X-Factor Georgia: McKenzie brings 'swag' to return game
In preparation for the 2014 college football season, Saturday Down South takes a look at the X factor for every SEC team. Not only do these players have the opportunity to make major contributions for their respective squads, but they could also be the difference in a successful season or a losing season.
Today, we’re discussing the X factor for the Georgia Bulldogs.
- OLE MISS
- MISSISSIPPI STATE
- SOUTH CAROLINA
- TEXAS A&M
WR Isaiah McKenzie
With all of the star power on the loaded Georgia offense, a 5-foot-8 true freshman wide receiver wouldn’t seem like the team’s X-factor heading into the 2014 season.
The Bulldogs will be carried predominately by running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, but it’ll be the shifty Isaiah McKenzie that’ll bring a whole other dimension to the Bulldogs offense.
The 5-foot-8, 164-pound speedster has been turning some heads this offseason. After early enrolling into school this past January, McKenzie has made the most of his opportunities in practice by showcasing his dynamic play making abilities in the return game.
Ever since the departure of Brandon Boykin, the Bulldogs have lacked a big-play potential in the return game. Last season, Georgia was last in the SEC in both kick return and punt return yards per return (18.6 and 2.9 yards, respectively). Although games aren’t won or lost in the return game, if you compare it to Alabama’s yards per punt return (13.4 yards), an extra 10 yards on every punt return can make a big difference for the offense.
McKenzie’s impressive breakaway speed and shiftiness are evident in his high school highlight reels and it’s clear he’s got the potential to take it to the house any time he’s got the football in his hands. Although other players have been taking special teams reps along with McKenzie, his emergence as a return man has others taking notice, even head coach Mark Richt.
“When we work those drills he’s one of the prominent guys,” Richt said. We’ve got a few guys. … But he’s a very elusive guy, very quick and sudden, which you like in a return man.”
It’s unclear if he’ll make an immediate impact in the receiving game this season, but his big play ability on kick and punt returns could really propel an already excellent Georgia offensive even further.
“Isaiah is a very dynamic return man, and that’s what jumps out at you the most,” Richt said about the true freshman. “He has the ability to make people miss one, two or three times on the same play. He’s got a lot of speed and quickness and, I don’t know what you call it, swag?”
Whether it’s the swag or not, McKenzie is a special player and will be special for the Bulldogs this season.