But there was one other test for Tech to pass before he would go public with that decision though. He had one more visit to take and that was to defending National Champion University of Florida for their biggest summer recruiting event – Friday Night Lights. That visited provided enough ammunition for A.J. to rethink his plans but in the end, he stuck with his plans and become Georgia Tech's ninth member to their 2008 recruiting class.
The week of July 7th was a big weekend in recruiting for the Yellow Jackets. On Monday, the coaches learned that Sean Renfree, one of the nation's best quarterback prospects, was going to sign with Tech. Then, on Thursday, linebacker B.J. Machen chose GT over some other solid offers. So the recruiting momentum was in full effect by Saturday as many top flight prospects spilled onto the campus for GT's summer camp.
Renfree had flown from Arizona for the day just to help build up the class along with the class's first commit WR Chris Jackson, a big-time local talent. Rumor had it that the momentum had swept up a couple more during the day at the camp and others were getting close too. LB Steven Sylvester was thought to have committed on that day and went public with it the following Monday. A.J. also indicated to the coaching staff that he was likely to join up as well. "First I'm going to go to Florida for Friday Night Lights and then I'm going to make my decision after that day which it's probably going to be Georgia Tech," Jenkins told me in an interview that day.
RB Richard Watson was also at the camp. He liked the group GT was putting together so much that he too announced for the Yellow Jackets, along with Sylvester, the following Monday. Other currently uncommitted players also at that camp who seemed to really enjoy themselves include Jon Lockhart and Brandon Thompson.
With the recruiting process now over for A.J., he put together his thoughts for me on how the whole thing went down and how he's glad to have it all behind him now.
The trip to Florida allowed some doubt to creep into his mind while caught up in the events in Gainesville. "It was kind of hard for me after I went down there because they were showing me everything and the stats and how they use their receivers and I was like kind of second guessing myself," said Jenkins. He went home and, "really thought about it with my parents" then concluded it was Georgia Tech as he remembers he told me in early July it would be.
Though A.J. was pretty set on the Yellow Jackets, the Gators tried to make it hard for him to stick with that plan. What did it finally come down to?
"I just felt like I had to go with my gut feeling," said Jenkins. "I knew that I wanted to go to Georgia Tech way before I went to Friday Night Lights. I just had to sit down myself and just think hard about it. I had to think about the coaches, the recruits, and I had to just take it all in at one time. So, when went down to Florida, they were trying to make it hard on me. They were talking to me and stuff and showing me numbers and everything but I knew where I wanted to go."
The numbers Florida coaches were showing A.J. had to do with their receiving numbers versus the rest of the conference and GT's numbers were thrown into the mix as well. "Florida was dominant in numbers because they have more receivers on the field at one time," said Jenkins. "Georgia Tech, they also had good numbers too."
Georgia Tech's offense will have a different look this coming year though with new Offensive Coordinator John Bond taking the place of Patrick Nix who left for the same position at Miami. The new GT offense could start to resemble the high-powered Florida attack in terms of formation. Bond is known to run one-back sets with many receivers on the field at once. "He told me that he runs a 4-wide and a 3-wide set," said Jenkins. "So, that's really a plus for me...so, I'm really looking forward to seeing the ball a lot."
And A.J. could see the ball early as well. With his talents and hard work, he could see the field early, as a freshman. "That's what I plan on doing, especially at kick off return and receiver," said Jenkins. "I really hope they're going to give me the opportunity. At the same time, I've got to also work hard. In that case, yeah, I will play as a freshman."
Good news travels fast within recruiting classes in these times. A.J. spoke to several other future Yellow Jackets on Monday as word of his decision was reported. "I talked to Chris Jackson, the receiver that committed also, and Richard Watson, the big running back that we just got, and I talked to Steve [Sylvester], the linebacker, me and him talked," said Jenkins. "They were excited for me, you know, we have a good class coming in, so we kind of expect a good year...so we're going to come in and try to turn this thing around immediately."
(L-R) Georgia Tech commits Chris Jackson, A.J. Jenkins and Steven Sylvester along with CB prospect Jon Lockhart
Tech has now accumulated some impressive offensive weapons in this class with Jenkins and Jackson at wideout, Peeples and Watson at running back, Renfree at QB and big offensive lineman Nick McRae. Jenkins was asked what the class still needed to complete a top national class. "I wouldn't mind seeing us get some more defensive players because our best defense is our best offense," said Jenkins. Bottom line though, A.J. just wants to see his new team add talent. "That's all I really expect – try to get the best players," said Jenkins.
A.J. is already planning on meeting up with fellow commits for at least one home game this coming year. The game they all seem pumped up for, according to A.J., is the last home game of the year versus Georgia.
As for how his family has reacted to the decision, he says they are totally behind him. "They've been supportive," said Jenkins. "We went back-and-forth at it for a good week or two," and that was the reason he didn't announce right after the Florida visit. After all of the deliberations, they decided, "This is where I need to be," said Jenkins.
A.J. said it was definitely hard with his Dad being a Florida guy. But after doing his duty of telling his son about the pluses for the Gators, he has now lined up with A.J. as well. "Basically it's my decision so he kind of just supported me and where I decided," said Jenkins. "So he's real supportive and my Mom too. So, I've got their blessings and I just did it and got it out of the way."
Is it a relief to be done, A.J.? "It's great, man," said Jenkins. "I feel like the world is off my shoulders."
A.J. Jenkins and Georgia Tech WR Coach Buddy Geis