Brandon Jenkins came to Ole Miss two years ago from Hargrave Military Academy as one of the most anticipated and highly-touted defensive linemen signed by the Rebels in recent memory.
But his adjustment to Division 1 college football was not as "easy" as he had hoped for.
"This is a big jump from high school and prep school. In high school, I was bigger and stronger than everyone I faced. Up here, everyone is big and strong and they are also fast," he smiled. "You have to develop techniques to give you an edge on the Southeastern Conference level."
Consequently, Jenkins, who was expected to make an immediate impact on the DL, redshirted in 2003, his first year at Ole Miss.
"Redshirting was best for me. I could have helped the team some in 2003, but not enough to warrant giving up a year of eligibility. There was a lot I needed to learn before I was thrown in the fire," he continued.
In 2004, he and DE Jayme Mitchell had an ongoing battle for the top spot most the year. Mitchell held an edge most of the way, but Brandon got valuable playing time and three starts when Jayme was injured.
"I had some flashes in 2004, but I wasn't very consistent. I was feeling my way through the league," said the 6-5, 280-pounder. "I learned a lot."
But after the coaching change in December, Jenkins learned even more when Coach Ed Orgeron temporarily moved him to DT for spring training.
"I think I got mentally and physically tougher in spring. There are no boys at defensive tackle. You get some type of double team block on just about every snap. Being at DT helped me, but I'm glad I am getting moved back to DE this fall," he explained. "End is not any easier, it's just different, but I think it suits me better. The experience on the inside, though, will make me a better end."
Brandon came out of spring with more determination to have a good offseason than he had previously.
"I've grown up a lot in my approach, I believe. I found out in 2004 that to succeed on this level you have to constantly improve. If you stay the same, you will be left behind," he stated.
Now he considers himself to be in "the best shape I've been in since, well, a long time."
"I knew I had to start changing my body, get stronger, get quicker. I've been working to get my body fat down and gain more muscle mass and I can tell the difference this summer," he said.
Brandon says he's increased his squat by 50 pounds and his bench press by 30 pounds since January.
"I can also tell my movement is better in agility drills. With less fat and more muscle, you just feel and react more athletically. You also last longer before wearing out," Jenkins said. "I'm moving very well now even though I weigh the same as I did last season."
Next week, when August drills begin, Brandon will again be competing with rising senior Jayme Mitchell.
"I will focus on getting off the ball quicker, my hand speed and aggressiveness," he added. "I'd also like to get down to 275 pounds - I'm sure the August heat will help with that."
Brandon, like all competitors, would like to win a starting berth even though he realizes it will be difficult to take the job from Mitchell, but beyond that, he has a fairly basic goal for 2005.
"I just want this team to win and I want to produce in the process of us winning," he closed. "I will do whatever the coaches ask me to do. If they ask me to play DE and Leo End, that is fine. I can do it.
"My opportunity will come if I just keep working as hard as I have since January."
Brandon Jenkins without the realization and impact of the effects of extra hard work was pretty good.
Brandon Jenkins with the knowledge of what extra effort will do for him and his team could be scary.
We'll see soon enough. Keep your eyes on number 90.
Jenkins has 'best' offseason
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