Jenkins Continues To Impress

Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins has already made a big splash as a freshman for Ohio State. He is starting and seems to get better each week. Coming out of high school in New Jersey, Jenkins was not highly-recruited, so his success has taken many people by surprise. But OSU's coaches aren't surprised, and neither is Jenkins.

It didn't take Malcolm Jenkins very long to make an impact at Ohio State.

The true freshman cornerback from Piscataway, N.J., is starting for the Buckeyes and is more than holding his own.

Through seven games, Jenkins has 19 tackles and one pass break-up. He plays the ball well, but also brings a physical presence to the secondary at 6-1, 206 pounds.

"The coaches feel real confident in me, so I feel confident in myself," Jenkins said. "They've taught me everything I need to know to be on the field. So, it's not really that hard for me to perform."

Jenkins is not surprised that he's getting so much playing time. He entered preseason camp with the intention of proving himself and that's exactly what he did.

"Before camp, the coaches told me I had a shot," he said. "So, I worked hard and by the end of camp I was in line to play. … I made a couple big plays the first few days of camp. I just wanted everyone to know I was here.

"I set my goals real high. That's something that I strived for and worked for because I wanted to play right away. I didn't want to sit on the sidelines and watch. So, that was my goal coming in."

Jenkins seems to enjoy contact. Most corners enjoy playing the ball and going for interceptions. But Jenkins also likes coming up and making a hit.

"You've got to be physical," Jenkins said. "The coaches instilled early into my mind where corners are usually finesse-type players, but they wanted me to be real physical, so that's what I do."

Jenkins was asked if it's important for a corner to prove he can be physical.

"If you're that type of corner," he said. "You're not always going to find physical corners. Like a corner like Ty Law, he's a physical corner. Then you have people like Deion Sanders who are finesse corners. It's all about determining what type you are and then establishing that role.

"I want to be a mixture of both by the time I get out of here."

As a freshman, Jenkins is surprised that more teams are not picking on him. Word has apparently got around quickly that Jenkins can play the game.

"Honestly, I get frustrated sometimes because I really haven't been tested that much as far as people throwing at me," he said. "I would have thought, knowing that I'm a freshman on the field, that people would attack me right away, but that hasn't been the case. There are a couple receivers that say stuff like, ‘Welcome to the Big Ten,' and stuff like that. But they really don't say too much.

"I was thinking they would try and go deep right away. But like I said, that really wasn't the case. I hope people do go deep. I really feel that I want to get challenged because I feel that I will get better."

Jenkins' attitude could not get much better than that. He's fearless. He always wants the ball thrown to his man.

"It all depends on your mindset," he said. "With me, I'm a competitor and I'm always going to want the most competition and I'm not going to do that by hoping people don't challenge me. I like to be challenged just so I can see where I'm at so I can try and get myself better."

Jenkins has several good defensive backs to learn under at OSU, namely junior cornerback Ashton Youboty.

"The whole entire secondary has taken me under their wing," Jenkins said. "Ashton, Nate (Salley), Donte (Whitner). They all help me out and anytime I do something wrong they pull me to the side and give me tips or whatever. So, I feel like all three of them are my mentors."

Salley, a senior captain/safety, has been impressed with what he has seen from Jenkins.

"He's been playing a lot all year," Salley said. "He played 85 plays against a good Michigan State team. He's been doing well since he got here."

Salley noticed right away in camp that Jenkins was a solid player. He is not surprised that Jenkins is playing so much.

"He had a lot of confidence from the time he got here," Salley said. "We did seven-on-seven in the summer. He stood out to everybody. The first two days, he came out and led the team in picks. He was making plays. He built some confidence and it has been showing. He doesn't even seem like a freshman when he's been out there. We know we can depend on him as well as Ashton and Tyler (Everett). He has gained a lot of respect."

Back home in Piscataway, Jenkins' friends try and watch as many of his games as possible on television. And he says they're not shocked to learn that he's already starting for the Buckeyes.

"Actually, most of my friends aren't surprised," Jenkins said. "Being the type of person that I am, I'm not going to stop working until I do start, or I do play. A lot of them are just like, ‘Malcolm is out there making moves,' but then they start to realize I'm only a freshman and stuff like that. So, my friends, personally, they're not that surprised."

Jenkins ended up at Ohio State almost by chance. A family member moving to Columbus is what got the ball rolling.

"My aunt (Tammy Hardwick) ended up moving out here in December of '03," Jenkins said. "I went to (OSU's) recruiting camp that summer of '04 and I wound up getting a scholarship. And the only reason I came to the camp was because I came to visit her. So, I just wound up coming to the camp and it all worked out for me."

