Tuesday October 21st, 2014

The feted defensive tackle duo committed to Tennessee in the class of 2015 is best known outside recruitnik circles for something only remotely related to football. Kahlil McKenzie and Shyheim “Shy” Tuttle were the targets of creative recruiting tactics that were popularized over social media.

Tuttle, a four-star senior who attends North Davidson (N.C.) High, tweeted a picture in August of a fake Rolling Stone magazine cover featuring Tuttle next to Beyonce. The cover includes a headline tease that reads, “Beyonce on why she thinks Tuttle belongs at Tennessee.” The Volunteers were not the only school to send Tuttle recruiting propaganda, but the Beyonce cover resonated with him.

“I thought it was funny,” Tuttle said.

Tennessee’s gambit to sway McKenzie, a five-star senior who attends Clayton Valley Charter (Calif.) High, was more elaborate. About a month before he announced his decision at The Opening, a prestigious recruiting camp held July, coach Butch Jones sent McKenzie a picture including an image of an orange and white Tennessee bucket hat next to the message, “Where’s the hat?” Jones would continue to send McKenzie pictures of the hat in different places around campus, and on the heads of different people (including Jon Gruden and Peyton Manning), and McKenzie posted them to his Twitter account.

“That was my little picture-with-Beyonce-type moment, I guess,” McKenzie said.

When McKenzie announced his commitment, he slipped on a Vols bucket hat. Tuttle, with input from McKenzie, donned a similar piece of headware when making his pledge at his high school in September.

McKenzie spent lots of time recruiting Tuttle, who had narrowed his choices down to Tennessee, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and North Carolina State. Whereas Tuttle’s uncle, Perry, played for Clemson, McKenzie is a so-called “legacy” recruit at Tennessee, as his uncle, Raleigh, and father, Reggie, the current general manager of the Oakland Raiders, played for the Volunteers (Raleigh is a scout for the Raiders).

Both Tuttle and McKenzie should have an opportunity to compete for early playing time with the Vols. McKenzie, who measured at 6-foot-3.5 and 341 pounds at The Opening this summer, is a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage who overpowers offensive linemen with his strength and explosiveness. However, he will lack as many game reps as his classmates after being ruled ineligible for his senior season following his transfer from De La Salle (Calif.) High. McKenzie is also is currently rehabbing a knee injury.

“I think it’d be naïve to say there won’t be any rust when he comes in to Tennessee next summer. But from just a purely skill and talent standpoint, there’s a reason everybody rates him a five-star” Paul Fortenberry, a writer for Volquest.com, said of McKenzie. He added: “He can just collapse the pocket because of his strength and really make a passer uncomfortable because of what he can do.”

Added Adam Gorney, the West Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com, "He’s so big, but he’s not just a guy that takes up space. He’s a guy who really gets after it, is really aggressive and has a motor on him."

Tuttle (6-foot-3, 315 pounds) demands double teams and clogs running lanes but is agile enough to run down quarterbacks and make plays in the backfield. Tuttle said he can almost dunk a basketball and Mark Holcomb, Tuttle’s coach at North Davidson (N.C.) High, uses Tuttle as a running back in short-yardage situations.

 “He’s pretty relentless in his pass rush, which is really impressive for a guy his size,” said Adam Friedman, the Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. He added: “Coming off the ball, he’s got great agility. He plays with great natural leverage, which is pretty impressive for a guy his size, and he’s got so much just natural strength and he overwhelms the offensive linemen that he’s going against.”

Tuttle and McKenzie project as one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the same class over the past decade, which groups them with some tough competition. In 2012, for example, Florida State landed Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman, while Florida signed Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd in 2010.

Instead of measuring Tuttle and McKenzie against other teams’ past recruits, however, perhaps the best gauge of their impact in college will be whether their impact on the field dwarfs the attention drawn to the frivolous, yet effective, recruiting ploys Tennessee used on them.

Around the nation

  • All games at Bishop McDevitt (Pa.) High will be played during “daylight hours” as the school continues to deal with a lighting issue in a stadium that opened last year. Sister Mary Anne Bednar, the school’s principal, issued a statement on the matter last Tuesday. Here is part of the statement, from The Patriot News:

“I apologize that this has continued and assure you that we are working to find a solution that will bring this to a resolution. In the interest of safety, which is paramount, for all players, students, and fans, all evening events have been rescheduled to daylight hours. This will remain in effect until assurance can be given that the problem has been found and the repairs are completely effective and tested.”

Unbeaten Bishop McDevitt’s 49-33 win over Cedar Cliff began at night on Oct. 11 but -- after the lights stopped working in the first quarter -- had to be resumed the next afternoon. The school has already rescheduled its final home regular season game to Saturday morning and will be allowed to host playoff games on Saturdays, according to The Patriot News.

