do you want to work on?
"I want to work on everything. You always want to get better. It all depends on how bad you want it, and how hard you're willing to work. My mentality is always to get better, no matter what, and I can improve in every area of my game. You can never be satisfied."  

What are your goals for the upcoming season?
"My goals are to win the Big East. That's my number one goal. If we play well, and I do my job, and the guy next to be does his job, then we'll be fine. If we achieve our goal of winning the conference title, then there will be all kinds of accolades that go with achieving that."

Speaking of accolades, how do they play into your persona?
"It means a lot being acknowledged by coaches and your peers, but I have to perform, and it is on my list of things to go after. But it's not the most important. Some people are still over looking the USF Bulls, and it's my job to go out there play hard and show them how much talent me and the whole team possess." 

Do you think you'll do even better stat wise this year?
"I feel the guys around me are the key and we're going to push each other. We're are all going for the same goal, and not putting an emphasis on individual stats. We're going to push and work hard. I feel that my stats will be higher next year, and if they are, then that means I did a better job, and that will help my team win a championship." 

After last season, do you feel that there is unfinished business?
"Yes there is a lot of unfinished business. We don't want to go just a bowl game. We want to go to the big one. We want to win the conference and go to a BCS bowl. The National Championship may be out there, but it all starts with winning the Big East, and that's our team goal. If we handle business day in and day out then we'll achieve that, and bring a championship home."

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