Jenkins was asked if OSU head coach Jim Tressel sent Ms. Hardwick a thank you card.

"The coaches – Coach Tressel and (receivers coach Darrell) Hazell, who recruited me here – they're real friendly to my aunt when they finally saw her," Jenkins said with a laugh. "She lives in Westerville. I don't really get to see her much. I saw her (Monday) but before that I might have seen her after a game or something, because I'm pretty busy during the week."

Jenkins' parents also try and make it to as many games as possible.

"They try to," he said. "They got to the first two games and my dad has gotten to a couple other games. And they went to the Penn State game."

Tressel mentioned earlier this week that Jenkins is a student of the game. He even helped out his former high school team over the summer before arriving at OSU.

"Yeah, that's who I basically worked out with because I wasn't up here until late July," Jenkins said. "So, I worked with some of my younger teammates and got them ready, as well as myself. Just working with them on speed and technique and stuff like that."

So, Jenkins was basically a volunteer assistant coach?

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," he said. "A lot of my younger teammates looked up to me, so I was kind of like a mentor for them."

Jenkins is not the only freshman defensive back at OSU that could be headed for a successful career. Safety Jamario O'Neal and cornerback Andre Amos (who is redshirting) have also stood out in practice.

"We have a lot of freshmen DBs in my class that are looking real promising," Jenkins said. "We had a good practice (Tuesday). I think the future is bright for the secondary."

Jenkins played in the opener against Miami University – and entered the game much earlier than he had expected.

"I got in, I think it was the first series, because Tyler lost a contact," he said. "But then I got in later in the game, around the third quarter.

"Texas game I played about nine plays, I didn't play that much."

He then received his first start the following week in OSU's 27-6 win over San Diego State.

Playing in front of 105,000 fans was an adjustment for Jenkins.

"The first time I came out there against Miami of Ohio, it was a rush," he said. "I looked up and there were so many people. It was something to adapt do, but once you get in the game you're not thinking about anything except the game."

Jenkins was asked what is different about him now, compared to early in the season when he was still trying to find his way.

"The game has slowed down for me," he said. "When I got in against Texas, everything was real fast. But everything has slowed down and I'm not thinking, I'm just reacting. I feel myself playing faster."

Coming out of high school, Jenkins somewhat flew under the recruiting radar. He considered three schools: OSU, Virginia Tech and Rutgers.

"I don't know why I wasn't really recruited that heavily," Jenkins said. "I never went to any of those recruitment camps or anything like that. I just came under the radar and I had confidence in myself."

Jenkins ran track and said he did not have enough time to attend recruiting camps.

"Kind of a commitment to my track team," he said. "I ran track in the spring and it was relay season, so I stayed there with my team."

But Jenkins never feared that he would be missing out on scholarship offers by not attending the camps.

"No, I just told myself and my high school coaches told me also that, ‘If you're good enough, you'll go somewhere,'" he said.

But let's be clear about something: Jenkins was not a complete no-name coming out of high school. He was a two-time, first-team All-New Jersey selection and played in the New York-New Jersey All-Star game last summer.

"No, not in New Jersey, but as far as nationwide and other schools and stuff like that, not a lot of people knew about me, so I was kind of a steal for the schools that recruited me," Jenkins said.

Jenkins is not sure if he will start this Saturday against Minnesota. Everett is still recovering from a stiff neck and it's not clear if he will play.

"No, they haven't told me (about Everett's status)," Jenkins said. "We're both practicing just in case. He (practiced on Tuesday) he just didn't do too much hitting and stuff like that."

The Golden Gophers play in the Metrodome and Jenkins is looking forward to playing a game indoors for the first time.

"I've never been in a dome, so it should be a new experience," he said. "Wherever we go, we've got to play. So it's not really a factor."

With the top ground game in the conference, it is no secret that Minnesota likes to run the football.

"And we like to stop the football," Jenkins said with confidence. "We just like to play defense. We're going to line up and do what we've been doing. They've got a good rushing offense and we're just going to try and do what we can. If we do our responsibilities, we should get our work done."

Laurence Maroney is the Big Ten's leading rusher, but you won't catch Jenkins peeking in the backfield this week.

"You can't afford to do that at a corner," he said. "You've got to have disciplined eyes, because once you start peeking in the backfield, then play action comes. And that's kind of what their offense tries to do. They set up their pass with their run game."

Jenkins' body is holding up well for a freshman. He's actually gained six pounds since arriving at camp.

"I have little bumps and bruises and stuff like that, but Butch Reynolds and the training staff are doing a good job as far as getting me treatment and getting me healthy every week," he said. "My body is holding up, but we still have five more games."

Want some more good news about Jenkins? This "young Buck" won't turn 18 until December.

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