Moments ago Washington, PA running back Shai McKenzie announced his commitment to Virginia Tech. Shai is rated as a 4-star prospect by both Rivals.com and 247Sports. The Hokies edged out Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech for his commitment.
At 6-foot, 210 pounds McKenzie has the size to be a feature tailback in Blacksburg. It's easy to tell from his highlights that he's powerful and quick. He makes decisive cuts which will suit him well in Loeffler's / Grimes' zone rushing attack.
Most of McKenzie's work in high school came in a pro-I offense, with a toss play where he reads the fullback's lead block and cuts off the seam created serving as a primary play. His high school offense also used a wishbone look with Shai offset a little deeper than a normal wishbone to run a power lead play near the goal line.
Stylistically, McKenzie runs similarly to Michael Holmes, but in a bigger and more athletic body. He is incredibly patient and waits on seams to develop, then makes a decisive hard cut to the hole. Like Holmes, he uses his shoulders well to fake defenders and set up his blocks. As shown in his film, if McKenzie is running a stretch toss play to the right sideline, he will set up the unblocked defender with a hard shoulder turn to the inside (indicating a cutback.) The defender will stop his forward momentum and start to crouch for a tackle attempt, and then McKenzie will push hard off of his inside leg. If you watch the play at the 33 second mark of the video, McKenzie sets up the inside linebacker with the same move that you see on other clips where he runs to the outside. Once he has made up his mind to go, his size and power intimidates smaller defensive backs, and for those that are brave, he welcomes their advances with a quality stiff arm.
One thing that he will need to work on in Blacksburg is pad level. McKenzie runs very upright, and when running that tall, those shoulder fakes expose the football. Based on scouting reports on McKenzie he does not have a history of fumbling, but on some of these plays you can see moments where the ball is exposed and a solid hit could dislodge it.
McKenzie represents a trend where Coach Beamer seems to be looking to go away from smaller scat backs and find the true big workhorse back that the Hokies have had success with in the past. Edmunds, Marshawn Williams, and McKenzie are all big kids who look comfortable between the tackles as well as on the outside. However, we saw Coach Loeffler start to use Edmunds on some jet sweep inverted veer action as well as on the sweep look from the spread and he had success. We can expect that future tailbacks in a Coach Loeffler offense would need to be comfortable in similar sets. Let's take a look at this play from McKenzie.
As you can see, McKenzie runs a jet sweep, very similar to how the Hokies used Edmunds and especially J.C. Coleman down the stretch this season. Despite being a bigger back, McKenzie has the speed to get to the edge, but adds the power to turn the corner and overpower defenders. This threat makes the inverted veer play and the read option even more dangerous, as a power back on the edge can not just be defended through alignment. McKenzie can break tackles, as he does with a vicious stiff arm in this clip.
Due to a torn ACL in his right knee, Shai only played in 3 games his senior season, but rushed for an impressive 650 yards. Shai plans on graduating high school early and enrolling in spring.
Welcome to HokieNation Shai!