Florida State featured one of the most dynamic defensive lines in college football this past season, and it has a chance to be even better next year because premier pass rusher Brandon Jenkins has decided to return in 2012.
"He took all of that information and we all thought he was still going to go," his mother, Felicia Jenkins, told Rivals.com on Thursday, "but he decided to stay."
At 6-3 and 265 pounds, Jenkins was rumored to be an early-entry candidate for the NFL Draft following his junior campaign in 2011, with some talent evaluators believing he stood a chance to be taken in Round 1. But Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher implied after the conclusion of the regular season that the Tallahassee native's stock may not be as high as media members were made to believe, as NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang in particular sees him as more of a second-round pick.
Jenkins was a breakout star as a sophomore in 2010, recording 56 tackles and 13.5 sacks from his right defensive end position. While his numbers were down as a junior, he was still credited with 41 tackles and 8.0 sacks despite all the extra attention he drew from the likes of double-teaming tight ends and running backs. As a matter of fact, a convincing case can be made that sophomore Bjoern Werner got off to such a fast start this season -- 6.0 sacks in his first seven games -- at left end because he took advantage of one-on-one matchups on the other side of the formation.
FSU is not terribly deep at defensive end, which is why the three-headed monster of Mario Edwards Jr., Chris Casher and Dante Fowler is so important to this year's recruiting class, but the return of Jenkins means the entire defensive line will remain intact. Specifically at D-end, Jenkins and Werner are backed up by the productive Cornellius Carradine and the talented Dan Hicks, who are scheduled to be a senior and a junior, respectively, in 2012.
Jenkins is not quite a finished product at this point, especially since he's currently playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme when his future could very well be at outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.
When breaking down tape of Jenkins' play, Rang believes his "burst off the snap makes him as dangerous an edge rusher as there is in college football, but he currently lacks the bulk to remain at defensive end in the NFL and may not possess the frame to handle additional weight without impacting his speed. Jackson possesses the long arms and appears to have the agility and speed to handle the transition to outside linebacker for teams operating out of the 3-4 alignment."
While Jenkins does get a chance to play a little outside linebacker when defensive coordinator Mark Stoops employs some of his 3-4 looks, more experience never hurt anybody -- he can complete his degree, too.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
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