TAMPA - What was the most important thing John Jenkins had to learn to become an SEC nose tackle?
He had to stop being so nice.
That’s according to position coach, Rodney Garner, who recruited Jenkins out of junior college. The first hurdle for the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Jenkins was conditioning, as he failed to finish his first practice at Georgia. Garner said it’s been “night and day” with Jenkins’ conditioning since that first day.
But the real step, according to Garner, was in his demeanor. Jenkins has an affable manner, as all media and teammates know, and he needed to become a bit more nasty on the field.
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“It was never a question of John’s athleticism or his talent level. It was getting him to keep that competitiveness switch on,” Garner said. “He’s such a great guy, and just getting him to understand what it takes between the lines, to be that jerk. Once you step between those lines and have that killer beast mentality. I wanna beast you up.”
Garner believes that Jenkins was so much bigger and better than his opponents in high school and college that having a nasty edge didn’t matter.
“But to be the dominating player that you want at this level, when Big John goes between these lines” – Garner pointed to the field – “you want Big John. You can be Huggy Bear outside, you can be whover you want outside, but when you walk between there, you’ve gotta be that (nasty) guy, every day.”
Jenkins began the year as a backup to sophomore Kwame Geathers, but finished strong, starting the final six games. Jenkins enters the Outback Bowl with three sacks, six tackles-for-loss, a fumble recovery and fumble forced.
That has led Jenkins to consider his pro options. Jenkins has given some differing answers to the NFL draft question lately, but on Friday morning he gave a fairly definitive one.
Asked an open-ended question on what his thinking was, and he answered: “For the most part, I feel like I need to stay.”
Jenkins, a junior, was one of many Georgia players who submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory board for an evaluation. He said he hasn’t heard back, but in talking about next year’s defense – specifically the front seven – he sounded like someone excited to return.
“Abry Jones, me, J.J., hopefully Cornelius, Garrison Smith man, we all come back together, I believe we’ll all be a good punch,” he said.
By “hopefully” he was referring to outside linebacker Cornelius Washington, who has been open that he’s considering the draft. J.J. is Jarvis Jones, the All-American outside linebacker, who has ruled out leaving early.
Should everyone return, it appears the front seven for the Outback Bowl on Monday will be the same group that opens next year. The only senior in the group, defensive end DeAngelo Tyson, has an ankle injury and indications are he will not play in the game.