The Next Episode: He calls Keion White a “big bro.” He calls Marco Coleman an “uncle.” And with more expected of him this year, that nurturing has helped Kyle Kennard take a crucial first step in becoming Georgia Tech’s next havoc merchant at defensive end.
Inside The Chart | Sept. 14, 2023
By Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets)
“Off The Leash with K9” may pick up a few more subscribers this week.
In late July, Georgia Tech defensive end Kyle Kennard joined the growing legion of athletes-turned-podcasters, launching his own series called “Off The Leash with K9.” The title is a play on his nickname “K9,” a combination of his first initial and uniform number.
The junior plans on recording episodes throughout the season, interviewing guests (his first was former teammate and current New England Patriots rookie Keion White) and giving insight into the off-the-field lives of athletes.
(Obligatory “available on YouTube, Spotify and wherever podcasts are found” here.)
Kennard says he keeps podcasts in regular rotation on his phone, with Kevin Garnett’s “KG Certified,” Paul George’s “Podcast P” and Brandon Marshall and Chad Ochocinco’s “I Am Athlete” among his favorites. But he never considered hosting his own show until he received some prodding from his teammates, who told him his locker room banter would translate well to the medium.
“They’d hear me talk and they’d say, ‘You should start streaming or something.’ It just pushed me more to decide to start,” he said.
“I just felt like it fit my personality.”
And as Kennard learned this week, winning an ACC award is great exposure for the next episode.
The 6-foot-5, 238-pounder enjoyed a havoc-filled day of firsts in Georgia Tech’s 48-13 win over South Carolina State at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Hyundai Field. In addition to his five tackles, Kennard recorded his first career interception, first career forced fumble and first career fumble recovery against the Bulldogs. On Monday. it earned him ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week, the first time Kennard has taken home the award. His performance followed a career-high eight tackles in the Yellow Jackets’ season opener against Louisville.
VIDEO: Georgia Tech vs. S.C. State highlights (ACC Digital Network)
“He came and had a good spring, a good fall camp, and just to see it all translate so far this season, the goal is to sustain that. We know that he will based on his habits and preparation,” said safety LaMiles Brooks.
The Yellow Jackets knew they’d have to fill a major void at defensive end following the departure of White, Kennard’s inaugural podcast guest. The task became even more arduous after senior Sylvain Yondjouen suffered a season-ending knee injury against Louisville.
In three seasons at Tech, Kennard had been durable – his 31-consecutive games played are the most of any Tech defensive player – but not always disruptive. His production through two games suggests he’s up to the challenge. And he says he’s grown thanks to a skill he unwittingly picked up from podcasting.
It began with taking advice from White, who finished with a team-high 14.5 tackles for loss en route to earning all-ACC honors last season.
“He definitely was like a big bro to me,” Kennard said. “Probably the most important thing he taught me was about the process – having a process before a game, after a game, the following weekend.”
In his first couple seasons, Kennard realized he didn’t share that same meticulous approach – to his recovery, to his film study, to getting his mind and body tuned for game day. He saw how White parlayed that process into a breakout season.
“I had no sense of direction. I wanted to see who to look to, and Keion was definitely a huge person to look to,” he said.
That increased maturity hasn’t gone unnoticed by Marco Coleman, who recruited Kennard out of nearby Riverwood High in Atlanta and has now reunited with him as Georgia Tech’s defensive line coach.
“Kyle [is] not only taking the coaching, but applying it and being very intentional about going out and doing the things that we’re trying to get done,” Coleman noted.
Kennard, in turn, has appreciated his coach’s blunt style.
“He cuts no slack. He wants us to get it done the same way, every time,” he said.
If Kennard considers White a big brother, then he likens Coleman to another family member.
“I joke around with people and tell people that I view [Coleman] like my uncle,” he said. “He’s definitely a great man to have in your life, as a coach and as a man and mentor.”
He added, “I’d run through a brick wall for that man.”
For now, Coleman will be content watching his defensive end run through blockers rather than brick walls. He says his eye discipline, while not completely there yet, has come a long way since he worked with him in 2020 and 2021.
“That’s allowed him to be able to attack plays a lot more aggressively, and not sit and wait like he was doing in the past,” Coleman said.
Perhaps it’s best reflected in this: through two games, Pro Football Focus ranks Kennard as the top defensive end in the ACC with an 85.0 overall grade. It may be a small sample size, but it’s a far cry from last season, when his PFF grade through five weeks landed him among the lowest in the Power 5.
VIDEO: Student-athletes media availability (Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023)
But as any defensive end can attest, a good first step doesn’t always guarantee a result. Kennard will look to continue his encouraging start this Saturday when Georgia Tech faces No. 17 Ole Miss in its road opener at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports). The Rebels rank fourth in the nation in passing (399.0 ypg) after finishing third nationally in rushing a year ago, and head coach Lane Kiffin’s offense runs at one of the most blinding paces in the country.
The next episode of “Off The Leash with K9” drops next week. Come Saturday, Georgia Tech’s aspiring podcaster and budding havoc merchant will try to give himself a little extra material for the pod.
As Kyle Kennard himself might say: Like, listen, subscribe – and stay tuned.