McKinney suggested more than once over the past year that he expected 2014 to be his last season at the college level. He backed that up with a stellar season in which he was named a semifinalst for the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. McKinney led the Bulldogs with 71 tackles this season, including eight for losses and three sacks.
"We fully support Benardrick's decision and know he is ready for the next level," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said in the release. "He has been a tremendous leader for our football team both on and off the field."
At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he has more than enough size to take on blocks and clog rushing attacks. He isn't as instinctive or agile in pass coverage, though, and plays the pass best when asked to patrol a zone rather than play man coverage. NFL Media analyst Charles Davis saw McKinney as a prospect who would benefit from another season in college.
The school's release pointed out that McKinney arrived at Mississippi State in 2011 as a two-star high school quarterback.