Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg's JaQuez Jenkins seeks consistent play in USF Bulls' secondary

TAMPA — In a span of four days in the past week, USF's football coaches saw the full spectrum of safety JaQuez Jenkins: first, the promising playmaking ability in the first scrimmage, then the frustration of seeing him limited by another injury.

Jenkins, a junior from Lakewood, had a leaping interception on his first play in that scrimmage, nearly picking off two more passes as he jumped quick routes like he did for a touchdown in last year's loss to West Virginia.

"I've really been impressed with Jenkins," coach Skip Holtz said that day. "He gives us that free safety we haven't had here: tall, lanky, athletic, can cover a lot of ground at the safety position. He's opening a lot of people's eyes."

Then in the next practice on Monday, he managed to give himself a concussion in a noncontact drill, running square into defensive tackle Todd Chandler and knocking himself out. Jenkins hasn't practiced since, which reminds coaches of the hamstring problems that limited him to 13 tackles last season.

"Jenkins got a concussion in a noncontact, shorts drill. Really still trying to figure out how that one worked out," Holtz said Wednesday. "He didn't have his chinstrap buckled, didn't have his mouthpiece in, didn't have enough air in his helmet. … If it's something minor, he can be back in a couple of days; we can all learn a lesson from it. Those are the type of things we have to eliminate."

If that seems harsh, it was nothing compared to what veteran defensive backs coach Rick Smith said Monday in calling out key players for what he said was a lack of toughness.

"At safety, I have one guy I can depend on," Smith said, referring to junior Mark Joyce. "(JaQuez) Jenkins will have a good day, then he's hurt. Just like today, he goes down and we don't get anything out of him today. That's his history: Durability, there is none. Toughness, there is none. He's just a real good athlete that I can't depend on to be on the field."

Smith actually likes Jenkins, who, if healthy, should be the nickel defensive back, as well as the third safety. Best known at Lakewood as a quarterback, Jenkins had an interception returned just short of a touchdown as a freshman in USF's bowl win against Clemson. He had interceptions last year against Cincinnati and West Virginia, but both big plays came in games the Bulls lost in the final minute, a scenario he hopes USF can avoid in the fall with a stronger defense.

"Coming into the spring, we wanted to set the tone from Day 1," the 6-foot-2, 189-pound junior said of the mind-set this spring. "I felt like a lot of the games we may have lost in the fourth quarter were put on the defense. We didn't want any of those losses to happen again and definitely didn't want it to be on the defensive side of the ball."

The Bulls return a two-year starter in strong safety Jon Lejiste, but he has missed most of the spring with a wrist injury, putting Jenkins on the first team with another likely first-year starter in Joyce. A year ago, Jenkins was shifted from his natural position to provide depth at cornerback, but he's back at safety now, knowing he will at least be playing often in a three-player rotation there.

USF is replacing two multiyear starters in corner Quenton Washington and safety Jerrell Young, but the Bulls hope for improved play and better health in the secondary, with key players such as Jenkins stepping up in the fall.

"We're trying to make a statement as a defense as a whole," Jenkins said. "We're all fighting for positions, but we're fighting to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. We came out with that mind-set that we want to be nothing short of great."

St. Petersburg's JaQuez Jenkins seeks consistent play in USF Bulls' secondary 04/09/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 12, 2012 9:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, Arlington, Texas

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Rangers

    8:05, Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 2: Nick Martinez #22 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2015 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
  2. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  3. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  4. For starters: Rays at Rangers, with Erasmo on the mound again


    UPDATE, 6:36: Cash said the Rays will "be smart" in deciding whether to use Farquhar, Hunter and Colome tonight, so it could be a closing combo of the Blaze Brothers, Alvarado and Stanek, with Whitley another option. ... Cash said De Leon provides depth for tonight, and mentioned that some of the other relief …

  5. USF baseball heads to Gainesville for region play


    TAMPA — Had USF's players and coaches been less confident in their NCAA tournament resume, Monday's selection show might have induced fidgeting, perhaps even frustration.

    USF coach Mark Kingston looks on during the American Athletic Conference tournament last week at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]