GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins is turning pro after an injury-plagued season that ended with foot surgery.
Jenkins missed four games, including the Sugar Bowl, and might not be 100 percent for the NFL combine in February.
Nonetheless, the junior from Olney, Md., announced his decision to enter the NFL on Monday. He joins safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and tight end Jordan Reed as juniors leaving Florida early.
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“Jelani informed me that he wishes to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “We wish him the best of luck and encourage him to return to Florida and complete his degree.”
Defensive end Dominique Easley, though, announced Monday night that he is returning for his senior season. Easley had a team-high four sacks this season.
“I’m comin back for my senior season,” Easley posted on his Twitter page. “we gotta get where we need to get.”
Easley gave Muschamp his first bit of good news in weeks. The coach lost four juniors to the NFL and had several other players — including quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back Chris Johnson, safety De’Ante Saunders and offensive tackle Matt Patchan — transfer in recent weeks.
Jenkins’ decision was somewhat surprising.
He missed two games because of a broken bone on his right thumb and another because of a hamstring injury. His latest injury came in November, when he broke a bone in his right foot against Florida State, had surgery and missed the bowl game.
He finished the season with 29 tackles, two sacks and an interception. His biggest play came in November, when he returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with 2 seconds remaining to beat Louisiana-Lafayette.
Jenkins played in 36 games at Florida, including 31 starts, and totaled 182 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, six sacks and three interceptions.