Virginia Tech running back Shai McKenzie has fallen off quite a bit since his freshman season in Blacksburg in 2014.
The former three-star recruit out of Washington, Pennsylvania split the workload with J.C. Coleman and Marshawn Williams in his first season with the Hokies, becoming one of the more productive young players on the roster two years ago.
McKenzie appeared in five games prior to tearing his ACL against Western Michigan, and in those five contests, he carried the ball 53 times for 269 yards and three touchdowns. McKenzie was averaging a tick over five yards per carry.
After injuring his knee in the fifth game of his freshman season, it took quite a bit of time for McKenzie to return to the Hokies. He attempted a comeback in 2015, but after suffering a setback with his knee, McKenzie received a medical hardship waiver, which made 2015 essentially a redshirt year for him as he underwent more rehabilitation.
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Heading into this season with better health, McKenzie hoped to make an impact once again at the running back position for the Hokies. However, the 2016 season has been anything but smooth for McKenzie, as he has been a non-factor in the running back rotation. He has seen a majority of his playing time on special teams, but has carried the ball some in mop-up duty for the Hokies, tallying 76 yards on 20 carries this season with a touchdown run.
With the Hokies struggling with consistency all season long in the running game, there were plenty of questions circulating about whether or not the health of McKenzie was a factor on playing time at running back.
As the Hokies prepare for the Belk Bowl on December 29th, coach Justin Fuente was asked directly about playing time in regards to Shai McKenzie.
While Fuente would not go into detail about the state of McKenzie’s health, the response seemed curious considering that McKenzie still had a role on special teams. Without much hesitation, McKenzie responded to Andy Bitter’s tweet with the following:
That certainly sounds like an impending transfer, does it not?
McKenzie certainly would be missed no matter what his future plans end up being after the Belk Bowl. Considering the nature of the running back position in Blacksburg, there would still be a chance for McKenzie to carve out a role on the team next year.
At this point, however, it appears that McKenzie may have a better pulse as to his role on the team moving forward, which could lead to him looking for more significant playing time elsewhere in the near future.