Nobody is going as far as to say Tennessee defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie is small – he’s far from it as the rising sophomore is listed at 344 pounds on the updated spring roster.
But there’s a noticeable difference in his physique, and a year after recording 24 stops and a sack as part of the defensive line rotation, McKenzie, said he feels better, lighter and firmer this spring as he goes through his first ever full offseason at the college level.
“The winter program helps,” McKenzie said after Tuesday evening’s spring practice session. “You just start to get more defined and less baby fat and things like that. Going through a season and through the winter program – it definitely helps.”
And while he might be a bit leaner, he says the expectations are very big for this Tennessee team. He doesn’t have a particular weight or statistical goal for 2016, but said that the eye is on the biggest prize in college football for this team.
“Just help my team in whatever way I can and win the national championship,” he said of his goals for next year. “That’s all of our goals. That’s the cool thing about us on defense, offensive guys too, you know, we’re all just wanting to win a national championship, so we’re going to take whatever it takes to do that.”
McKenzie: Our goal is to win a national championship pic.twitter.com/0wAjKiSQpg
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) March 8, 2016
McKenzie is getting plenty of opportunities this spring to improve. Three defensive tackles – Shy Tuttle (injury), Kendal Vickers (injury) and Alexis Johnson (indefinite suspension) – are all out this spring, leaving McKenzie, senior Danny O’Brien and rising sophomore Quay Picou as the only scholarship defensive tackles on the field as spring practice opens.
The Vols certainly would like to have more depth at that position this spring, but in the meantime, McKenzie will take that opportunity to get extra work and try to take that big step forward towards a second-year surge.
“It’s just an opportunity to work my craft everyday – get out here and get extra reps, getting able to get my conditioning better, steps, reps, all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Just working to be better and perfecting my craft.”