Report: Vanderbilt football hires Norval McKenzie as running backs coach

McKenzie, a Vanderbilt graduate and Clark Lea’s former teammate, will move from Louisville back to West End.

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Norval McKenzie as the running backs coach at Louisville. (Louisville Athletics)

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

Vanderbilt football has reportedly hired Norval McKenzie as its new running backs coach, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel.

McKenzie would replace Tim Horton, who spent two seasons as Vanderbilt’s running backs coach.

McKenzie is currently the running backs coach at Louisville, a title he’s held for two seasons. In 2019, his first season guiding the Cardinals’ backfield, he helped redshirt freshman Javian Hawkins set a new program record with 1,525 rushing yards. Hawkins earned second team All-ACC and freshman All-American honors that season, then rushed for another 822 yards in seven games before opting out of the remainder of the 2020 season. McKenzie proceeded with redshirt freshman Jalen Mitchell at tailback, who notched 347 yards in five games.

Prior to his hiring at Louisville, McKenzie, a 2018 Broyles Award nominee, spent three seasons as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator at Arkansas State. Under his leadership, the Red Wolves’ special teams unit set an NCAA record for punt return defense by holding opponents to -15 yards in 2018, and finished the same season ranked sixth nationally in kick return defense. Meanwhile, his two-headed running back by committee combined for over 1,300 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

McKenzie is a Vanderbilt alumnus and played running back for the Commodores from 2001-2004. He overlapped with head football coach Clark Lea in Vanderbilt’s backfield, and racked up just shy of 1,500 career rushing yards before graduating. McKenzie later returned to West End to earn a master’s degree in education, while holding a graduate assistant role as recruiting coordinator. With his help, Vanderbilt in 2008 posted its first winning season (7-6) since 1982 and defeated Boston College 16-14 in the Music City Bowl.