Photo By Steven Chapman

Critical 20: No. 4 Malik Jenkins

Like any football team, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue of experience, leadership, importance of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, are especially crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they would be very conspicuous were they absent.

Assuming a starting linebacker lineup of Malik Jenkins, D’Vonta Hinton and Luke Stice, Texas Tech, despite the fact that Jenkins and Stice are both seniors, will be extremely inexperienced at the position. Jenkins and Hinton have each started five games, and Stice has never played linebacker at the collegiate level. Thus, by virtue of being a senior and having started a whopping five games, Malik Jenkins can be considered the grand old man of the linebacking corps. 

Jenkins’ relatively high amount of experience will be no mean thing to Tech’s defense in general. It appears as though Tech will start two transfers who have never played in Tech’s system—Kolin Hill and Ondre Pipkins—up front, along with sophomore Breiden Fehoko, and Gary Moore, who has started two games in scarlet and black. And among the probable starters in the secondary, only safety Keenon Ward can be classified as a grizzled veteran.

As the Texas Tech defense attempts to change a history of futility on that side of the ball, it will certainly lean upon players who have been through the wars and taken their lumps. And that means Malik Jenkins.

For his part, Jenkins seems up to the task of being a reliable leader, and possibly even a team captain. Kliff Kingsbury frequently makes Jenkins available to the media, which shows a certain level of trust. And Jenkins acquits himself well at these events. He is affable, poised and well spoken.

As for his abilities on the field, expect them to be greater than what we have seen before. In 2015 Jenkins recorded 52 tackles and four tackles for loss. But as Jenkins has indicated, he was too small to be ideally effective as a linebacker. That is no longer the case. Thanks, in no small measure to the strength and conditioning training of Rusty Whitt, Jenkins now packs 225 pounds on a 6-foot-2 frame. He is hardly a Levon Kirkland, but he is certainly better equipped to hold his ground when the enemy linemen and running backs come cruising.   

Look for Jenkins, in his senior season, to become a truly good player for a Red Raider defense that can use a few. 

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