December 15, 2008

Gators set bar high for Jenkins

Olney (Md.) Good Counsel linebacker Jelani Jenkins took his first official visit to Florida this past weekend. After seeing more than 20 different schools on an unofficial basis, how did the first official trip go for the five-star linebacker?

"We had a great visit," said Maurice Jenkins, Jelani's father. "Jelani was hosted by Joe Haden and we've known him and his family for a long time and everything about the visit was nice."

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, who is ranked as the No. 3 player overall in the nation, saw everything he needed to see on the trip.

"We really liked the area, it reminded me of Charleston, S.C. where I grew up," said Maurice. "The team will compete for years to come. I think the average player is a sophomore there and they're playing for a national title. They have a Heisman winner playing there and you could see when we watched practice how fast and talented the team is."

Jenkins was also impressed with the coaching staff.

"Charlie Strong is a good guy and he and Jelani related to each other well. He liked coach Strong quite a bit," said Maurice. "And Urban Meyer is impressive and the way he relates to his staff from the coaches down to the people helping out to host a recruit, he treats people with respect and they respect him. There were some interactions we saw where you just couldn't fake that, it was genuine. He relates to people very well."

And the facitilies really impressed Jelani and his dad.

"It is state of the art," Maurice said. "We've been to so many schools and that new building of theirs is about as impressive as anything we've seen. And from the video equipment to the sports medicine area, everything is top notch. That kind of dedication to the program makes players better and the better the players, the better the competition. You can't help but get better there."

Finally, Jenkins fit in well with the players on the team.

"Jelani got to meet a bunch of the younger players and he had a great time," said Maurice. "I can tell when he feels comfortable and when he doesn't and he was fitting in well. The only regret is that Tim Tebow wasn't there because he was at the Heisman presentation. We would have loved to meet him because we've heard what a great role model he is and how he has the same intensity on the field as Jelani but the same values off the field. We heard how competitive he is."

Rumors have been running rampant on the internet that Jelani committed to Florida while on his visit. Is that true?

"No, there's no truth to that at all," said his father. "He really liked it and I was impressed as well, but we're not going to rush things. We have an official visit set with Penn State for Jan. 16 and we want to take that and we're still figuring out if and when we want to take any other visits. Jelani has the Crab Bowl in Maryland this week, then we have Christmas and then the Under Armour game so it's about football and family again for now.

"But we might go back to Gainesville if we can during the Under Armour week or his mom might go to check it out," said Maurice. "But beyond that we're going to figure things out over the Holidays when it comes to other visits."

For Jenkins, becoming known as the "Prime Minister of Defense" to friends and teammates for his leadership, spirituality and defensive prowess, his first official visit was clearly a success.

"Florida has set the bar high," said his father. "That much is for sure."

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