SEC’s Breakout Star?
This JUCO transfer could be transcendant
Every year around this time in college football’s offseason, fans across the country ask the same questions.
Who are the Heisman favorites and dark houses or what team could come out of nowhere this season and compete for a national title. One of the favorite questions for college football fans, is what player will go from unknown to a household name this year.
There are more than a handful of players in the SEC this year that could be on the cusp of becoming a household name.
One name out there that has everyone talking is Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. He definitely has the tools to become the freshman of the year in the SEC, but that doesn’t mean he will become a household name.
Bo Scarbrough is another name that a lot of people are talking about. ESPN’s college football writer Travis Henry placed Scarbrough seventh on his list of 15 breakout performers in 2016. The question with Scarbrough is, could this hype just be a factor of the Alabama running back factory?
You also have the typical types of names that always appear on lists like this because they are replacing a star. These names tend to show up every year but, not everyone replacing a star becomes a star. You also have a handful of junior college transfers that will be new to the conference this year and could make an impact.
Look no farther than Tennessee’s Jonathan Kongbo, the nation’s top JUCO prospect in the class of 2016. Whenever you have a player of that caliber enter a league he could become a household name quickly.
While there are plenty of names that can be considered for a breakout year in 2016 and it is possible to have more than one person have a breakout year. The question is who is the most likely to have a breakout year.
Well in a league where defense can still win you championships that’s the side of the ball where the next household name should come from. The SEC is well known for producing great talent at the defensive tackle position and the next big name SEC defensive tackle will have his coming out party this season.
Tennessee’s Kahlil McKenzie is a monster that is about to wreak havoc on the SEC. The 6-3, 325 pound sophomore didn’t play a lot for the Vols last season, but earned more playing time as the season went on.
In his first season on Rocky Top McKenzie recorded 24 total tackles in 13 games and only had one sack. Yet, you could see the potential that this young man has.
Possibly the biggest thing that could hurt McKenzie’s development in year two is a new defensive coordinator at Tennessee. With Bob Shoop installing his defense over the spring it means, McKenzie has had to learn a new defense in each of his first two years on Rocky Top.
Another factor is the talent the Vols have on defense, it is quite possible that McKenzie won’t even be one of the two starters at defensive tackles for the Vols to start the season. Fellow rising sophomore Shy Tuttle was off to a great start to his Tennessee career before a cheap shot ended his season.
Tuttle only played in six games for the Vols but, had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery at the time of his season ending injury. One could make the argument that Tuttle was ahead of McKenzie last season and could be again this year. It’s a strong argument but, when you watch McKenzie on tape you just see a star in the making.
While there are a few things that could cost McKenzie a breakout season in 2016, there are plenty of signs that everyone in the country will know the name Kahlil McKenzie by seasons end.
While most would say learning a new defense would hurt the development of a young player, Tennessee had to deal with a thin group of players on defense this spring. A lot of those injuries were along the D-Line and that actually should benefit McKenzie.
He got to see a large number of reps in the spring due to the injuries, which should put him ahead of the learning curve over some of his teammates. When you look at his highlights from this past season and the spring you can see the improvements in his game. However, the best evidence to support McKenzie’s arrival was his performance in the Outback Bowl.
He also made great improvements during the spring and while he could wind up coming off the bench early in 2016 his impact should earn him more playing time during the season and should get a starting role before long.
He possesses all the tools to be an elite pass rusher and run stopper. McKenzie has the size, strength and speed to become the biggest beast in the SEC East. If you love defense than you will want to keep an eye on No. 99 in orange this season.