Vols Land Big Safety

Tennessee dipped into the JUCO ranks on Sunday and may have received an answer to their prayers in a safety that has linebacker's size and sprinter's speed.

Nevin McKenzie of Trinity Valley Community College chose the Vols over Arkansas, Florida, Louisville, TCU and Oklahoma. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete is originally from Salem, N.J., but played at John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas, and signed with Kansas State in 2004 before transferring to TVCC in Athens, Texas.

"I was supposed to go to Kansas State, but I didn't have the grades,so I went looking for a junior college and I chose Trinity Valley," he told James Hale of Sooner Illustrated. "I just played where they put me. I showed up and they put me at safety. I still think I could be a good running back, and would have been a good running back if they had played me there."

He rushed for over 1,000 yards as a high school in both his junior and senior seasons at John Jay, but his ability to close and unload made him a natural fit at strong safety where run support is as important as coverage skills.

As a sophomore he recorded 74 tackles and two sacks earning honorable mention honors on the 47th Annual JC Grid-Wire All-American Team. McKenzie reportedly runs a 4.45 time in the 40 and has a well earned reputation as a serious striker.

"Nevin, he's a Roy Williams type of player," said Trinity DB coach Mark Sartain. "He's a heavy hitter."

In choosing Tennessee over other finalists Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma, which he also visited, was the opportunity for early playing time. The loss of sophomore starter Demetrice Morley to academic shortcomings enhanced UT's chances.

"My top priority is that I have to come in and play," he said. "I have to go in and start. I want to win and I want to graduate."

The Vols also got another sterling recruiting effort from Trooper Taylor whose personal rapport with McKenzie enabled Tennessee to close ground on the leaders.

Although McKenzie is noted for his physical play he should improve in UT's strength program. He currently bench presses 290 pounds and squats 430. He's also versatile enough to play some corner or cover slot receivers one on one.

"Nevin is in the mold of former Denver Broncos star Steve Atwater," said Sartain. "He's a violently aggressive tackler and a very physical free safety, but he's talented enough to play corner."

Versatile enough to play corner, violent enough to play linebacker and he's supersized. Would you like fries with that combo?

Inside Tennessee Top Stories