Tennessee’s 2016 season will be remembered for many things, but one of the biggest standouts from that season will be the rash of injuries that decimated the roster. The Vols had several players miss significant time or suffer season-ending injuries during the 2016 season. One such player was defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie.
McKenzie was roughly halfway through his sophomore campaign last year when he suffered a season-ending torn pectoral injury against Alabama in the sixth game of Tennessee’s season. But according to the film from the six games he played in last year, McKenzie was having a solid season before it ended prematurely.
According to Pro Football Focus, McKenzie was having one of the best seasons of any interior defensive lineman in the country before his injury.
Pro Football Focus is currently doing a series where they take a look at potential prospects for the 2018 NFL draft. They believe McKenzie to be one such prospect, and they were impressed by what he flashed in his six games last year.
In the 152 defensive snaps McKenzie took last season, McKenzie earned a 78.6 grade from Pro Football Focus’s grading system. That score was the second-highest among returning Power Five interior defenders with less than 200 defensive snaps.
Not only was his overall score impressive, but the details of his work stood out to Pro Football Focus as well.
McKenzie was ranked No. 2 against the run among the same group of interior defenders, posting an 80. 4 run defense grade in his 152 defensive snaps. He also had some impressive pass rush numbers among linemen with under 200 defensive snaps, finishing No. 1 in pass-rush productivity from a two-point stance (score of 26.8) and had the best ratio when it came to picking up a bull rush pressure, doing so once every 18.7 rushes.
All in all, McKenzie had a limited sample size to draw from during the 2016 season. But those six games included match-ups with ranked SEC squads such as Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama along with a game against Virginia Tech as well. So it’s not as though McKenzie was earning those grades against inferior opponents.
Now that he’s healthy heading into the 2017 season, McKenzie has a lot to prove and will be counted on to play a major role for Tennessee’s defense this season. But if the potential he flashed in 2016 is any indication, he may be in store for a strong 2017 season.