Jalen McKenzie might or might not wind up following in the footsteps of his father, uncle and brother to Tennessee.
The 6-foot-5 ½, 307-pound offensive lineman from Clayton Valley (Calif.) High School is a Scout four-star prospect in the 2017 class. Coaches in Knoxville told him they want to see how he progresses during his senior season after a knee injury slowed his junior campaign and transfer rules robbed him of much of his sophomore year.
In the meantime, Tennessee has spent countless hours on top-flight prospects closer to home that have game film showing that they’re worthy of the Vols’ pursuit.
Lining up at defensive tackle the last two seasons on Rocky Top is Kahlil McKenzie, who is Jalen’s older brother. The former Scout No. 1 player in the nation for 2015 has a desire to see his bro leave California for the Tennessee but understands it might not work out.
“I mean, you know of course I want to play with my brother,” Kahlil McKenzie told InsideTennessee. “I don’t want to put any pressure on him because that’s my little brother, that’s my little baby brother. But, at the same time, I want him to be the best football player he can be. If he thinks he needs to go somewhere else to be that player, shoot. Hey, I’ll buy a T-shirt, I’ll put on a hat, maybe wear it once a week for him.
“But, you know, that’s how it is. That’s family. If he thinks he needs to go somewhere else to be the best player he can be, shoot, I’m behind him 100 percent. Of course he’s my little brother and he’s family.”
Not all talented Vols legacies wind up as Vols. J.J. McCleskey's son Jalen is at Oklahoma State and has 67 catches in his first 20 games. Alvin Harper Jr. patiently awaits the 2017 season for a chance to take the field with the UAB Blazers.
Programs such as Arizona State, Miami (Fla.), Oregon State and UCLA have all offered Jalen McKenzie a scholarship. He ranks by Scout as the No. 35 offensive tackle in the nation and No. 2 in the Golden State. He’s climbing his way back to full strength.
“I’m just excited to see him get after it and show people what he can do,” Kahlil McKenzie said.
If the younger brother doesn’t follow in Raleigh, Reggie and Kahlil’s footsteps, choosing to blaze his own path, then so be it, but there’s a D-tackle on The Hill that wouldn’t mind see the Clayton Valley standout trade in his red and black for orange and white.
“We’ve never actually gotten to play together like on the same field,” Kahlil McKenzie said. “We’ve been at practice, all this type of stuff, but it’s never happened to where gametime rolls around and we’re both strapping on the pads and ready to go. That’s something that I definitely want to be able to experience with him, but that’s his decision. Whatever he decides, I’m just with him 100 percent.”