Jenkins Enjoys Leadership Role

Malcolm Jenkins was the talk of preseason camp last year as a true freshman and ended up having a very solid season for the Buckeyes. This year, despite being just a second-year player, he is expected to step up as the leader of the young secondary. We caught up with him at media day for his thoughts on the upcoming season and more.

It's not often that a sophomore is thrust into a leadership role on a college football team. But that is exactly the responsibility that has been given to Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and he wouldn't have it any other way.

Other than fifth-year seniors Brandon Mitchell and Antonio Smith, OSU's secondary is stocked with freshmen and sophomores. Jenkins is the only clear-cut starter among the defensive backs and he wants to be the guy that other players turn to for advice.

"It is a weird position to be in, being so young, but it's a position I've been forced to take on," Jenkins said. "I think the coaches and some of my teammates are helping me ease that load. I'm looking forward to taking on that role and I'm happy about it."

Jenkins burst upon the scene as a true freshman in 2005 and proved to be one of the most pleasant surprises on the team. He wasn't a highly-recruited player out of Piscataway (N.J.) – largely because he didn't attend football recruiting camps. But Jenkins wasted no time in making an impact for the Buckeyes, and even started three games when Tyler Everett was injured.

Jenkins (6-1, 200) finished eighth on the team in tackles with 37 (23 solo) and two pass break-ups. He was disappointed that he did not get an interception, but knows it was a solid first season of college ball.

"Last year went pretty well," Jenkins said. "I came to camp with the intention of proving myself and earning a spot and that's pretty much what happened. It was good to get out there and get that experience and see the field and try and help the team win games. I just need to take it up a level or two this year."

Jenkins will be the Buckeyes' starter at the boundary cornerback spot, but could move around from week to week. "Yeah, right now they've got me running the boundary," he said. "But I'll probably be mixing it up depending on who we're playing and might play some field as well.

"The boundary gets more run and I like to tackle, but I really don't have a preference."

Jenkins is not sure who will open the season as OSU's starting field corner. Smith is listed as the starter, but he is getting pushed by redshirt freshmen Donald Washington and Andre Amos. True freshman Kurt Coleman – who is repping at both field and boundary – is another player definitely in the mix.

"Right now it's like a deadlock. All of the ones you mentioned are getting some reps with the ones," Jenkins said. "I think they are all doing a good job and all of them could play. It's just going to come down to what the coaches want."

The same could be said about the safety positions. There are four players vying for two starting spots: Mitchell, Nick Patterson, Jamario O'Neal and Anderson Russell.

On paper, the secondary appears to be talented and extremely fast. But you cannot ignore the inexperience.

"Yeah, but we're trying to get it where we have a lot of speed and experience," Jenkins said. "We don't want to be the inexperienced secondary with a lot of talent. We want to be one of the best in the nation."

If you're trying to find a weakness in Jenkins' game, you might be looking for a while. He has the speed, hips and instincts to be a good cover corner, and he is a very solid tackler.

"Yeah, I want to be a complete corner," Jenkins said. "I pride myself on that. I don't just want to be a finesse corner, or a real, real physical corner. I want to be the complete package and I think I'm getting there. I worked really hard this off-season and now it's the time step up."

Jenkins didn't add any weight since spring ball ended, but he worked hard this summer in redistributing his weight.

"I'm still around 200, but I'm a little leaner now," he said. "I'm a little bit stronger and faster."

Jenkins and the rest of the cornerbacks like to talk about assistant coach Tim Beckman. Jenkins shed some light on why Beckman works well with the players.

"Basically, he just brings the best out of you," Jenkins said. "He won't settle for anything less than the best. He won't let you get complacent or slack or anything."

Despite the youth on defense, OSU is the preseason No. 1 team in the country in the USA Today/Coaches poll. And Jenkins doesn't plan on giving up the top ranking. Nothing would be sweeter than a wire-to-wire title.

"Yeah, we want to win the Big Ten and win the national championship," he said. "That's pretty much all we talk about. If we work hard and play our best, I think we've got a great opportunity to achieve our goals."

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