Jan 2, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Nitro wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (9) runs with the ball during the second half at Tropicana Field. Team Highlight defeated the Team Nitro 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Mackenzie Key to 2014 Notre Dame Football Recruiting Class


With the news of Isaiah McKenzie’s impending recruiting visit to the University of Notre Dame at the end of January, the Irish may be securing the most important recruit of the 2014 class.

Although it’s well documented that the greatest need for next year is on the defensive line, McKenzie, although ranked a three star recruit by many,  could provide for Notre Dame something that has been missing in the football program for a number of years.

When one reflects on the best Notre Dame teams in the last 30 years, one component that stands out was the presence of a dangerous return man. During the Holtz era, the Irish had two of the all-time best in Tim Brown and Rocket Ishmael. Both were capable of shifting the momentum of important games with an electrifying punt or kick return. As one can see from this year’s national championship game, an outstanding return game is critical to the success of any football team hoping to win a national title.

This is an element that is been missing from the Notre Dame football program for quite some time.

Although in past recruiting classes Kelly has secured players who at the high school level were outstanding in the  return game, none have demonstrated the ability to translate that to the Division I level.

Mackenzie’s exciting performance at the Under Armour All-America Bowl shows that he may, in fact, be different.

There is no question that the 2014 version of the Fighting Irish football team is desperately in need of bodies along the defensive line and that there is much excitement about the arrival of Andrew Trumbetti and the other line recruits. However, McKenzie may bring to this class a possible game changer and someone who, at a moments notice, could swing the team’s fortunes in a positive direction.

It seems evident that with a visit set for January 31, McKenzie may have met all the academic requirements necessary to make a commitment to the University. If that is the case this is great news for the Notre Dame football program. Mackenzie may be the next outstanding return man that the Irish have desperately been looking for and he may be the vital piece needed to make another national championship run.

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Tags: Andrew Trumbetti Football Isaiah McKenzie Notre Dame Fighting Irish Rocket Ishmael Tim Brown

  • NDFan in Bama

    Sorry Jeff, as long as the rest of the return team is unsure of their responsability, it doesn’t matter who gets the ball. Notre Dame has had some excellent return players siince BK got here. GA3, as an example, but if there is no priority placed on special teams, it makes no difference who is getting the ball, they will not be productive.

    • Chris in Dallas

      I agree completely. As long as they give opposing punters all day to kick the ball, there is no reasonable opportunity for a return, no matter how fast or shifty the return man is.

      • Jeffrey Merritt

        That might be true, but if you have seen this guy play as many times as I have you would know that this guy can make something out of nothing. I think he is special.

    • Jeffrey Merritt

      In my opinion, this guy is in another class altogether. I do share your concerns about the rest of the special teams. Heck there are times when I worry about extra points. However, VanGorder has a very sound background in special teams. I wonder if that is part of the reason Kelly hired him.

  • Irish 4 life.

    Let’s not put him in the same field as Tim Brown and Rocket Ishmael please.

    • Jeffrey Merritt

      Your right. We can’t put him there yet, but if you have seen him play the number of times I have you would understand that in McKenzie we will be getting someone who every time he touches the ball has the chance to make a big play.

  • NDFan in Bama

    Hey Jeff, thanks for the opinion, I certainly hope you are right, I always want the Irish to be successful. I remember what Lou always said about special teams being able to compensate for other weaknesses on a team, and even though I don’t think we have many weaknesses( including defensive line) we play a lot of teams with the same talent level and that special team edge will cost us at least one game.