At this point, it appears that freshman outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins is full of surprises.
He surprised many in January when he chose Georgia over long time favorites Florida and Alabama, and started his first fall camp with a bang by drawing almost daily praise from head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Now it seems as if the Hamilton native is surprising himself.
The only criticism of Jenkins early in fall camp was his ability to play the run, and now the slightest, yet unforeseen, adjustment has allowed the talented freshman to become more of a complete player.
"Yeah I think definitely that I'm getting better at that. I've just started playing low and actually using my long arms against Artie (Arthur Lynch) and some of the other tight ends," said Jenkins. "I think just by using my hands, when I started using my hands and fighting against the blocks and keeping outside contain is sort of when everything just turned for the better. I've started to make more plays and started to actually get unblocked sometimes."
The former four-star standout has made a habit of opening eyes in pre season practice, but little, if any, of his experience thus far at UGA has been much of a shock to him at this point.
"It was a little bit (tough) at first but I got a taste of that in the Under Amour game, and those practices just sort of prepared me for what college was going to be like," he said. "Everybody is good and it taught me that you can't slack off or you can't stop for one second just because you think you are blocked because you might end up making a play if you keep going or keep fighting against it. You just can't stop and you have to work on all parts of the game and the fundamentals. You have to be on top of everything."
While Jenkins feels he has caught on to the Georgia defense quickly, despite the massive playbook, the learning curve for all true freshmen is quite steep to stay the least.
The Harris County product attributes his successful preparation thus far to being able to handle criticism and learning from his mistakes.
"Even when you mess up you have to be ready to take what the coaches yell at you because they are going to yell regardless. You are 18. You are a man. You have to be prepared to take the consequences if you do something wrong, and I think guys just have to learn to not react negatively toward that," said Jenkins. "Just sit down and think on what you did and try to come back the next day or the next play and come back that much harder."
While drawing praise during pre season camp has been the norm for Jenkins, he is still not assuming that he will have to make plays on Saturdays this fall.
He knows that can only be earned.
"I hope so," said Jenkins when asked if he will play a big role in Georgia's defense this season. "I'm trying to prove that I can be that person, and hopefully Coach Grantham thinks that too."
A huge key to Jenkins being a key member of Georgia's defense hinges on his knowledge of the defense, but even as a freshman, Jenkins isn't focusing on doing just one thing to get on the field or learning one position.
Versatility is key.
"I think I'll just be focusing on the one (position) right now, but we might do a mix where all of us end up swapping around. I'm not too sure how things are going to run on that. In the last year we did 11 different starting formations so me, Josh, anyone can be on either side," he said. "I have got to start learning like everything just in case and in any situation. If one person gets hurt, you have to learn each side. I have to start playing lower and finishing each play. It is getting to that point where everything is starting to slow down, and I know what is going on and I can control and counteract certain situations."
After fielding a top tier SEC defense in 2011, the Georgia returns nine starters and is looking to improve in 2012.
Jenkins believes that the Bulldogs have the ability to do just that due to the level of talent and comprehensive preparation.
"I definitely think our defense is a defense that is going to be recognized this year. I think that we all work hard. We've just got great athletes and guys that know how to make plays and can make them," he said. "We don't like to be like a robotic defense where we can't go out and play something that we haven't seen before. Coach Grantham likes to prepare us for each and every situation, and we are just trained to react and try and make the best of anything that is put against us and any block we get. We just work any and every possible outcome."
As for the challenges that have faced Jenkins thus far in fall practice, there is one offensive player who the freshman believes has been particularly impressive and is a puzzle that he has yet to solve.
"Definitely K.G. (Kenarious Gates). He is one of the linemen I hate pass rushing against. When I rush against him, I just have to get better at rushing off the right side, but I think it is just because I'm rushing against him," he said. "He has such a great pass set, and it is hard. He waits to strike until the last second, and I just have to learn to play better against linemen with quick hands. He's just a spectacular lineman."
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