Jan 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Notre Dame has long chased wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. The pint-sized Florida native, who dazzled with his highlight reel kick returns and big play ability at American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, viewed himself as an Irish verbal commitment, even if he still needed to do some work in the classroom to make that commitment possible.
But that commitment, after a few twists and turns the past few weeks, is no more. And the hopes of the Irish landing McKenzie, who was set to take an official visit to South Bend this weekend, is now over, according to 247Sports.com’s Tom Loy.
McKenzie’s recruitment can now officially join the ranks of the bizarre, after this final turn seemingly ended his relationship with Notre Dame. After recruiting coordinator Tony Alford and the Irish staff worked with McKenzie as he fought to meet NCAA qualifying levels, the four-star prospect had his eyes opened after a slew of late offers came in for his football services once he gained the needed ACT test score.
With schools like Oregon, Ole Miss and Florida chasing, McKenzie stepped away from his “commitment” to the Irish, though he did keep them on his list of finalists. But as additional teams drew his interest (a recent Virginia Tech offer was met with excitement) and as the Notre Dame staff tried its best to focus its final attention on shoring up its class, Tony Alford headed to Florida for a meeting before this weekend’s visit.
While the details are still emerging, it appears that McKenzie is no longer visiting South Bend and the Irish have focused their final efforts elsewhere. That likely means Fresno athlete Michiah Quick, with Brian Kelly visiting him on Wednesday.
How badly the Irish will miss McKenzie remains to be seen. His highlight video and improbable story had him a favorite of many Irish fans. But he was always a high-risk target. Student-athletes with this profile have failed quite a bit lately, and if there’s any frustration in all of this for the Irish coaching staff, it’s that they’ve spent months putting their neck on the line for a kid that now looks to be walking away from that loyalty.
All is fair in recruiting and football though, and McKenzie’s departure is better now than after a few months in South Bend. While his playmaking skills at the Under Armour All-American game helped boost his final ranking, we’ll have to wait and see if the Irish missed out on the next great big play threat.
National Signing Day is less than a week away.