Fall camp is underway and the Georgia Bulldogs are in the middle of a stretch where they practice nine consecutive days with full pads and two-a-days mixed in.
The coaches are trying to work the players as hard as they can and see who will step up and impress. They are especially looking at the younger players because they will be needed in key positions this season in order for the Bulldogs to succeed.
One of those positions is kick returner, and freshman Isaiah McKenzie is getting a lot of looks at the position. And he has turned a ton of head during camp. Teammate J.J. Green told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that McKenzie is going to make a lot of money someday with the work that he’s doing.
One of the reasons McKenzie was recruited by the Bulldogs is for his abilities on special teams. McKenzie, who is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a 4-star recruit, per 247Sports, who can not only return kicks, but can also play wide receiver and running back. In fact, McKenzie was listed as one of the top 50 receivers in the country last year. He tallied 41 receptions for 892 yards and seven touchdowns his senior season at American Heritage High School.
McKenzie has also been able to make plays in the receiving game, catching a pass from Hutson Mason during a practice on Tuesday, and he made a couple of would-be tacklers miss, according to Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph. Mason told Emerson that McKenzie is one of those players you just throw the ball to and let him do his thing because of his speed and elusiveness.
Because of the injuries at the receiver position, McKenzie could find a way to make it onto the rotation. With the status of Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley uncertain, the Bulldogs will need a speedy receiver to help stretch the field.
But the best place where McKenzie will make an impact, at least this season, is special teams. Per Emerson, head coach Mark Richt likes McKenzie as a punt returner, and he said McKenzie is very elusive and quick, which is what you want in the return game.
The Bulldogs struggled in punt returns last year, averaging 2.9 yards per return and “muffed” two returns. Adding McKenzie to the return game would bring explosiveness and consistency to special teams, which is something the Bulldogs desperately need in order to stop the special teams woes.
There’s still a lot of fall camp ahead, so it’s not a guarantee McKenzie will be a lock for the punt or kick return position. He has his share of competition, as J.J. Green, Damian Swann, Tramel Terry and Shaquille Jones have all gotten looks as returners. But there’s no question McKenzie will see some action this season, and based on what he’s done so far in camp, he will give opposing defenders headaches all year long.