Narrowing The Field

A mauling, run blocking offensive lineman that would fit well in the West Virginia scheme has the Mountaineers in his top two.

Jim McKenzie, a 6-4, 290-pound offensive lineman from St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia made a visit to West Virginia on Tuesday, and partly due to that experience has the Mountaineers, along with Syracuse, as his current top choices.

"It was a great visit, and really exciting to see everything they had there," said McKenzie of his first trip to WVU. "We got there around 9:00 a.m., and met with Coach Rodriguez, Coach Kirelawich, pretty much everybody. I walked around with Dan Mozes for most of the day, and that was cool. We got to see pretty much everything.

"I was really impressed with the facilities. They were gorgeous," the big lineman said. "The strength and conditioning center was out of this world. They were doing things I've never seen before, but they are things that everyone else will probably be doing two or three years from now.

"We saw the practice facilities, the dorms, and the new buildings that are going up. I also got to speak with the chair of the biochemistry department, and he gave me a nice breakdown of everything that is going on there. I was impressed with that too, that they would take the time out to talk with me."

McKenzie currently has a strong interest in the chemistry and biochemistry fields, and that interest is certainly reciprocated by the Mountaineer coaching staff. McKenzie has big legs and a strong base that provide plenty of power for his mauling style.

"I was talking with Coach Trickett about that," McKenzie said when asked to describe his play. "I am a smashmouth player. I'm nice off the field, but I turn the switch on the field. I play as aggressively as possible. I want to get after it. Some guys may be more athletic, but I work harder. I like to line up and just mess up the guy in front of me."

McKenzie is also just as direct and honest about the things he needs to improve upon.

"I need to work on my foot work," the Philadelphia native admitted. "I know I have to get stronger and quicker at the next level, but that's the thing I'll need to do the most. My run blocking is very good, but my pass blocking needs some work. I'm o.k. at it – I just need to get better."

McKenzie's visit to West Virginia may be the final one he takes before making his decision. He hopes to make his college choice and commit before his senior season starts, in order to avoid what could be a hectic senior season.

"I am going to try to make my decision before the season," McKenzie confirmed. "That way, I won't have calls from a bunch of different schools, and from new schools with offers. Not that I'm looking down on more offers or anything like that, but I don't want to get bogged down with calls in addition to homework, football and all the other things in my senior year."

Although he has a number of impressive offers, McKenzie, as noted, seems to have two schools in the lead for his services.

"West Virginia and Syracuse are probably my top two now, and I'm probably going to have to start sorting it out and make a decision before the season starts," McKenzie said. "There will be a lot of things to consider, and I'm going to compare everything straight down the board, pluses and minuses on everything. There are going to be a lot of dimensions to my decision – the school, academics, the town, things to do there, the schedule, the coaches – everything."

Those thinking that West Virginia might suffer a bit on the social end of things can rest easily. McKenzie saw many things to like about Morgantown in addition to the always-impressive football complex.

"They have pool tables and bowling on campus, and I liked that," said McKenzie of the Mountainlair, WVU's student union. They also had some nice places to eat and chill out. It's rural, but not bad. It seems like there's always something going on.

"The place I go can't be a ghost town. I want to have stuff to do," McKenzie continued. "I want to go to a typical college town, and Morgantown fits that."

That doesn't mean that WVU is the clear leader, however. The battle between the two Big East foes figures to be a close one that will go right down to the wire – a wire that, in the form of the start of McKenzie's senior season, is fast approaching.


  • St. Joseph's Prep plays a power running game, with the run-pass ratio of "about 80-20", according to McKenzie.

    "We play the power I, then when teams put nine in the box, throw a lot of vertical passes. But we run on you first, and that's the way I like it. West Virginia has a similar style. They are very run-oriented, and I like that."

  • McKenzie will have no trouble qualifying. He sports a 4.0 GPA and a 1400 SAT score.

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