Redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins felt a sense of frustration not being able to get on the field for the Florida Gators last season. Between the deep group of players in front of him and a lingering ankle injury that allowed him to acquire a redshirt, the adversity facing Jenkins made him stronger. The former five-star recruit is getting that aggression out in spring practice, proving not only that he deserves plenty of playing time in 2010 but that he should be getting it as a starter.
Jenkins has been getting work at all three linebacker positions but has spent the last few practices primarily working as the starter on the inside. He has been drawing rave reviews from defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and linebackers coach D.J. Durkin, among others.
“He’s a guy who is going to be on the field as much as possible,” Durkin told The Gaineville Sun. “He has dynamic speed and is an explosive-type player that we need to get out there. He’s making a lot of plays and seeing things really well right now. He’s a guy we’re going to try and have on the field as much as possible.”
Seeing as Durkin believes the linebacker corps as a whole is “definitely a strength” for the team, it should come as no surprise that the coaches are doing whatever it takes to get the best players on the field regardless of position. Like Jenkins, senior Lorenzo Edwards (a fellow five-star recruit) is flashing this spring, showing great improvement.
“Lorenzo has had a great spring. He’s really impressed us,” Durkin said. “He’s making a lot of plays and playing all three spots for us. He provides a lot for our team right now. I haven’t been here for every spring, but the coaches who have, they say it’s the best spring he’s had.”
Edwards has mostly been a special teams player for the Gators throughout his career but could be in line for increased playing time as a second-team linebacker. Should Jenkins continue to dominate, he would join senior Brandon Hicks and redshirt senior A.J. Jones as the starters. Sophomore Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Brendan Beal would likely be the top reserves with Edwards seeing action as well.
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