Jenkins More Comfortable This Year

Jelani Jenkins was thrown into the fire in 2010. Starting as a redshirt freshman without much proven depth behind him, Jenkins had to produce or the defense was in trouble. He didn't struggle much, but it's usually hard for first-year starters to get accustomed to playing. Now heading into his second season as a starter, the redshirt sophomore feels more confident.

The confidence on the field is important, but it has translated to the film room, too. Jenkins is now more confident being vocal while talking about schemes as the defense is working to memorize Will Muschamp's defense.

"Last year helped me because it gave me a lot of experience," Jelani Jenkins said. "I was probably one of the youngest guys on the defense with older guys counting on me to make the calls. Now there are guys younger than me, so I'm used to being in a leadership role."

Playing linebacker with seniors like Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones, there were times last year where Jenkins sat back and listened to them. That's not surprising from a younger player. The two seniors played a key role in each of their four seasons at Florida, so they knew the schemes and how to lead.

While Jenkins took direction from them last season, he also learned more about being a leader. That has translated into this season, starting with the spring. He made an instant impact vocally to help some of the younger players adjust.

"I'm a lot better at being a leader now," Jenkins said. "I've had a lot of experience this offseason in the system, and I think this system puts me in a better spot than last year. I think I'll play a lot faster."

Jenkins and Jon Bostic have locked down two of the starting linebacker positions. Jenkins has seen most of his work from the WILL linebacker spot, but the SAM is still wide open.

Jenkins singled out Lerentee McCray and Ronald Powell for their play at the SAM and BUCK positions in the defense. He also said that Darrin Kitchens and Gideon Ajagbe are "coming along."

The key to the defense this fall will be the pass rush. If the Gators can get pressure on the quarterback without sending extra rushers on blitzes, the defense can have plenty of success. However, that pass rush has to become more consistent.

"I know we've put in a lot of plays," Jenkins said. "Depending on how good we perfect it and know the plays, that's how it looks like practice. I don't really see us as being inconsistent. It's just that we're learning it every day."

The installation process has also slowed down at practice. Jenkins estimated that there are now two plays a day being put in, compared to the six or seven a day that were being installed at the beginning of camp.

Jenkins has seen the defense progress and now feels like they are comfortable running the plays. The base defenses were a problem at the beginning of camp, but the constant repetition has the defense understanding the base. Now the struggles sometimes creep up with specific plays.

"It's more with the base calls that we run a lot more (that the defense understands)," Jenkins said. "With the new things we learn every day, we have to rep it to get it better. With those base calls though, we're getting more instinctive and able to play fast."

While the defense is trying to get better pass rush, they also know that the first priority is to stop the run. Almost every defense player that has spoken to the media since the start of fall camp has pointed out how helpful it is have dynamic running backs like Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey in the backfield.

"We can't bring each other down in practice too much, so just trying to get two hands on him is hard," Jenkins said. "It's really going to prepare us against all the great backs in the SEC. I'm just glad I can prepare against them."

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