One of the top defensive ends in the nation, the Florida State Seminole is on the watch lists for Lott Impact Trophy, Bednarik Award, and Nagurski Award, all of which go to the nation’s premier defensive player. So if he’s worthy of those eyes, he’s a worthy peak through the lenses of all ACC fans, too.
“Being mentioned for those are an honor, but it couldn’t happen without my teammates,” Jenkins said Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff at the Grandover Resort. “We make each other better.”
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Jenkins is right, the Seminoles are loaded on defense and just might be the top unit in the nation, hence they elevate one another’s games. But their best player is Jenkins, who blends just enough confidence and humbleness to make himself quite likeable.
He’s quick to praise teammates on both sides of the ball. Easily engages in telling stories about how good the FSU football team is in basketball, even regaling the tale of when freshman defensive end Chris Casher took over a game that involved some players from the reigning ACC champion men’s hoopsters, calling him Kobe Bryant-like.
But don’t misjudge Jenkins’ broad smile, comfortable presence, and positive nature. That stuff is left in the locker room on game days. If the words of ACC quarterbacks are any indication, Jenkins is a monster on the field.
“He’s just so big and physical and fast,” Wake Forest’s Tanner Price said before a nervous light laugh accompanied the rest of his remark. “When he’s coming at you, you can feel him coming at you. So it’s a good idea to get out of the way or try and get rid of the football.”
Jenkins registered 12 tackles for a loss of yardage last year, eight of which were sacks. He finished the season playing his best football, finally fully tapping into a talented package that has NFL scouts drooling.
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound senior could have gone to the NFL but returned to FSU because he wants to help the Noles win a national championship. To do that, he plans on wreaking more havoc than ever on opposing teams. With rushing the passer his greatest attribute, Jenkins plans on dragging signal callers to the ground well into the “double digits” this fall.
Jenkins’ favorite part of getting to a quarterback from when the ball is snapped to when he’s getting off the ground after another sack isn’t the hit but that brief split-second when he goes from engagement with a lineman to sudden daylight.
“When you have that open sight to get to the quarterback: Are you going to hit him or are you going to whiff,” he said. “Sometimes I get a little nervous when I get a free path because it’s like, ‘Ám I going to make the tackle or not?'”
N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon can attest to Jenkins’ finely-tuned skill.
“He’s a speed rusher, he’s a great pass rusher is what he is,” Glennon said. I feel like on third down he turns it up a notch and he was definitely a guy that going into the game we knew how talented he was and he proved it.”
A difference in Jenkins’ game this season is that he’ll wear jersey No. 4 instead of 49. While he thinks it may make him appear even quicker and faster, he just wanted to have some fun with it. And besides, it quenched some sort of thirst he’s had for a while.
“Try something new,” he said. “That’s a dream as a D-lineman is to have a low number. That’s one of the reasons.”
More fun, however, will be getting to opposing quarterbacks. And with the presence of native German Bjoern Werner on the other end, Jenkins says both players’ numbers will rise this season.
“It helps out a lot,” he said, “You can’t just double team me or Bjoern, you have to worry about both of us and the whole d-line.”
The concern begins with Jenkins, though. As capable as the Seminoles’ defense is, Jenkins is its heart and soul.