4-star tailback Shai McKenzie will take his talents to Blacksburg. The 6’0”, 215-pound senior, a product of Washington High School in Pennsylvania, announced this afternoon that he has verbally committed to Virginia Tech over Florida State, Georgia Tech, and hometown Pittsburgh. He will enroll at Tech next month.
Washington High School’s all-time leading rusher, McKenzie racked up 2,689 yards on the ground and scored 41 touchdowns in his junior season. He was off to a great start his senior year as well, rushing for 650 yards and 11 touchdowns through two full games and most of a third. He suffered a torn ACL in that third game, though, and missed the rest of the season.
“For me, a guy like Shai comes around once in a coaching lifetime,” Washington head coach Mike Bosnic said in an earlier interview with TSL. “He has that combination of speed, explosiveness, and size. He is a guy who definitely can take it in between the tackles because he has nice size and he’s strong. He possesses explosiveness that doesn’t come around often. My best memories will be watching him explode through the hole. Since the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began keeping stats — I think it was in 1971 — he finished [the 2012 season] with the highest yards-per-carry average ever for a guy who rushed for at least a thousand yards. He was injured and it’s tough and sad, not only for Shai but for the community and the people in the area.”
McKenzie is Virginia Tech’s second big-time running back recruit in this class, joining Phoebus (Hampton, VA) product Marshawn Williams. Each player is rated as a 4-star recruit by at least one of the four national recruiting outlets (ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports, Scout). McKenzie is considered a 4-star player by three of the four (except for ESPN), while Williams is rated a 4-star by 247Sports.
Virginia Tech now has commitments from 24 high school seniors. Four of those players – QB Andrew Ford, McKenzie, DE Vinny Mihota, and Williams – are set to enroll next month.
With McKenzie and Williams (and perhaps Hopewell (VA) star Tabyus Taylor, who could play tailback but could end up at linebacker), Virginia Tech certainly has bolstered the running back position in a big way, size-wise and talent-wise. To top it off, both players are enrolling early.
In the 2014 season, Tech’s projected roster at running back now looks like this:
- JC Coleman, JR
- Joel Caleb, SO
- Trey Edmunds, SO
- Chris Mangus, SO
- Jerome Wright, SO (fullback but reportedly may get a look at tailback in the Sun Bowl)
- Shai McKenzie, FR
- DJ Reid, FR
- Marshawn Williams, FR
Going through spring practice should certainly be a big benefit to McKenzie and Williams, though Williams probably has the best chance to play next season due to the fact that McKenzie is recovering from a torn ACL. Even if McKenzie isn’t ready physically next season, the Hokies have added immediate depth with Williams and are looking very strong once the 2015 season rolls around.