Brandon Jenkins

It's been asked more times than can be counted - when will Brandon Jenkins fulfill his vast potential? For Brandon, the answer is simple. "Now or never." Read about it inside.

He's 6-5 and weighs in the 290-pound range.

He's strong and athletic and looks the part of an SEC defensive lineman.

In 2002, he was one of the most anticipated signees the Rebels have had in recent years. That his arrival to Ole Miss was delayed a year while he worked on his academics at prep school only fueled the excitement level of the Rebel fans.

He was a guy who was supposed to step on campus as an impact player.

That has not transpired for Brandon Jenkins, now heading into his junior campaign after redshirting in 2003 and playing sparingly - for someone with his apparent skills - in 2005 after a productive rookie season in 2004.

As a redshirt frosh in 2004, Jenkins played in all 11 games and had three starts at DE when starter Jayme Mitchell was injured. He performed admirably and even had moments of excellence that left observers salivating for his continued improvement and his future.

But when 2005 rolled around, he did not break into the starting lineup and fell off the pace set by starters Mitchell, Michael Bozeman, McKinley Boykin and Corvelli Haynes along the Rebel DL.

In a recent interview, all he could do was shake his head about the past and discuss the future.

"Last year was disappointing," Jenkins noted. "I thought I would get a lot of playing time, but it didn't pan out. I don't want that to happen again."

When the 2006 spring session rolled around, Jenkins appeared to have a new lease on his football life. He was moved to DT and started spring as number one, but a couple of weeks into drills JUCO transfer Hayward Howard overtook him and started playing with the first defensive unit.

Toward the end of spring, however, Brandon was moved again, this time to number one Nose Tackle ahead of Jeremy Garrett.

While he finished spring with number one status, it's up to him to maintain it.

"This has to be my breakout year. It's got to be," Brandon said. "It's really now or never. It's my time. Before, I just felt like it wasn't meant to be, now I feel like it is."

Brandon feels the Ole Miss coaches believe in him and he wants to reward that belief with productivity.

"Coach O has been trying to find the best place for me. Coach O and Coach (Ryan) Nielsen believe in me. That has helped me gain more belief in myself," he continued. "It's up to me to just play and get it done. This is my shot."

Having played all four DL positions at one time or another in his career has not hampered his progress, he says.

"I have had no problems moving around in my career. I've adjusted to the demands of each position, and I think I can be effective at nose tackle, but I have to prove it," Jenkins stated. "I had a good spring. I think I gained some confidence in myself and some confidence from the coaches."

For perhaps the first time in his career, Brandon is excited about his prospects, his role on the Rebel DL and what he thinks he can accomplish.

"Before, I didn't feel it was my time. Now I do. I think Hayward and I can make a great inside combination on the DL," he explained. "McKinley and Boze left big shoes to fill, but I think we have a chance to be a bigger presence. If we have great offseasons, we can be just as strong and quick and I will have more experience in the system. Hayward is getting there in his knowledge of the system too.

"Across the front, we have guys like Peria (Jerry), J.G. (Garrett), (Chris) Bowers, (Viciente) DeLoach who have been in the defensive system a year and know it. I really believe we could have a better DL in 2006 than we did in 2005. That's our goal."

Jenkins said he didn't have a very good spring or fall last year because he was adjusting to new coaches and a new system. This year, things are different.

"The first year, we were learning how Coach O works. This spring, we knew it was going to be hard, but we were expecting it so we were ready for the demands," he closed. "We all got together before spring and kind of braced ourselves and made a pact to go get after it. I think those results were evident by the end of spring."

Part of the time, you get the feeling Brandon Jenkins is on the verge of doing something special.

Part of the time, you get the feeling he's still trying to convince himself.

But either way, he's correct on one count - with the anticipated arrival of a couple of newcomers with vast talent - it's now or never.

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