Big John Jenkins became the last remaining piece of Georgia’s “Dream Team.” The junior college All-American nose guard chose the Bulldogs over Florida in a signing ceremony on Saturday at Maloney High school in Meriden, Conn.
Jenkins (6-foot-4, 340-pounds) starred at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College the last two seasons. He said there were lots of reasons he chose Georgia over a slew of SEC offers, including the defensive scheme, immediate playing time and a close personal relationship with coach Mark Richt. But with the help of new friend and fellow recruit Ray Drew, he bought into the vision the Bulldogs’ were trying to sell with their Dream Team theme.
“Drew, I heard your calling, bud,” said Jenkins, acknowledging the message Drew delivered to him a week ago.
“The thing about the Dream Team, OK, everybody has the special thing they want to sell and everything like that,” Jenkins said in a telephone interview after his ceremony. “But what made me want to be a part of it was it was a bunch of really good players who work hard. I watched Ray Drew’s film. I watched Isaiah Crowell’s film. I did my homework. And not only are those guys great players, but they’re workers. Dream Team or not, I wanted to be a part of a bunch of guys who want to work to win.”
Jenkins was ranked the No. 6 junior college player in America, according to Rivals.com. He becomes the 26th and final member of Georgia’s 2011 recruiting class, which was already ranked No. 5 nationally by Rivals and No. 6 by Scout. Chad Simmons, South recruiting manager for Scout.com and FoxSports.com, said he expects UGA to rise to No. 4 on their list with Jenkins’ addition.
The Bulldogs are hopeful Jenkins can have the same kind of impact for them that fellow noseguards Nick Fairley had at Auburn and Terrance Cody at Alabama. Both players were also junior college transfers (Cody also attended Mississippi Gulf Coast) before they came in and helped lead SEC schools to BCS national championships.
Jenkins said he knows he’s going to be counted on, but that he doesn’t feel pressure about it.
“Like I told every coach that was interested in me, I’m the type of player that’s going to work,” he said. “That’s what got me here. I’m not saying I’m going to come in and dominate. But I’m going to work to become dominant. And when it’s time to open that Georgia Dome, I’m going to be ready.”
Jenkins eliminated Auburn and Miami from his list of finalists in the final week. He was recruited by almost every SEC team, including Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Gators came on late and very strong for Jenkins, who made his final official visit to Gainesville just last weekend. Jenkins was impressed with their recruitment of the Northeast and of Connecticut in particular. Florida has two signees in this class from Jenkins’ home state and a couple of others already on the roster.
But nobody has recruited Jenkins harder the last two months than Georgia, who identified the 6-foot-4, 340-pound athlete as the “missing link” to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s new 3-4 defense. Grantham and defensive line Rodney Garner have vigorously pursued Jenkins, who at one time was committed to Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs were the only coaching staff to make two in-home visits with Jenkins in his family at home.
“Man, I just felt a belief in me,” Jenkins said. “I felt they really needed me. Everybody else said they needed me, too, but at Georgia it just felt right. It felt like home.”
Jenkins was best known as a basketball player and for being a 300-pound fullback when he left Meriden two years ago to come South and reset his football career. Academic issues prevented him from signing with a major college out of Maloney High School.
“To be honest, I never thought I’d be in this situation,” Jenkins said. “When I graduated from high school, I had a lot of doubters. I went to Mississippi to get away and to become a better person. To have the final choices of Georgia and Florida I can see now that I did a good job. It was a blessing to have the options I had.”
Jenkins planned to drop by to visit a few friends in Meriden on Saturday afternoon, then go out for a nice dinner to celebrate Saturday night. Sunday he’ll travel back to Mississippi and return to MGCCC. After completing his final semester of coursework there he plans to enroll at Georgia in June.
“Man, it feels so good to be part of the Dawg Nation,” Jenkins said. “That was the catch for me. Now I can finally put some Georgia pictures up on my Facebook page. Go Dogs.”
Here’s video of the main portion actual announcement courtesy of YouTube.com:
By Chip Towers, The College Recruiting Blog