Jordan Jenkins, the 5-star defensive end from Harris County High School, liked his official visit to UGA so much that the Bulldogs may be sneaking up to join his longtime frontrunners, Alabama and Florida.
It was some surprising good news for UGA, which had been given up as all but dead in the fierce recruiting battle for the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder who is considered one of the nation’s top overall athletes. Jenkins nearly canceled his official visit to UGA on two separate occasions before finally making the recruiting trip this past weekend.
UGA’s chances for the AJC Super 11 selection who is ranked as the state’s No.1 prospect by at least one recruiting publication have dramatically improved.
“Jordan told somebody that Alabama and Florida are on top, and that UGA is right there with them,” his father, Ronald Jenkins, told the AJC. “But it’s really too close to call right now, I will tell you that. UGA really did impress us, and we didn’t expect them to impress us like they did. We almost canceled this trip a couple of times, and we’re glad we didn’t. I know Jordan was glad he went over there. It was a real good visit and opened up our eyes about Georgia.”
After Jenkins and his family arrived in Athens on Friday, they met with UGA coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. They explained that Jenkins is being recruited to play outside linebacker in similar roles as Jarvis Jones, and that UGA’s logjam at the position isn’t really what it appears to be.
“Coach Grantham explained how he planned to utilize Jordan, as well as some things on the depth chart that would open up some early playing time for him as long as he keeps working hard,” Jenkins said. “There are some guys in the mix at outside linebacker who are outgrowing the position. They are going to be moved more toward the line in the near future.”
The opportunity to compete for early playing time is important to Jenkins, as is coaching stability. The elite recruit and his family like Richt, but heard so much speculation about his coaching future that they briefly considered canceling the official visit. UGA’s eight-game winning streak, along with a heart-felt conversation with Richt over the weekend, helped calm the concerns.
“We had a long talk with Coach Richt, and it was good,” Jenkins said. “We’ve talked with him before, and we know he’s a good man. Another thing that was holding us up with UGA is that we wanted to see how the season went because we knew there was speculation that if things didn’t go right that Coach Richt might not be there at the end. We feel confident now, based on how their season has gone, that Coach Richt is going to be back. That’s a thought on the minds of a lot of recruits when you start talking about Georgia. Is Coach Richt going to be there so you can play for him? We feel like he will be.”
UGA freshman linebacker Sterling Bailey served as Jenkins’ recruiting host on Friday, taking him to the basketball team’s season-opener, while UGA freshman linebacker Ray Drew took over the entertaining duties on Saturday night. “They couldn’t have picked two better guys,” Jenkins’ father said.
The highlight of the weekend for Jenkins was meeting with Grantham to review pre-game strategy, listen to the Georgia assistant explain it to his players, then watch them perform it to near-perfection in the convincing 45-7 win over Auburn.
“Jordan enjoyed watching Georgia’s defense play,” Jenkins said. “There were some things that Coach Grantham discussed with his players prior to the game, some things to look for and how they wanted to execute. And everything Coach Grantham broke down and talked about, they executed it in the game. It was impressive to see how he was teaching and passing down the knowledge to his players in a way they could grasp and use on the field immediately. We all know, coming from a guy with 11 years of NFL coaching experience, the guy knows what he’s talking about. We’ve always been high on Coach Grantham. Jordan has always liked him. He has always been a big plus for UGA.”
With Jenkins being such a high-profile recruit, he was recognized almost immediately at the game by other prospects and Georgia fans. “People had a lot of good things to say to Jordan in Athens, such as ‘Hey, come to UGA’ and ‘We need you,’” Jenkins said. “When they might’ve been getting up to walk to the restroom or to get something to eat, some Georgia fans would see him and make comments. His hostess was smiling every time that happened. It’s a special feeling for a kid to know that there are people outside of the coaches that want him to be a part of that team and university.”
UGA’s only 5-star commitment so far this year, offensive lineman John Theus of Jacksonville, also made a recruiting pitch on behalf of the Bulldogs. The two had an epic head-to-head battle at UGA’s Dawg Night prospect camp last summer. “He had a good conversation with John Theus, and Quayvon Hicks came up to him pushing UGA,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “Those two are definitely good recruiters for the program.”
Jenkins and his family met with UGA coaches again on Sunday before leaving, with Richt and the elder Jenkins talking about the pair of secondary NCAA violations involving the two from last May. Here’s what happened:
The elder Jenkins texted Richt to ask about summer camp dates, and since Richt did not have the number programmed in his phone, the text was identified as “unknown.” Richt intended to forward the text to a recruiting assistant for identification but accidentally replied to Mr. Jenkins, which was a violation NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199. Richt immediately reported the inadvertent violation to UGA’s compliance director, who subsequently asked if Mr. Jenkins had replied. In an attempt to forward Mr. Jenkins’ response to UGA’s compliance director, Richt accidently replied to Mr. Jenkins again, hence he had to report another text violation.
“We laughed about the text message thing; that comes up every time we see each other,” Jenkins said. “When we’re leaving, Coach Richt says ‘You’ve got my telephone number? Oh, that’s right, you texted me.’ We laughed about it. He remembered I had his telephone number, based on the past texting issues that occurred. That was so ridiculous for it to be all over the Internet like it was.”
Back to recruiting: What’s next for Jenkins? He has already made official visits to UGA, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn. His final recruiting trip will be to Florida on Nov. 25. He will announce at the Under Armour All-America game on Jan. 5.
“Realistically, like I’ve told Jordan, until we’re done with the visits, we don’t know where anyone is at [as far as having a favorite school],” Jenkins said. “We want to finish the visits and then sit down as a family to talk about it. Then we’ll start looking at academics, the depth charts, the relationships with coaches and players, and which place is the best overall fit. It’s going to be a tough decision.”
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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