Baker County (Fla.) High defensive end CeCe Jefferson, a friend of Cowart, was also at the game. Cowart said that if he and Jefferson wind up choosing Alabama, “we know we have to be ready to go every day, 100 miles per hour." Cowart is the No. 1 strongside defensive end and No. 1 player in the class of 2015, while Jefferson comes in at No. 2 and No. 15, respectively. Cowart and Jefferson had said they were a package deal, but they tweeted in July that that’s no longer the case.

  • It’s a common practice for coaches to underplay their own team’s success while hyping up their opponent, but Lowell (Mich.) High coach Noel Dean really went all-in on that philosophy before his team’s meeting with Caledonia (Mich.) High. Before the game, Lowell was 7-0 and Caledonia was 5-2. From MLive.com:

“Caledonia deserves to be the No. 1 ranked team in West Michigan. We believe that,” Dean said. “I have watched a lot of film, and I would put them, Mona Shores and Muskegon as one, two, three in West Michigan.

“I don’t think we have a chance, to be honest with you, but we are going to give it our best shot. We are just hopeful that we can compete with them Friday night. They are 5-2, and I don’t understand how they lost two games. But they are a lot better than us.”

Caledonia wound up winning 33-0, so Dean’s comments were pretty spot-on.

  • Warwick (Pa.) High administrators sent a letter to families of football players with notice of their investigation into some football players’ behavior at a team dinner that was not sponsored by the school, according to Lancasteronline.com. The website published a copy of the letter, which said that athletes and parents need more “training” in regards to on- and off-field behavior toward teammates and that the student handbook will be amended.

A source told The Patriot-News that the investigation concerns an alleged “roughhousing” incident that took place at a senior player’s house the night before a game. A player who did not want to wrestle with teammates and feared having to partake in similar activity in the future told his parents about what happened, according to the paper.

Seven players at Sayreville War Memorial (N.J.) High were recently charged in connection to a hazing scandal involving teammates.

  • Andalusia (Ala.) High beat Montgomery Catholic (Ala.) Prep, 41-21, Friday night even though 19 of its players were suspended after stealing Coke products and candy before a game the previous week, according to The Andalusia Star-News. Andalusia coach Brian Seymore told the newspaper that five players actually stole the refreshments and handed them out to 14 others. “That was five people,” he said. “There were other people involved and it involves them because they took it. It was stolen. I feel like -- I told them I’ve got a problem with that. They’re (the 14 other players) as guilty as the people who took it.”

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

  • Lake None (Fla.) High quarterback Tucker Israel can’t stop breaking records. In Friday’s 59-42 win over St. Cloud (Fla.) High, Israel set a new Florida record for passing yards in a single game with 659, according to the Orlando Sentinel (Israel completed 39 of his 51 pass attempts for eight touchdowns). The previous record was 583. Israel needed only four more completions to tie the state mark (43) in that category, according to the newspaper. The Clemson-bound Israel already owns state records in touchdown passes and completions.
  • Fans of Bergen Catholic (N.J.) High might have gotten a little too excited during Saturday’s win over St. Joseph (N.J.) High. After a third-quarter touchdown, BC supporters, known as the Crusader Crazies, fell forward after toppling the railing in front of the bleachers.

Notable commitments

  • Ben Davis (Ind.) High senior Asmar Bilal committed to Notre Dame. Bilal is the No. 22 outside linebacker in the class of 2015.
  • East Ridge (Minn.) High junior Seth Green committed to Oregon. Green is the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2016.
  • Maple Heights (Ohio) High junior Kierre Hawkins committed to Ohio State. Hawkins is the No. 13 tight end in the class of 2016.
  • Holy Cross (La.) School junior Tre Turner committed to Mississippi State to play football and baseball. Turner is the No. 8 running back in the class of 2016.
  • Lyman (Fla.) High senior defensive end Adam Shuler committed to West Virginia.

BECHT: West Virginia stuns Baylor, dashes playoff dreams

Notable performances

  • Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett threw for a school-record 498 yards and three touchdowns while adding two rushing scores to lead Corona Santiago (Calif.) High to a 49-35 win over Riverside King (Calif.) High.
  • Frisco Lone Star (Texas) High quarterback Jason Shelley threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns to go with 163 rushing yards and two scores in a 52-27 win over Frisco Heritage (Texas) High.
  • Santa Margarita Catholic (Calif.) High quarterback K.J. Costello scored six total touchdowns and notched school records with 48 pass attempts, 35 completions and 502 passing yards in a 42-41 win over Orange Lutheran (Calif.) High.
  • Ravenna (Ohio) High’s Warren Bradley carried 32 times for 335 yards and four touchdowns in a 53-33 win over Coventry (Ohio) High.
  • Sahuaro (Ariz.) High senior Derik Hall amassed 204 rushing yards and five touchdowns and returned an interception 40 yards for a score in a 50-7 win over Sierra Vista Buena (Ariz.) High.

0:54 | College Football
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