Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A senior, McKinley has two seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: It is difficult to ascertain exactly what receiver position McKinley works at, the field or the boundary, but it hardly matters; he is no higher than third, if not fourth, at either position, behind both established starters and promising sophomores.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American.
CAREER TO DATE
McKinley’s struggles to make an impact were originally excusable. After appearing in six games as a freshman, largely on special teams, a broken leg suffered in practice ended his sophomore season in mid-October before taking the field in a single game.
Then he appeared in only four games in 2018, recording no further stats, and it is not as if the Irish had a deep receiver rotation. Notre Dame was desperate for a fourth receiver to relieve the weary legs of Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool and Chris Finke, but none was trusted enough to do so, including McKinley.
A February arrest and three misdemeanor charges have presumably not helped that trust.
McKinley was initially suspended after that arrest, eventually being allowed to practice and partake in the Blue-Gold Game. On the surface, that looked like McKinley being back in the fold. When asked if such was the case, Irish head coach Brian Kelly answered as if the question pertained to on-field wonderings.
“We targeted him on purpose,” Kelly said after the spring finale in which McKinley caught one pass for 13 yards on three targets, all from Phil Jurkovec. “We’re clearly trying to figure out what he can do. He’s been here too long for us to have a question mark about him. We’re going through our exit interviews and we’ll evaluate his performance and make some decisions.”
A follow-up asked Kelly if McKinley is fully reinstated.
“Oh, no, we’re going to re-evaluate his status at the end of spring here.”
The week after the Blue-Gold Game, McKinley struck a plea agreement in which the misdemeanor charges should end up dropped. Given Notre Dame has not dismissed McKinley to this point, Kelly’s words may not be as ominous as they initially seemed.
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“At most, Boykin will be elsewhere (read: NFL) after this season, though he will have another year of eligibility available. On paper, that may mean McKinley could slot right into his starting role, but four heralded freshmen receivers (three incoming; Micah Jones early enrolled) will greatly increase the pressure on the then-senior.
“Receivers do not necessarily need to spend much time getting used to collegiate competition — see (Kevin) Stepherson and, to a lesser extent, (Michael) Young as freshmen. At least one of those four will likely threaten to move past McKinley within the next 12 months.
“All that said, McKinley arrived a highly-touted recruit for a reason. In some instances, time is needed for that potential to become realized. Remember: It took until the final minutes of the bowl victory over LSU before Boykin broke out in a noticeable manner, the very end of his junior season.”
Those freshmen, now sophomores, have indeed passed by McKinley. In theory, his physical tools rival any of theirs, but Kevin Austin’s size and speed are similar to McKinley’s, and he can already claim five more receptions and 90 more yards than McKinley can, not to mention playing in 10 games last season. Furthermore, Lawrence Keys brings a dynamic far different than McKinley’s, one based on speed and shiftiness, and one that had him in the Cotton Bowl gameplan, albeit an unused portion of that failed gameplan.
Without injury to Claypool or Young creating turmoil in the receiving corps, it is hard to envision a breakthrough from McKinley after so many years spinning his wheels.
DOWN THE ROAD
There is yet reason to wonder if McKinley will even be on the roster in 2019 — a transfer or two should be expected within the next month, a usual occurrence. If he is, though, it would still take quite the breakthrough for him to be around in 2020. A graduate transfer seems the presumptive conclusion to McKinley’s Irish career.
NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end