But when Rufus Warren had to gimp off the field, there was second-fall freshman Jenkins thrust into a different sort of late-game duty at left tackle. And there on the other side of the line was Myles Garrett.
Not exactly ideal, huh?
“Yeah, they’ve got one of the best d-ends in the country,” Jenkins recalled. “I’m coming in as a freshman playing. So I was like I’m going to go out there and dominate, try to block him, get my name put out. I was trying to be confident in what I was doing.”
Confident? Crazy might be how most would describe that attitude. Yet give Jenkins credit for applying a positive mindset to an un-promising situation. And even succeeding a little.
“I’d probably grade myself like a 75% at doing my job.”
Fast forward to today. 75% is no longer good enough to get Jenkins’ job done, or rather to win a starting job. Jenkins is raising his game and expectations this training camp as he competes for an offensive tackle spot on the first team.
“Myself, I just come out every day and try to do my best to win the job,” Jenkins said. “You just have to be consistent in what you’re doing. Just learn the offense in and out.”
Not just learn offense, either. With a season’s real experience to call on Jenkins now is supposed to figure out defenses. What they are showing, what is hidden; who is coming and from what angle; where are weaknesses, if any; and so on.
“When I first started playing last year my experience wasn’t as well. But now I’m more adjusted to knowing the defense and knowing the reads and all the blitzes and things they send at the offense.”
Specifically, what is being sent his way. Which happens to be left tackle, at least here in August. Back during spring ball Jenkins practiced and scrimmaged on the right side of things, as did Martinas Rankin.
Now, both are back on the left-most position. “So it’s me and Martinas competing for the job.” This isn’t a real surprise either way of course. It was expected two-year starter Justin Senior would return to right tackle in camp for one thing.
The other was that veteran Jenkins and redshirt transfer Rankin would battle for #1 at left tackle. It is the Mississippi State system that right and left are interchangeable after all.
“I can play both positions, it doesn’t matter which one I play,” Jenkins. “In the offense on this play you have to this, that play do this. So if you know the offense you’ll know what to do.”
Good enough there. Now what about winning the starting duty? The first week of camp showed Rankin taking first turns, for what that is worth. Or not. Jenkins is not conceding anything, or worrying either.
“I can’t focus on what the next man is doing. I just have to focus on doing my job right every time. We’re just out there doing our jobs. He does good, I do good. I guess it comes to who wants it more.”
Jenkins certainly wanted to make a good impression last fall. Settled in at tackle after dabbling with guard as a true freshman, he took his reserve turns behind Warren in September wins. Or losses. And nothing compares to the first live snap, he said.
“I was kind of shocked! I wasn’t experienced so I was kind of nervous. So I like…it went good, just say that!”
The non-conference games weren’t too bad either. Then came his harsher test at Texas A&M. “It helped me real good. Because he’s a potential first-round draft pick. So I knew if I can do my job and block him there’s no other person basically in the country I can’t block.”
He also had to start the following week in a blowout win over Troy. Jenkins said he got really confident by November, fortunately as he was again starting—this time in place of Senior—at right tackle in a wild night at Fayetteville.
“I got more comfortable around probably the Arkansas game.”
Now it’s back to un-comfort zone in a sense. State’s system always requires three ready tackles but only two can start. During the next two weeks, Jenkins will be making his own case that he’s earned the right to open the 2016 season on Scott Field.