Jelks taking his time

Jalen Jelks may have had a fairly quiet junior season, but in the last few months the Phoenix Desert Vista lineman has become one of fastest rising prospects on the West Coast. His impressive offer sheet and continuous pursuit by several BCS conference programs, have Jelks take a step back as he wants to explore all of his options.

"At this point I'm just trying to keep moving and go through the recruiting process," Jelks said. "I keep trying to crack down on books, I know over the summer I'm hitting a lot of it. Right now I probably could narrow down my decision but I'm going to wait, because I don't know what schools are going to keep coming. I don't want to have to worry about de-committing and all that other stuff, if somebody else comes. I'm not really worried about that right now.

"I'm just worried about how this year goes. At this point, I just want to get a lot bigger and faster. So we will see how this year goes and who else is offering and then I'll narrow it down."

Jalen Jelks noted that in the last two years he went through a big growth spurt, going from 6-3 to 6-7, and gaining 50 lbs. to his current weight of 250. The twelve schools who have extended offers are recruiting him for both sides of the line, and the Sun Devils do like him on defense.

"I've talked to Coach Randolph a lot," Jelks said. "Like a lot of the coaches recruiting me two or three years ago, he didn't really seem to have too much interest, because they didn't think I was going to start up and grow like I was going to. When seeing me again he was like ‘wow big difference'. From everything else I've seen, Coach Graham has definitely changed things a lot in the little time he's been there, which is definitely something I'm looking at.

"I think they are looking at me more for defensive end, but I'm ready to play defensive tackle. I know they use a lot of big inside tackles. I'm game for either one."

The Sun Devils' scheme is one aspect that has made a big impression of the Phoenix lineman.

"We went there for junior day a couple months ago," Jelks recalled, "and just from watching their practice it's high intensity. Their d-line gets after it. Even their new recruits coming in, even if they're not a top prospect, they show that unity I'm looking for. They really have team unity, I mean everyone has their differences but once they get on that line it's one team."

In 2012 the lineman collected 39 tackles and four sacks. In the weight room he recorded marks of 480 lbs. squatting, 315 on the power clean and 330 benching. He also reported a 40-time of 4.8 seconds

"I'm tall right now and I'm probably going to get even taller," Jelks stated. "With the long arms and pass blocks and everything, I just need to work on some moves over summer and find out what fits best for the season and we will see what I get from there. My first couple steps are what I need to improve, and I've been working out with Derek Kennard. I've been working out with him for a couple months and he's really helped with my first couple steps and my get off speed, my agility and drive.

"I think speed, for being as big as I am, is definitely the key that I need. Me being tall and lanky with long arms helps me a lot; I mean I can hit them before they hit me. I just need to see how this year goes so I can improve before I get there."

Arizona State, Arizona, Boise State, California, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin have all offered Jelks, who said that coaches from all those schools observed his recent spring practices.

"I was trying to focus on my team and I was," Jelks said, "but it was kind of hard having coaches come out there to see me. I was trying to have fun with it but at the same time get my team ready and get myself ready. We have games coming up in a couple months so we have to prepare for that. With everybody there, there were definitely some standouts like ‘wow coach is here right now' then there were some like ‘I've never seen him before so I have to talk to him for sure'.

"There was a lot more (coaches) than I expected to come out and a lot of the times if they did come out for me and they would find one of my teammates and they were like ‘oh wow this kid has potential' and they would talk to them too. It was great for my team."

Being recruited by roughly a dozen schools, the lineman naturally experiences various recruiting styles and approaches, and he has noticed some of the nuances that differentiate the Sun Devils from the rest.

"They don't just want that hardcore football player but they also want the academic side," Jelks explained. "They definitely want more business before pleasure. They want that person who will hit the books first before going out. I know Jaxon Hood; he played for Hamilton, a rival school we play. We had a little sit down talk with the players and the recruits and everything. From what he said he was saying he's really grown up a lot, which is what I want - to grow up and mature on my own.

"We talked about how they changed him and how he used to be one of those kids that does go out and party and all that other stuff. He said he's really changed a lot and how he is that kid that will hit the books first instead of trying to go out on the scene."

While Jelks isn't planning on engaging in too many recruiting activities over the summer, he does plan to somewhat narrow down his list of schools prior the start of his senior campaign and continue to dwindle down that group as the season progresses. Currently, he doesn't plan to take any official visits until after the season end and would like to take trips to all the schools he has interest in.

"I'm going to pretty much go everywhere," Jelks said. "I'm not going to shoot down a school without knowing the coaches' ability or seeing what the school is all about. I'm going to give all of them a chance, I mean I have to. I can't just narrow it down because of a name. A school's name doesn't mean anything. I want to go to all of them if I can."

Proximity to home is one factor the lineman remarked that won't weight heavy on his decision, but another factor will certainly play a role.

"Mostly right now academics," Jelks said. "If I don't make it for football I'll always have that, I can get a good education in. I want to go to a renowned name school I can do well at and after I can get a stronger job with."

Becca Winn contributed to this article


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