Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, arguably the team’s best defensive player in 2010, has officially decided to return for his senior season rather than begin his professional career declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.
“After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to return to school for my senior year. I spent some time with my family and Coach [Will] Muschamp and came to the conclusion it was in my best interest to return to school,” said Jenkins, according to a University of Florida release. “Coach Muschamp was very supportive throughout the whole process, regardless of my decision, but he wanted to make sure I had all of the facts. I’m looking forward to working towards my degree, completing my rehab and getting back on the field with my teammates.”
Jenkins, who has totaled 106 tackles, eight interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), two sacks and two forced fumbles in three seasons at Florida, earned All-SEC honors from both the Associated Press (first team) and Southeastern Conference coaches (second team) this year for his stellar play.
“I’m excited that Janoris has made a decision to come back to school,” Muschamp said. “I would have supported him in whatever decision he made, but I commend him for making a mature decision. It would have been real easy for Janoris to make an emotional choice and leave early, but with our contacts in the NFL, we were able to assist him in understanding his draft status and he made an educated decision that will be beneficial to him in the long term.”
Projected to be a first-round pick as a junior before the season began, Jenkins was considered the third-best cornerback and No. 11 overall player available in this year’s draft, according to ESPN and Scouts, Inc.
He was ready to declare for the draft before sitting down with Muschamp.
With his return, Muschamp and young secondary coach Travaris Robinson have a reliable senior to champion an otherwise inexperienced unit. Florida will likely be starting sophomores at both safety positions (Matt Elam, Josh Evans) and may do the same at cornerback depending who wins the position battle in the offseason.
Jenkins sent Gators fans into a frenzy Sunday evening with the innocuous tweet “Gator Nation I’m back…” and did not follow up with any additional information. He confirmed his decision Monday morning with another tweet, “Headed to class with nothing but ‘joy.’ Gator Nation I’m back…”
OGGOA learned on Sunday that Jenkins has long had a desire to earn his degree and staying in school was always a strong consideration for him. He is pursuing a degree in anthropology and is believed to be on track to graduate next year.
He is only the second true freshman in school history to start at cornerback on opening day (Joe Haden) and was named to the 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team. Jenkins helped the Gators win the 2009 BCS National Championship by totaling five tackles in the game. He was equally effective in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, recording five solo tackles (one for loss) and a pass break-up in Florida’s win.
Jenkins registered 43 tackles, three interceptions and one sack as a junior in 2010 while playing most of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He had surgery after the regular season to correct the injury and missed the Gators’ 37-24 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2011 Outback Bowl.
After speaking with two sports medicine experts, OGGOA has learned that Jenkins’ injury would not have prevented him from working out for NFL scouts before draft day should he have decided to play in the league next season.
Fellow junior, safety Will Hill, will declare for the draft though his intentions have not been made official yet. UF will release a statement if and when Hill’s decision to pursue a professional football career is official.
OGGOA RELATED 1/5: Will Hill to forgo senior season, enter NFL Draft
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