Toughing up his game

CLEMSON — It did not take long for Clemson defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins to see the difference in Kevin Steele's style of coaching.

Just three days into spring practice, the rising junior has already noticed how Steele does things differently than former defensive coordinator Vic Koenning.

Steele, says Jenkins, is more up tempo and more in your face and has that get after it kind of mentality.

"Coach Steele is coming from Alabama and he wants us to be physical," Jenkins said. "The SEC is a more physical conference and that is something we have to do.

"We have to be physical and the way he is, he is high tempo. We have to stay more focused on being physical, especially on the defensive line."

The Clemson coaches are counting on Jenkins to be one of those physical guys up front. Though he tied for the team lead in sacks and tackles for a loss (10) last season, the knock on Jenkins, in a strange way, is his athleticism.

"He's got to be more physical," Swinney said. "A lot of time he wants to be an athlete inside, and inside is a place – there's times where you can be an athlete and a pass-rush guy – but most of the time that's where you've got to come off the ball and create a new line of scrimmage.

"It is physical. You take on double teams and you keep people off the backers. That's an area he has to get better at day in and day out."

Jenkins is trying to get better by shedding off the fat and replacing it with muscle. So far he has lost 14 pounds and weighs 297 pounds – the smallest he has been since his sophomore year at nearby Daniel High School.

So far the new-and-improved Jenkins is impressing people.

During three-on-three drills the Wednesday before they left for spring break, the 6-foot-4 defensive tackle plowed over the guard and power drived freshman running back Andre Ellington to the ground.


"Last year, (spring practice) was kind of like a funeral," Jenkins said. "People were just out here really to be out here. Now with Coach Swinney there's more enthusiasm. There is more wanting to get better and there is more wanting to learn." (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)

He and his bruise brother teammate, Brandon Thompson, welcomed Ellington to first-team drills like that several more times during the 10 to 15 minute exercise.

"Andre is going to be a good player, but I have to stay low and use my hands," Jenkins said. "The defensive line is going to be the key to this defense this year. I have to be a leader and be more productive."

Swinney agrees.

"He is a tremendous, tremendous big athlete, but we need him to be a very good football player every day," the Clemson coach said. "He is very capable of doing that."

So far Jenkins feels spring drills are helping prepare the Tigers for a tough schedule that will see them play five ACC opponents and a tough non-conference matchup with last year's No. 7 team in the country in TCU to start the season.

"Last year, (spring practice) was kind of like a funeral," Jenkins said. "People were just out here really to be out here. Now with Coach Swinney there's more enthusiasm. There is more wanting to get better and there is more wanting to learn. The intensity is higher. Coach Swinney is bringing just a different vibe to the team.

"People were just out here going through the same routine (last year). ‘Oh, it is spring practice and let's get this day over with.' Coach Swinney wants us to have more fun and be enthusiastic."

And more importantly, he wants them to be physical.

"That is something we have to do. We have to stay physical for the whole year," Jenkins said. "Our offensive line and defensive line is going to be tough. We just have to overcome the adversity and just play ball."

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