Jenkins Battles for Playing Time

All the focus for the Notre Dame football team is preparing for their September 3rd match up with the Pittsburgh Panthers. Preseason camp is entering its second week and the team is working on grasping the new system. Senior running back Jeff Jenkins is itching for game time.

"I know this team is ready to go," Jenkins said. "Right now, I don't think we're ready yet. We got a long ways to go. We still got three more weeks until we play. The offensive staff will get us ready for the game."

Jenkins is part of a four-deep group at running back that new head coach Charlie Weis must be dying to utilize in various ways. Darius Walker is the clear starter with Travis Thomas, Jenkins, and Justin Hoskins battling for the other minutes. This puts a premium on performing in practice.

"The competition level is always going to be high," Jenkins said. "Coach always emphasizes that the jobs are not set in stone. Each day you have to prove what you got and see what you can do."

Playing time has been a factor in Jenkins's career at Notre Dame. After not playing as a freshman in 2002 and not getting a carry in 2003, Jenkins handled the ball only nine times for 43 yards. He hopes that Weis's new offense will allow him extra touches but admits learning the system is no walk in the park.

"It's real hard to get use to but it's a great opportunity to have a coach like Charlie Weis," Jenkins said. "We're having some problems. We have to do mental reps. We got to get ready for that game. When we get out there (versus Pittsburgh), we'll show coach that we're ready."

This is normal for a new coach at a new school. Coaches and players alike have been talking all week about improving their ability in picking up the new schemes and formations. Offensive coordinator Michael Haywood has seen improvement not only in picking up the system but with the little things as well.

"I think the guys are grasping the offense because we've thrown a lot of offense at them," Haywood said. "At the same time, whether they start to make advances now is that they are starting to work on their technique and fundamentals. Working on the little things in the game to make them better. One of things we are making strides at is from a psychological point. Guys are starting to believe in themselves and in the system."

Haywood also is the running backs coach and works with the group everyday in practice during individual drills. The drills help on their footwork and holding on to the football. Jenkins thinks Haywood brings an important attribute to the running backs.

"I can only say one word: toughness," Jenkins said. "He brings that toughness to the program. Coach Haywood comes out everyday and he brings that enthusiasm and that fire to you. You have to be a big time player."

Jenkins said he tries to keep it light by joking around with his running back brethren and keeping the laughter going. But ever since Weis landed on campus earlier this year, the feeling around the program has changed drastically.

"We're seen that air of confidence since the first week he was here," Jenkins said. The first meeting we had, we sensed that air was there. It's like someone breathing beside you letting you know it's time for a new program and a new era. Everyday he brings that intensity to practice."

An interesting biographical note on Jenkins is that he comes from Ann Arbor, the home to heated rival, the Michigan Wolverines. The Irish make a trip to the Big House on September 10th and Jenkins is already starting to hear the taunts and trash talk.

"You have no idea," Jenkins said on his friends giving him grief on the upcoming game. "Big-time talk. I just have to get ready for it. I got to be the bigger man. I got a lot of friends and family on the team. It's like a family reunion when I go home. They definitely talk but we'll be ready for them."


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories