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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Jenkins sees pro day positives

By Michael DiRocco
GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jelani Jenkins wasn't concerned about the kind of times he would record in drills during Florida's annual pro day.

It was more important to the 6-foot, 243-pound outside linebacker that he was out there on Florida Field in front of scouts from every NFL team on Wednesday morning. It was a chance to prove that he has fully recovered from a broken bone in his right foot that he suffered in UF's regular-season finale against Florida State.

"A lot of people were concerned about, 'How's he going to come back after the injury?' " Jenkins said after his workout. "But I think that's one of the things I proved today. Everything we did out here was still football-related, still the same thing I did when I was playing at Florida."

Jelani Jenkins
Jelani Jenkins' aim at his pro day was to show he was fully recovered from a foot injury.
Jenkins participated in every pro-day drill except the bench press (he did 27 reps of 225 pounds at the scouting combine in Indianapolis), but said he didn't remember his times. An unofficial time of 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash was mentioned by an NFL scout in attendance, which is a little high for a player whose strength is his speed and coverage ability.

However, it came on a rainy day and a wet field, and it was one of the few times Jenkins really cut loose since his injury on Nov. 24, 2012. He said he held off running at the combine last month because he was still rehabbing and hadn't prepared for the drills.

"It took me a while to start being able to go run and do everything with everybody else that was working out with me," Jenkins said. "I just tried to take it slow, get a good two or three weeks of just straight treatment and then start from fundamentals. It kind of pushed me back a little bit, but I was able to do everything today."

Jenkins' decision to bypass his redshirt senior season was a bit of a surprise considering he missed two games with a broken thumb, another with the broken foot and was also hampered by a hamstring injury he suffered in his first game back from the broken thumb. He had 29 tackles, two sacks, an interception and two quarterback hurries.

Jenkins admitted his injuries played a role in his decision to leave.

"That was definitely something I thought about," Jenkins said. "It definitely would have been a lot worse if I came back and got hurt again and it pushed me down even more. That was definitely a role in it, but at the same time a lot of other things were a factor, too."

Jenkins' injury-plagued season isn't hurting him too much with NFL teams, though. Teams are evaluating him from his 2011 tape, when he had 75 tackles, two sacks, six pass breakups and one forced fumble.

"You can rely on [the 2011] tape," Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said. "As a matter of fact, coming from Atlanta, we relied heavily on [2011] tape. Before they went into their [2012] season we had preliminary grades on those guys, so I was very well aware of him through my time in Atlanta and my spring work in Atlanta year ago."

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., doesn't have Jenkins listed among his top five outside linebackers, and he's the No. 10 outside linebacker in the ESPN Scouts Inc. rankings. UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who also coaches linebackers, said the team that drafts Jenkins will get a player who can make an instant impact.

"He's a great linebacker in terms of he can learn a game in the meeting room and carry it right over to the field," Durkin said. "I don't know a linebacker that runs better than Jelani. I think he brings quite a bit to these teams, and I think they are seeing it right now."