VAUGHT: Ventrell Jenkins "motivated to play"

No one appreciates being able to play football at the University of Kentucky more than freshman defensive end Ventrell Jenkins

He was a dominant South Carolina high school lineman in 2003, but he was out of football last season as he tried to gain his academic eligibility to play for a Division I school. "When you have to sit out a whole year away from something you love, you appreciate any opportunity to get back," said Jenkins. "I'm just happy to be here. I was not happy about not getting to play last year. But if it did anything, it motivated me to play even harder this year."

He went to a couple of South Carolina games last year, but when he met his eligibility requirements, he headed for Kentucky to play for coach Rich Brooks.

"I went through the hoops with the NCAA clearninghouse. I wouldn't say I was confident I would get here, but I had a dream and I never gave up on accomplishing it. There were some hard times getting all my paperwork and transcripts to the clearninghouse, but now I'm here and I couldn't be happier," he said.

Defensive line coach Rick Petri feels the same way. He quickly decided to use the 265-pound Jenkins at tackle rather than end. "Jenkins is an inside guy. He's strong and powerful," Petri said. "He has quick feet. He kind of plays like (Ricky) Abren. Ricky does some things pretty natural. We'll just see if he can, too."

Jenkins was hoping to play end, but he has no problem playing inside. "The coaches are paid to teach us and lead us. Whatever helps the team best, that's what I will do," Jenkins said. "Coach Petri coached (NFL standout) Warren Sapp when he was at Miami. That was always a big plus for me coming here. That alone is enough motivation to know coach Petri is a good coach and to want to do what he says."

And how would Jenkins describe himself to those who have not seen him play?

"A hard worker, not a loafer. I am just a very explosive person. I'm ready for any situation thrown at me. I'm a very alert player," he said. "I play hard every play. In certain situations when you need to get meaner and hit hard, especially in big games, I'll do that. On the field you can describe me as mean and nasty because that's how I like to play."

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