USFNation Q & A: Bulls CB Mike Jenkins

During the bye week we got a chance to talk with USF cornerback Mike Jenkins. Read on to get his thoughts on what it was like to play at Auburn, his interception, the Bulls D-backs, what lasting memories he'll always have, and more. Only on Get it First, Get it Fast!

Mike Jenkins Profile



Tell me what it was like for you walking up there to Jordan-Hare stadium?


MJ: When I first walked out there I was stunned. I've never seen so many people in one place. The only think you see was orange but I got into the game and started going and tuned everything out. The crowd didn't really affect the defense because when their offense got on they got pretty quiet. I am pretty sure it was a lot tougher on our offense because if you didn't know the calls or signals you were pretty much stuck. I pretty much tuned everyone out but I can't really speak for anybody else.


How do you think this compares to when you played at Penn State, was it louder?


MJ: I think it was, like I said when I play I really don't pay attention to all of that. At Penn State it was all white, [at Auburn] the only thing I remember was orange in the stadium [laughs]. They were pretty nice fans but after we won the game they started throwing stuff at us.


What went through your mind right before you made the interception?


MJ: Oh man! When I saw the ball my eyes just lit up. The only thing I saw was the end zone. I wasn't even focusing on catching the ball to tell you the truth. I just wanted those points to put us up in the game. When he threw the ball, I saw him looking at man the whole way; he didn't even try to look me off or anything, he just threw the ball. I broke on the ball and made a good play.


When you look at the tape on your interception do you think you were in the endzone?


MJ: We watched it yesterday but I really couldn't tell, I slowed it down and everything and I really couldn't tell but I really can't say right now.


Do you think you're going to get more this year?

MJ: Oh yeah, most definitely! I'm gonna' try to make everybody pay who throws my way. Last year I had a lot of pass deflections, now I'm trying to work on catching balls more and not pulling them down and trying to knock them out.

Do you and Trae have a little competition going?

MJ: Oh yeah, I mean every year we have a bet going on. Last year he killed me [laughs], this year I'm ahead of him right now one-nothing. So I'm gonna' talk while I'm ahead, but Trae could come in the next game and have two picks. We just like competing against each other.


Everyone remembers you for the interception at Auburn, what about the hit on Ben Tate to save a touchdown?


MJ: Oh yeah, I played safety in high school. Before the game, I was talking to Carlton Williams and Louis Gachette and they said last season I had a soft season, that I missed a lot of tackles. So I said "alright I'm gonna' show you." They were selling me out before the game telling me that I wasn't going to do this or that. I said "aight." I made a few good hits on them. After the game I told them "I have that safety mentality in me still [laughs]."


You put a lot of work in the weight room and got stronger and more physical all spring and summer, do you agree with what they said?


MJ: Na, you know how dudes talk on the team, just joking around. I think I had a lot of tackles for a corner last year but I didn't have many "big hits" as they would call it. This year I feel like I have something to prove to the players by getting big hits. I want to make the correct tackle and wrap up but I also want to make the big hit to show for it [laughs].


Tell me how you felt when Delbert hit that first tying field goal after missing several before that?


MJ: Oh man, I was stunned because the first two he missed and the third was blocked I think. I think he was nervous because he's never been in an atmosphere like that. I wasn't really focused on him, I was more focused on the people blocking for him because the last one was blocked. Auburn was bringing a lot of pressure. I was really focused on the block, I kind of felt he was going to make it because he missed two or three before. He had no choice but to make it. In practice he'll miss a few and make few, I felt on his first two kicks he was nervous because he's never been in an atmosphere like that.


In the two games you've played have they thrown in your area more than the average?


MJ: I think its pretty much been the same because last year we played field corner and boundary corner which is kind of like a strong [side] corner and weak [side] corner. This year we're just playing left and right [corner] so it's like they really don't have a choice but to throw to either one or the other.


Are you upset about the rankings at all?


MJ: I kind of had that in the back of my head that they were going to do us like that because we never get it, I don't want to say respect because there are schools in front of us that have hopes like South Carolina and some other schools. I kind of felt like they were gonna' do us like that; it was really nothing big to us. We just have to keep coming out and keep winning, eventually we'll be ranked.


Why do you think they would do that to you?


MJ: You know, it was just the way they started us off in the beginning of the season. I try not to think that way, I don't how to say it but I just try to keep us leveled. We beat Auburn; they'll see how good we are. The rankings don't really mean anything to me as a person because as far as us playing people, I feel like we can match up and play with anybody.


The coach's poll actually had Auburn ahead of you, do you wonder about that?


MJ: I don't know how the votes go, and it doesn't mean anything to me. They could be ahead of us but we won.



How do you feel about your defensive back unit?


MJ: Coming into the season, I know talent when I see talent, it's like I have a third eye for it. As far as a secondary, I feel like we have one of the best out there. Nate Allen is one of the best sophomore safeties out there. He's having a great season so far coming in. [Jerome] Murphy is a great nickelback, cornerback and safety. You can put him anywhere and he can play where ever you put him. Carlton [Williams] has got a lot of experience and is smart, he'll make plays. We have backups with Louis Gauchette and we have Trae Williams. I feel like we have one of the top secondaries in the nation, but that's not my decision to make on that.


What is it about Nate Allen, what does he bring?


