Through four games, Oregon football has a defender who is looking like an All-American.
I’m pretty sure everyone expected that from this defense, but the player who looks like an All-American isn’t the one we all assumed it would be. No, it’s not Kayvon Thibodeaux (granted, he’s been injured) and no, it’s not Justin Flowe or Noah Sewell.
It’s actually a defensive back and no, it’s not Mykael Wright.
Running out of guesses? That’s right, it’s Verone McKinley III. The sophomore defensive back was fresh off a career year in 2020 and hopes were high for him to make some All-Pac-12 noise in 2021, but no one could have expected the start that he’s had through four weeks.
We spoke about him in the preseason as being an all-conference candidate after having a tremendous 2020 season with 41 tackles, a pick, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble, but he’s on pace to have an even better 2021 campaign. He’s already exceeding expectations and he’s being regarded as one of the best defenders in the country this season.
And for a third straight game, McKinley picked off a pass, giving him four on the season which leads all of college football. Along with those four picks (a career-high already), he has 23 total tackles, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble. He’s on pace to smash previous personal bests.
McKinley has to be in the running for some of the top defensive back awards in college football through a third of the season and he’s been a massive bright spot in that secondary.
McKinley is the next Oregon football superstar defensive back
McKinley is not just a great defensive player, but he has an unbelievable work ethic.
Less than 24 hours after going on the road to upset No. 3 Ohio State, McKinley — who had a pick in the game — wanted to prepare for Stony Brook. His hunger to improve is refreshing and it’s that type of mindset and work ethic that’s going to make him one of the top defensive back prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft, assuming he leaves early.
Enjoy McKinley while you can, Oregon fans, he may not be here much longer.