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October 28, 2011
Defensive end Brandon Jenkins plays a position that's largely defined by one statistic: Sacks.
Last year, they came in droves.
Jenkins put together stellar sophomore season, bursting on the national scene with 13 1/2 sacks for a FSU defense that led the nation with 48. With expectations and NFL stock rising rapidly entering 2011, this year has taken a less glamorous turn for the 6-foot-3, 255-pound junior.
Double teams are becoming routine, for starters. He's also been asked to take his hand off the ground and play as a hybrid, putting his talent to work in coverage on some snaps. And while FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has praised his performance throughout the year - especially in the past two games - everything has amounted to 26 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, far behind the pace of 2010.
Jenkins will look to bolster that sack total against N.C. State on Saturday (Noon EST) as he chases around Mike Glennon, the Wolfpack quarterback who has been sacked 17 times this season.
"If he would quit listening to (the media) then he'll be fine," Fisher said. "Because the NFL doesn't care about numbers, they care about how you play. Just because you don't have a sack doesn't mean you aren't doing things right."
Jenkins, whose 13 1/2 sacks ranked him third nationally and earned him All-American honors a season ago, insists there has been no frustration due to the lack of tangible performance to date.
"I'm just doing what I can for my team defense-wise," Jenkins said. "If my coaches tell me to do this, I'm going to do it. I'm not going to sit there and complain about it. I'm having fun this year, but we're going to try and pick it up and win some more ballgames."
Jenkins' best game in the opposing backfield came last week as he totaled 1 1/2 sacks in the win over Maryland. On top of that, his teammates are doing plenty of work as the team's 24 sacks ranks fourth nationally. The defensive end on the other side of Jenkins, sophomore Bjoern Werner leads the Seminoles with six sacks.
"The reason a lot of those other guys are making plays is because of No. 49," Fisher said. "He's got to keep playing, doing his assignment, be sound and keep making the smart play and don't worry about the big play. Numbers don't mean anything. It's how you play and how you play as a team and what it allows your teammates to do. And the NFL guys see that. We've talked about that with all of those guys, and they understand that now."
Jenkins says the new role has taken some adjustment.
"I'm used to putting my hand in the dirt, just going after the quarterback and play football," Jenkins said. "Looking back and trying to cover receivers that are very (much) faster than you is hard. It's harder, but I'm adjusting to it."
And some of the new experiences, namely pass coverage, could still help Jenkins moving forward despite a downturn in sacks. Most NFL Draft experts project Jenkins as an outside linebacker at the NFL level and he's rated as the top outside linebacker in the 2013 class by NFLDraftScout.net. Among all the players graded by Scouts' Inc. this season - which includes seniors and the top tier draft-eligible underclassmen - Jenkins is rated as the No. 35 overall prospect and the No. 5 defensive end prospect in the country. In May, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay slated Jenkins as a late first round pick.
Even still, Jenkins maintains that he's not focused on his draft stock, just on how to help his team win games - with or without sacks.
"I play hard, I'm not going to sit there and not play football just because I'm not getting sacks. I play hard, just the opportunities aren't coming like they used to," Jenkins said. "Yea, it was (easier to do my job last year). I've just got to push through it and keep fighting through it."