MJ: He brings a lot of speed as far as the last level with the safeties. We have a lot of big and strong safeties that are mobile but Nate is like tremendously fast, 4.3 [40 yard dash speed]. He can cover a lot of ground; he can tackle and has good hands and balls skills. He brings a lot of athleticism to our secondary. Last year, I kind of felt that the corners were holding our own ground, we played a lot of man [coverage] last year and now we can mix it up more because he can pretty much do it all.


Are you surprised the way he's had that transition?


MJ: When I first heard about the move, I thought "Nate? He's a quarterback; he's not going to tackle anybody [laughs], he can't catch." But he really shocked me when we had our first scrimmage and he came out; he had a lot of tackles. When we do our bar drills in practice, the coach would overthrow him and he'll just run the ball down and catch it. Once I saw that, I said that this guy is a player. He really didn't talk so I didn't get comfortable with him. I wasn't really comfortable as a player because you know as a safety you have to be really vocal giving the calls. They are the quarterbacks of the defense. Once you get into the game though he was really vocal.


Now after two games back there, he has four takeaways; are you comfortable with him now?


MJ: Most definitely, but sometimes he gets into his own little moods, where he doesn't say anything, he's just like leave me alone and let him do him. With me being a corner, I like to talk, I like to call my splits out and see where my help is at. He gets into his mood where he's like don't worry about it, I got you. I like to remind him to be back there, in the Cover-2 be over the top; don't get me bombed [laughs]. He looks at me like "I'm gonna' be back there, just trust me." I pretty much have no choice but to trust him because he's gonna' play. He's got two picks so far, so as the season goes on he is just going to get better.


Does having Amarri Jackson and Mike Ford with you here make everything that more special?


MJ: Me and Amarri are cousins. We all grew up together. Before Amarri came, he was going to go to Florida; I was telling him that they already got you there. "You gotta' come here and make a name for yourself. He came here and Mike was going to go to Alabama and Amarri got Mike to come here. It was more comfortable for Mike. It keeps us humble, coming from where we come from its kind of hard because there is always trouble around the corner. So having each other here and knowing what we've gone through helps keep us on the right track. It's really good for us


What went through your mind when Jessie caught that touchdown pass in the end?


MJ: I knew the route, so when they ran the two slants; I already knew what time it was. That route is pretty much unstoppable. Auburn was playing pretty much man [coverage] the whole night so once I saw the crossing routes I knew they weren't going to stop it because they didn't have a safety over the top. Jessie as a player, I'm going to go with Jessie all day one-on-one because he's quick, has good hands and is a great receiver.


What's the first thing you did after he caught the touchdown?


MJ: I just ran on the field. I ran into the middle of the field, I didn't know where I was running. I noticed that the whole team was this way and I was the only person running towards the fans but I caught myself and [decided] to celebrate with my team first and then I'll go over to the crowd.


What was it like to look at the stadium with all that orange?


MJ: It was crazy, I've been to an atmosphere like that with Penn State, South Carolina and Alabama but I was still young. I don't think any of those places were like Auburn. The only thing you see is orange. It was loud when the offense got on the field and it was just crazy for me.


What does it mean for you and team with a win like this?

It means a lot to the team, it gives a lot of people confidence. It'll mean more ticket sales and more money and it means a lot to the fans. It also means a lot to the team and the Big East.


You guys seem to be able to win on the road now. You guys weren't able to do that in the past, what enables you now to do that?


MJ: I think we're more focused now. Once we beat West Virginia, people doubted that, people said that we couldn't win on the road or win in the cold but I feel now that we are accomplishing that. Our next goal is to start winning in the cold [laughs].


Auburn was recruiting you pretty hard, were they one of the last schools you were considering?


MJ: Yeah most definitely, Auburn, Nebraska, and USF were the last three schools I was considering. After I took my visits, it was a last minute decision. When I was sitting down, I had all three scholarships sitting right there and I didn't know what I was going to do. The coaches were blowing me up "what are you gonna' do?" I didn't sign on signing day; I had to wait the day after and think about it and go through it with my family. I picked [Coach] Leavitt because he was recruiting me for a long time and seemed like a better coach; [also] the players were more comforting than the guys from the other schools. Even though I had one of my best friends, who plays for the Oakland Raiders right now Fabian Washington who was at Nebraska at the time, he was telling me to go there. I wanted to go my own way, one of my coaches in high school went to Auburn and I felt like there was a lot of pressure coming from other people and I wanted to make my own decisions.


What memories do you take away from the Auburn game?


MJ: Just the win, as far as players, when I came out of high school, I went to Auburn. I remember a lot of those players from the visit. That's where I first met Courtney [Denson]. Quentin Groves and Patrick Lee, I knew all of them. I think the memory from this game is just the win and of the guys I met coming up through high school.


You've been here five years now, and have been here from the beginning, from the ground floor and help build it up to what it is. Does that give you a little extra vindication?


MJ: Auburn already has tradition; right now we're building tradition. I was here when we were in the Sun Dome; we used to walk from the Sun Dome all the way to the practice fields. We didn't have locker rooms; we used to be in the portables. I feel we are building a lot of tradition. Going back to that question about memories, I'm going to take this one with me too. I'm just happy about the win. I'm happy about giving Grothe a good birthday present. I've been through it here since the start from Conference USA to the Big East.

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