Zach McKinney was in college football paradise at the University of Oklahoma, where the Sooners went 45-8 over the last four seasons and continued their reputation as one of the most consistent programs in the nation.
As much success as OU had, McKinney only played in three games over his four years in Norman. Following the 2020 season, he decided he wasn’t content with watching from the sidelines. The defensive tackle left his scholarship behind and entered the NCAA transfer portal, where he ended up with the University of Hawaii in hopes of seeing more consistent playing time.
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“Truthfully, I came here because I believe everything coach (Todd) Graham is speaking. I think I can excel in this defense, I want to be a part of what he’s building. It’s going to help me as an individual is going to help me as a teammate and I want to make us Rainbow Warriors win most importantly,” said McKinney, who is listed as a junior. “When I looked at film before I came, I saw a bunch of guys just missing a few pieces and I felt like I could be one of those pieces that could help.
“Coming from a previous program, these guys here, this Hawaii team before I got here, these guys worked. If not more, the same. Especially with the situation, these guys work their butts off completely. Like, every day. I’ve never seen this really, the guys that work with almost nothing to be honest with you. So, that alone that’s hard to do. When I came in and I saw that, I already had a chip on my shoulder. They want it better.”
McKinney joins a defensive line that has an intriguing mix of returning starters and newcomers looking to making an immediate impact.
“We’re trying to come with a lot more pressure inside. Make sure we stop the run. That’s our number one focus this year is to stop the run. Obliterate the run, actually,” McKinney said.
After breaking camp on Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors are less than two weeks away from their season opener at UCLA and have their attention focused on the Bruins. Like McKinney, the ‘Bows aren’t satisfied with their work last year and understand that a win at the Rose Bowl come Aug. 28 would turn heads.
“Their first year, I feel like everybody knows the situation. They came in two weeks before meeting the staff and playing Fresno and won some games,” McKinney said. “That speaks volumes, so I think we all got a chip on our shoulder, from the staff to the players.”