Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Jordan Jenkins ready to pave his own path
By Edward Aschoff
Behind Jordan Jenkins' boyish smile and playful attitude lies what Georgia hopes is a beast in waiting.
Last year, the country got a glimpse of what could be greatness when Jenkins, just a freshman, finished the year second on the team only to two-time All-American Jarvis Jones in sacks (five) and quarterback hurries (23).
Georgia's Jordan Jenkins plans to improve on his five sacks and 23 QB hurries from last season.
With Jones gone, Jenkins moved across the field to Jones' old Will linebacker spot. The heir apparent is now the guy, but things weren't always so glamorous for Jenkins.
Back up to Sept. 1, 2012, and you'll find the puppy form of Jenkins. His immaturity still fresh, Jenkins would become the poster boy for what not to do in your first collegiate game in the Bulldogs' season opener against Buffalo.
After a timeout, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham called for his nickel team to hit the field, meaning Jenkins was subbing in for defensive end Cornelius Washington. But when Grantham looked up, he noticed "a lot of space" next to his nose guard.
Perplexed, Grantham looked to his side and saw Jenkins standing next to him. Buffalo immediately ran a play before Grantham even had time to say anything to Jenkins.
"Of course they ran the ball right where he was supposed to be." Grantham said laughing.
"He heard about that."
Jenkins said he thought Washington was going back in. With the play coming after a timeout, he figured Washington was fresh.
Jenkins said Grantham lit into him on the sideline and then chewed him out again during the team's next film session. For a while, he couldn't escape Grantham's wrath, but he learned from what he can laugh about now.
"It was a pretty funny experience looking back at it now," Jenkins said. "After that moment, I never took a play like that for granted."
And it paid off. The game that really sticks out to him is the one against Tennessee. Jenkins was only in for five plays, but he took advantage of each one and eventually forced a late, fourth-quarter fumble on his sack of quarterback Tyler Bray that helped secure the Bulldogs' 51-44 win.
Now, Jenkins can't afford to be wide-eyed. He can't afford another sideline blunder. He's replacing one of the greats, and the pressure is on.
But Jenkins not only embraces the pressure, he adds more with his goal of breaking Georgia's single-season sack record of 14.5 that Jones set last season.
However, for someone looking to break Jones' record, Jenkins sure does act a lot like him.
Last year was the first time he actually had someone to mold his game after. He "learned as he went" in high school, but listened to everything Jones said, and stole whatever he could from Jones' game to make himself better.
"Having Jarvis there, I always had someone to correct me on things I did wrong and someone to learn from," Jenkins said.
"That man, he just reacts to everything so much quicker than I do. I'm starting to use my hands like he does, and I'm just going to keep that."
He's working on his hand-eye coordination and has taken Jones' hand scissor swipes that made him so effective at shedding blockers and chasing quarterbacks. To perfect Jones' move, Jenkins spent the spring putting his hands up and swiping them as he moved around corners.
It was pretty awkward -- or "sketch," as Jenkins put it -- but it helped create muscle memory for Jenkins on the field. It came at the cost of almost hitting a girl as she got off the elevator, but in pure Jenkins fashion, he quickly rushed to her aid and opened the door for her.
Jenkins was nice about that, but he won't be nice about creating uncomfortable situations for opponents this fall. He's out of the second-guessing stage and has gone from reacting to blockers to beating them to spots. While Grantham says Jenkins is capable of playing all five linebacker spots and can drop into coverage if needed, Jenkins says he's thrilled to shift most of his concentration to hunting quarterbacks.
Jenkins knows he isn't Jones, but he wants to create his own story in his place. And if he starts receiving the Jones treatment from teams, Jenkins says he'll be ready.
"I hope teams ain't game planning against me, but if they are, I'll have to work even harder to beat them," he said.