Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Florida Gator Janoris Jenkins seeks second chance at big time

MOBILE, Ala. — Janoris Jenkins knows what it's like to feel Florida Field reverberate from the thunder of a roaring crowd.

There are few environments in football like those in the SEC, and for three years, the former University of Florida star cornerback enjoyed all that being a Gator entailed.

That ended when his unlawful actions got him bounced from the program, sending his career on a detour to North Alabama, where Saturdays arrived with slightly less fanfare.

"I went from Division I to Division II," Jenkins said. "It was a big difference. … I went from 95,000 (fans) to 3,500 a week. That's a big difference."

This week Jenkins begins working way back to the big stage — specifically, those in the NFL.

After being dismissed from UF for two marijuana-related arrests in a four-month span last year — he also faced fight-related charges in 2009— Jenkins played at North Alabama in the fall, hoping to remain relevant.

Scouts will have difficult questions this week. Jenkins welcomes them.

"I'm ready," he said. "I can face up to the fact that I did what I did. I'm ready to accept all challenges and just be honest. I'm ready to tell them what happened and how it went and hopefully we'll move on from there."

Why should anyone believe it won't happen again? For one, Jenkins had no additional incidents after transferring. He also says he made tangible changes that he is willing to detail.

"I took a step to Division II and decided to come back to college football, separate myself from the people I used to hang with," he said. "I just learned. I humbled myself. … I took a year (keeping) to myself, just doing positive things, giving back to the kids and things like that."

Jenkins has first-round talent given his speed, athleticism and ball skills. And he plays a premium position that tends to produce first-rounders given the depth of NFL wide-receiver talent. At North Alabama, quarterbacks did not throw in his direction. He ranked third on the team with 53 tackles but had just two interceptions.

Cornerback is a Bucs need, but given legal issues with Aqib Talib they might shy away from Jenkins.

"I think he is one of the most talented corners in this draft class," said Bucky Brooks, NFL Network draft analyst. "When I look at him, he reminds me of Asante Samuel in terms of his instincts and ball skills, his on-the-field swagger. He is very confident in his ability.

"From a skill standpoint, his hip movement, feet, quickness — you're talking about a Florida guy who played in the SEC and was a dominant player. He had close to first-round grades on him at the end of last year. He was somebody who was definitely on the radar in the scouting community."

And he didn't drop off the radar just because he played before smaller crowds in 2011. A three-year starter at Florida, Jenkins is taking a route similar to Bucs receiver Preston Parker, who ended up at North Alabama after off-field issues got him dismissed from Florida State. Parker went undrafted but became the Bucs' top slot-receiving option this season.

Jenkins will be drafted. Is he first-round material?

"Hopefully," he said. "Who knows? But wherever I go, I'm going to be happy. I made the mistake. I have to take the blame for it. Whoever gets me, I'll be glad to go there and they'll get all I have when I show up."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]

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