John Jenkins. Big Bad John™. No one can stretch a single-digit number across a jersey quite like you can, big fella. We're gonna miss you.
Now, I'm no Draft guru. In fact, the older I get the less I watch the NFL. Oh, sure the games are on in my house every Sunday, but I generally find them to be an incredible vehicle for an awesome nap. Having admitted that, I do pay attention whenever a team is playing with any Dawgs on the roster, which means I recommend watching the Cincinnati Bengals to get your Dawgs in the NFL fix. I digress...
Back on point with a brief history and some thoughts...
Jenkins arrived in Athens during the summer of 2011 by way of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Meriden, Connecticut native was specifically targeted by Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham to be the linchpin of his 3-4 defense with immediate (expected?) comparisons to former Alabama All-American Terrence Cody. Blessed with prototypical size, adequate speed and athleticism (he played some fullback in JC), Big John certainly was a wanted man. The day he committed to Georgia was cause for much rejoicing throughout Dawg Nation, complete with a trumpet fanfare and a variety of malted beverages. Along with 350 lb. Kwame Geathers, the two would rotate and essentially become The Hoover Dam of the SEC.
Jenkins had an inauspicious start as he suffered from heat exhaustion on his very first day at the Woodruff Practice Facility in the stifling August humidity. He simply arrived at Georgia too
fat big, and, unfortunately, departed much the same way he showed up: closer to 400 lbs. than his ideal playing weight of around 340. Although statistics do not necessarily define a space-eating Nose Tackle in a 3-4 scheme, where the main job is to engage and occupy double-teams, his numbers during Georgia's 12-2 campaign last season were thus:
- 13 Starts
- 50 Tackles
- 2 TFL
- A single sack, which came during the first quarter of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. (4 sacks for his entire Georgia career.)
Speaking of the SECCG, he (along with the rest of our over-utilized/under-substituted D-Line) simply wore down in the 2nd half against Bama. Flunking out of school prior to Georgia's victory in the Capital One Bowl also left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Dawg fans. Should any of this have affected his draft status? It depends on who you ask. Some folks clearly saw Big John as a risk; the term overrated being slung around quite a bit lately. The New Orleans Saints saw enough to draft him as the 82nd overall pick in the 3rd round.
All criticism aside, I believe Big John will become a future star in The League, and here are a few reasons: For starters, I believe his former position coach, Rodney Garner, did not effectively coach him. I know it's easy to bash Auburn's prodigal son, but the fact that Garner was leaving for Auburn at season's end probably meant he became a bit disinterested during the season, perhaps even "phoning it in" down the stretch. Georgia's well-chronicled early suspensions didn't help defensive chemistry, either. But the fact is Georgia's defensive line under performed especially against the run, with the defense finishing a horrifying Conference ranking of 13th in rushing yards allowed (to the totally unacceptable tune of 177.8 yards per game). This is still mystifying given the NFL talent throughout this unit. Explaining Kentucky's running success is hard to do. Georgia Southern - at least for a half - consistently knocked Big Bad John on his hind-quarters because, for the better part of 2012, Jenkins played too high in his stance, therefore he was effectively blocked. Methinks it was coaching, or a lack thereof, which was partly responsible for a significant amount of underachievement. A good coach can remedy these issues.
Ultimately, Jenkins is responsible for his own play, which wasn't terrible...but certainly inconsistent. Perhaps complacency and self-preservation as the draft loomed played a part in his 2012 performance. However, a trimmer Jenkins (he's down around 332 last I heard) bodes well for his new suitors. For all of his size and natural athleticism, Jenkins is still a bit raw. What he must find is the desire and dedication within to make it all gel. That's really the only thing holding him back. The right coach or system should be the catalyst to make it all cook. If he can unlock the beast within, he will make an excellent defensive tackle.
My intention was not to bash this kid. I'm just pointing out the criticisms that have been expressed by many. Things didn't quite work out they way we all envisioned when Jenkins arrived on campus. Turns out, Jenkins was not the second-coming of Terrence Cody, which was probably unfair in hindsight. He did have his moments to be sure and had flashes of the kind of player that he can consistently become. John can be a real force in the NFL because his flaws are more than fixable. John will only be limited (barring injury, of course) by his own initiative. Again, organizational support and the right kind of coach at the next level is key. Frankly, some guys need a cattle-prod and Big Bad John is probably one of those dudes.
Perhaps Jenkins is more of a project at this point, but his upside (the most cliched word in the NFL) is undeniable. Go get 'em, Big John. We're pulling for you.