McKenzie transfer: The plot thickens
Some fun developments Tuesday in the possible transfer to USF of Riverview and Iowa State star linebacker Tyrone McKenzie. The Iowa newspapers picked up on the story in Tuesday's Times, and by mid-afternoon, newly hired Cyclones coach Gene Chizik issued a statement through Iowa State's sports information department:
"I met with Tyrone today and we had a great discussion. Tyrone had requested and received his release to contact other schools after Dan McCarney's resignation. After talking with him, I feel confident he will be with us next season."
McKenzie, in effect, becomes Chizik's first recruit as Iowa State's coach, and he's an important one, though I find it surprising that it took him two weeks to sit down with a 129-tackle all-conference linebacker who had requested a transfer. In talking with people on both sides of this tug-o-war Tuesday, it seems one of Iowa State's main arguments to him staying in Ames is that they feel he's unlikely to get a hardship waiver that will allow him to play in the fall of 2007, with two years of eligibility at USF. The Bulls have had good luck with such waivers, getting an incredible three this season in linebacker Marvin Peoples (Maryland), offensive guard Ryan Schmidt (Kansas State) and defensive tackle Julian Riley (Florida). None of those three had transferred before, as McKenzie has, so it's hard to know how much that will mitigate his case for a hardship waiver. To get a sense of how interested McKenzie is in coming home to Tampa, consider this: I learned Tuesday that he would join the Bulls as a walk-on, not as a scholarship athlete.
What's interesting is that McKenzie has a longer relationship with USF's coaches than he does with Chizik. McKenzie considered USF out of high school, and again a year later when he transferred from Michigan State. And exams end at Iowa State on Friday, so when McKenzie heads home, he basically has the rest of his holiday break to give USF a closer look before making a decision as classes resume in January. I'm still verifying a few things, but in multiple conversations Tuesday night, I was told not to put too much stock in Chizik's statement. McKenzie could change his mind any number of times between now and the start of spring classes, so we likely won't have a definitive answer one way or another until January. Stay tuned. ...
(As an aside, it's notable that Chizik has all sorts of ties to Florida -- played at Clearwater High, graduated from Florida, coached as defensive coordinator at Central Florida. Iowa State already was an occasional recruiting rival to USF, plucking prospects from the Bay area (there were nine Floridians on the 2006 roster), but I'm sure that will be much more so with Chizik leading the Cyclones.) I did parentheses inside parentheses there. Sorry.
Oh, one quick link to the Detroit News, which has an update on one of the best underwritten stories of USF's 2006 athletics year: guard Frank Davis making the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. With injuries to starter Ross Verba and another guard, Davis is in line for his first NFL start on Sunday, according to the News. You can hear the proud cheers from Panama all the way up in Tampa. ...