A fourth member of the Florida Gators football program has decided to leave early as the school announced Monday that redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins will forgo his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft.
“Jelani informed me that he wishes to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL,” said head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “We wish him the best of luck and encourage him to return to Florida and complete his degree.”
Jenkins joins junior safety Matt Elam, junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed as Gators that are leaving the program with a year of eligibility in their pocket.
He took a redshirt his first year on campus but has been a permanent starter for Florida in each of the last three seasons. Multiple injuries took a toll on Jenkins in 2012 and it was widely believed that he would return to the program for his fifth year in an effort to raise his draft stock.
It is unlikely that he gets chosen on the first two days of the draft in April.
Instead, Jenkins departs after a season in which he played nine-of-13 games and registered just 29 total tackles (five for lost yardage). He also picked up two sacks on two quarterback hurries and one interception but most notably returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a game-winning touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 10.
Jenkins totaled 182 tackles (16.5 for loss) with six sacks, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery from 2009-12.
Junior defensive end Dominique Easley has yet to officially announce his intentions though The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley reports that he has informed coaches that he will remain with the program for his senior season.
UPDATE: Easley officially announced his intentions via Twitter on Monday evening. “I’m comin back for my senior season we gotta get where we need to get,” he wrote.