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Monday, March 11, 2013
Top RB gets Georgia offer he wanted

By Radi Nabulsi

ATHENS, Ga. -- The last time a running back traveled more than 600 miles to play for the University of Georgia, Knowshon Moreno wound up hurdling defenders and dropping jaws with his combination of balance and speed. After redshirting his freshman season, he played only two years before heading to the NFL draft, leaving Georgia fans wondering what could have been.

Now another top running back from the Mid-Atlantic region is looking at the Bulldogs, and now that Shai McKenzie (Washington, Penn./Washington) has the Georgia offer he wanted, maybe history will repeat itself.

“My coach had been sending my film to a lot of schools,” McKenzie said. “He sent my film to Georgia, and they didn’t really get back to him. I was talking to Coach [Bryan] McClendon a little bit on Facebook, but then we stopped talking for a little bit, so I thought they lost interest. I guess Coach McClendon thought we were not interested. So to show we had a lot more interest in Georgia, my coach called down there about 20 times to try to get their coaches in the phone. So when he did get in contact with them ... the coaches were real impressed with my film.”

After getting on the same page, as McKenzie described it, the Georgia running backs coach had a question for the young tailback.

“Coach McClendon asked if I was interested in Georgia, and I told him with an exclamation that, yeah, I was really interested and really excited about it,” McKenzie said. “We chatted a little longer, and then I called him again later that night, and they offered.”

The Bulldogs have plenty of company, as 28 schools have extended verbal offers to the 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back, with the latest coming from Florida State, North Carolina, Indiana and Arizona. Top programs like Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin already are options for McKenzie. But Georgia has something the others do not.

“Half my family actually lives in Marietta, Ga. -- my mother, my step-dad and my little sister,” McKenzie said.

That family connection is one of the main reasons McKenzie is interested in the Bulldogs. But he also likes what he has seen on the field.

“I actually watched Georgia play on TV a lot this year,” McKenzie said. “They have some great talent at the tailback position with two freshmen playing. That catches my interest. A team that gives equal opportunities and gives guys a chance to get a feel for the next level -- that interests me.”

Watching Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley break out as freshmen did not intimidate McKenzie. Instead of seeing a crowded backfield, he sees opportunity -- the same opportunity he felt he was once denied.

“Even on the high school level, coming into my freshman year, my coaches didn’t think I had the potential to be a D-I football player,” McKenzie said. “I feel like it was because I didn’t get the chance or the equal opportunity like everyone else. So I managed, when I got my chance my sophomore year, to break out with 1,200 yards. He was impressed. As a junior I had almost 2,700 yards.”

He had 2,689 yards to be exact. McKenzie also racked up 42 touchdowns. Those numbers and an impressive highlight reel have a lot of schools hoping to get McKenzie on campus.

“I think I am going to go see my mother this summer, so I should get a chance to get down there and see some schools like Georgia and Georgia Tech,” McKenzie said. “And if possible, in a month I might go see Florida State and Arkansas in the same trip.”

In the meantime, offers keep coming for the coveted tailback.

“I think Miami may be the next to offer me,” McKenzie said. “I know LSU just got back to us. They are evaluating my film, and their coach seemed pretty happy and excited about me. I am not sure if that offer will come, but I know they didn’t recruit a running back in the 2013 class. So they are showing a lot of interest.”

The Tigers are an appealing option for the talented junior, but so are a lot of programs.

“LSU is a real good football team,” McKenzie said. “Growing up I used to watch them and Alabama. I watched a lot of football growing up, but I never had a favorite team. So I am not leaning toward any team in my recruiting. This recruiting process is real difficult and little stressful for me. I am just taking it day-by-day, trying to figure out where I want to play. With 28 coaches telling me the same thing, it is pretty hard to narrow it down.”

McKenzie does plan to do just that in the coming months.

“I am going to make a list in possibly a month or two, when we start to go on visits,” McKenzie said. “I pretty much have an idea, but I am not going to announce it for a month or so. Georgia is definitely going to make it.”