UGA-bound Jordan Jenkins was “the big fish who got away” from Nick Saban this February when he raided Georgia for eight of the state’s top recruits while assembling a No. 1-ranked recruiting class for the fourth time out of the last five years.
Alabama was the longtime frontrunner for Jenkins, the AJC Super 11 defensive end from Harris County High School who nearly canceled his UGA official visit on two separate occasions due to speculation over Mark Richt’s future. Jenkins ended up visiting UGA and was won over by Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who posted the signature recruiting victory of his college career by luring Jenkins out the grasp of Alabama. For UGA, it was easily the biggest overall surprise out of this year’s class.
The 6-foot-3, 256-pound Jenkins was UGA’s most prolific 2012 signee on the defensive side of the ball, ranked as the state’s No. 1 prospect by both Scout and 247sports.com. Jenkins, the son of a career military officer, was popular with the recruiting media for his outgoing personality, candid remarks and downright humbleness about being ranked so high.
Jenkins talked to the AJC about recruiting …
If you could give one piece of advice to a high school junior about recruiting, what would it be? “It would be ‘Don’t ever read the message boards about you and focus on that too much because people are going to talk bad about you and people are going to talk good about you.’ Or my advice would be ‘Watch what you say because you can’t take it back in a live interview’ … the interview thing, when I was at camp, [Scout.com’s Chad Simmons] asked me what I thought about UGA? Two seconds after he asked that, I said ‘Well, I don’t like Georgia.’ Then he said ‘You mean Georgia the college? Or Georgia State?’ Then I said ‘Georgia the college,’ as in the University of Georgia, like an idiot. Of course, now I’m at Georgia.”
When you committed to UGA on live TV, you said your family “didn’t exactly feel safe” with you going to Alabama, and that the Bulldogs were a better fit because you didn’t want to go to a place where your mom was “worried” about you all the time. “My mom didn’t know … she was always uncertain how long coach Sal Sunseri and coach Kirby Smart were going to be at Alabama. And then, a few days after [I committed], Coach Sal was gone to Tennessee.”
So you were trying to say … “Pretty much that, and I wanted to go to a place where my mom was comfortable with all the coaches and could talk with all of them on a personal level – the whole coaching staff and not just one or two coaches. She never really got a vibe or real ‘family feel’ for Coach Saban. She really loved Coach Smart but she didn’t really get to know or have that type of relationship with any other Alabama coaches … whereas at Georgia she did.”
What was your impression of Nick Saban? “I was a lot closer to Coach Smart than I was with Coach Saban. When Coach Saban is around a bunch of football players, he’s more open than he is when it’s just you and your family. Coach Saban is a great coach but he’s a quiet guy. It sometimes felt awkward being around him. But I just love Coach Smart.”
What could Alabama have done better to sign you? “Honestly, nothing. They did a great job. I just wasn’t feeling it with them at the end.”
What was the most creative thing a college did to get your attention? “During my official visit to Tennessee, they gave me a whole jumpsuit to wear while I was there. I was dressed like I was a player before the game. If you didn’t know who I was, you’d actually think I was a Tennessee football player. I had the adidas shoes, the adidas socks, the adidas shorts, the adidas shirt, the adidas sweats and the adidas jacket. I wore it in the pre-game meeting, during the game and after the game. I actually had a couple of people come up to me to ask me to autograph a ball or something that other Tennessee players had signed because they thought I was one, too … No, we couldn’t keep any of [the Tennessee gear]. We had to give it all back …Tennessee was the best official visit I had. I went out to a 5-star restaurant and I ate the most expensive thing on the menu. It was a great time over there.”
What was the most creative thing UGA did? “They turned on the stadium lights and put on the inspirational video [on the scoreboard] when I went on my official visit. That’s one of the things that really opened my eyes because I was like ‘Wow, I can really play here at Georgia and enjoy it’ after watching that. It began to change my whole opinion of Georgia.”
What was the funniest thing a college coach said to you? “This wasn’t meant to be as insulting as it sounds. When coach Gene Chizik was comparing Auburn and Alabama, he put up a slide that showed they had more wins, more this and that … then he started talking about Florida and how Will Muschamp follows in his shoes. I started busting out laughing. He said ‘When I was at Auburn the first time [as an assistant] and after I left, Muschamp came here. Then I was at Texas and after I left, Muschamp came there.’ He went on and on. He said ‘Muschamp just follows in my footsteps’ and it was hilarious the way he said it.”
Which coach not from UGA was the nicest? “Coach Derek Dooley and Coach Gene Chizik. Coach Dooley was incredibly nice. My mom really loved Coach Dooley. I hated to tell him that I wasn’t coming to Tennessee.”
If you were in charge of the NCAA, what rule would you change about recruiting? “That’s a very good question. My dad and I had a conversation after this after the fiasco with texting. [Note: UGA coach Mark Richt committed an NCAA secondary violation after inadvertently responding twice to a text message sent to him by Jordan’s father asking about camp dates]. I’d open the communication a bit more that the college coaches can do with the recruits. And I’d change some visitations so that they can come see the players more.”
Did you have any second thoughts before you committed publicly to UGA? “I was about 90-percent Georgia and 10-percent Alabama that day. I really didn’t know exactly where I was going until a maybe an hour and half before the [announcement]. The whole ride up there [to the TV studio], I was thinking ‘If I go to this school, is this really where I want to go?’ After I committed, everything was better. And I’m glad I picked Georgia in the end.”
You committed to UGA on January 9, and had three weeks until signing day. Were you ever tempted to change your mind? “Oh no … no, no, no. After I gave my word and committed somewhere, that was it. I was 100-percent Georgia after that. I had no thoughts on switching.”
How do you feel about your chances of playing this season? “Coach Grantham said I have the possibility of making a little bitty impact. That’s what he kept saying during all the recruiting visits. He said I’m behind Jarvis Jones, and I might get in there with Jarvis at the same time by the end of the year for some plays. I don’t know. I guess it depends on how all us turn out when we get to college. You’ve got to work hard and earn it.”
With UGA having players transfer or suspended during the offseason, do the coaches now have higher expectations for you contributing this season? “My dad and I have been talking about that. With Bacarri and Ogletree out for a few games, they might have to move some guys around on defense. I might have a chance to get in there real early. It’s making me want to learn my playbook more. I actually have my playbook right beside me now. I’ve got about 75 percent of it down. I’m learning it as quickly as I can. I will be ready when I report to Georgia on June 4.”
HOW SOON UNTIL FOOTBALL SEASON?
READING MATERIAL FOR MASTERS COMMERCIAL BREAKS
INSTANT AJC RECRUITING CLASSICS …
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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