This is the 32nd in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 26 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order.
Brandon Jenkins | 6'3", 260 | SR | Defensive End
Background (Courtesy school bio)
Product of the Florida State University School, better known as Florida High...carried a four-star rating and was considered the No. 2 defensive end in the state as a senior...recorded 44 career sacks in three seasons, including 20 as a senior, to go along with 80 tackles...earned second team All-State honors in basketball as a junior...coveted by many but selected the Seminoles over Miami, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee and Southern Miss...born February 9, 1990.
Career to Date
Stud defensive ends have been a theme of sorts so far during this countdown series. Having already covered Cornelius "Tank" Carradine and Bjoern Werner, Brandon Jenkins represents the third and final installment of NFL-bound talent off the edge.
A homegrown product out of Florida High, Jenkins appeared in 12 of 13 games during his freshman season in 2009 for one of the worst defenses in college football. He had a modest rookie year for the Seminoles, averaging a tackle per game and working mostly in pass rushing situations. He didn't break out, but it set the stage for him to do exactly that in his sophomore campaign.
Jenkins entered his first season as a starter as a relative unknown, but that changed pretty quickly. Not only did he formally introduce himself to the FSU fan base, but he made a splash nationally by finishing the 2010 season with 13.5 sacks, the third-most of any player in the country. Jenkins also finished in the top five in the country in tackles for loss, notching 21.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. His speed rush proved to be too much for opposing tackles, and he went from a nobody to All-ACC over the course of 14 games.
Jenkins followed up his coming out party in 2010 with a very good season in 2011. On the surface, Jenkins' productivity as a junior didn't match that of his sophomore season. After all, he only managed 12 TFL and eight sacks. Of course, the surface doesn't tell the whole story, and it certainly doesn't do his performance justice.
Following his 13.5-sack statement in 2010, opposing offenses were better prepared for Jenkins last year. He was no longer lining up and beating tackles, but working against double-teams and offensive schemes designed to keep him away from the action. While this opened up doors for his teammates to make some plays, it obviously led to a decline in Jenkins' numbers, and thus a drop from first-team to second-team all conference.
Regardless of where he finished on the postseason lists, Jenkins' third year as a 'Nole was far from a regression. He still managed to get to the quarterback eight times against increased attention from offenses, and his presence was felt more in the run game than it had been previously, thanks in part to some added weight. Jenkins adjusted to the way teams were playing him as the year went on and gathered 4.5 of his sacks over the final four games of the season.
Following his junior season, Jenkins had to decide whether to forgo his senior year in Tallahassee and enter the NFL Draft, where he had a chance of being selected in the first round, or to finish out his time at Florida State. It was reported that Jenkins was very close to making the jump to the professional ranks. But after much deliberation he ultimately decided to stay and be a leader on what promises to be one of the nation's top defensive units for a second consecutive year.
Jenkins will certainly face more of the same treatment from offenses this season, with double-teams, rolling protections, quick passes and the like coming to keep him out of the face of quarterbacks. He is a feared pass rusher and will be treated as such. Just like last year, however, Jenkins is simply too good, and all of the game planning against him won't be enough to keep him from making plays. It will slow him down to an extent, but his presence will be felt nontheless.
And with all of the size, speed and talent that FSU has on the D-line, offenses will have enough trouble as it is trying to handle the Seminoles' front. Too much scheming against Jenkins, and Werner, Carradine and Co. will make you pay. Choose your poison.
Jenkins has great explosion off the line to go along with nasty spin and swim moves. Many believe that he projects best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme at the next level, which is certainly understandable given his superior speed rushing off the edge. He has lined up at linebacker some for Mark Stoops in the past, and there will be more of that in 2012 as well. But Jenkins could also fit into a 4-3 defense in the league if he packs on a bit more size (and based on Jimbo Fisher's vivid description of a shirtless Jenkins at Monday's presser, the NFL body is coming along).
Jenkins will look a bit different this fall after trading in his old No. 49 in favor of the sleeker No. 4. No matter what number he is wearing, though, enjoy watching him play his final year as a 'Nole—it almost didn't happen. With double-digit sacks this year, Jenkins would put himself over 30 in his three years as a starter. Expect him to make a run at that number before he hits his payday.