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Better Know a Freshman: Nelson Jenkins III

Big, athletic lineman may be a future starter.

Assembling a legion of ass kickers is the surest way on the path to a championship. Styles and schemes be damned, the consistent model for winning a title is still getting a collection of the biggest and baddest dudes on mother earth and lining them up together. It’s what’s propelled Bama’s dynasty and it’s what Kirby Smart immediately set out to do at Georgia. It’s what Urban Meyer did at Ohio State and Dabo Swinney at Clemson. Look up and down those rosters and tell me those aren’t some of the most impressive looking humans on the planet.

Talent assembly isn’t typically lacking in Baton Rouge, but since taking over, the messaging from Orgeron is clear: we need to get bigger and stronger on the lines. Somewhere along the way, LSU started trading off recruiting battles and while acquiring high-level skill guys, they didn’t match it with the big boys up front. It’s not that they were untalented on the lines, more simply they weren’t talented to the high standard set at LSU. O’s made a mission to rectify that and Nelson Jenkins is another piece of that puzzle.

The Story

Remember that day in February of 2017 when a handful of athletes from Louisiana all decided to commit to Kansas? Yes, Devonta Jason, Corione Harris, JaMarr Chase, Anthony Williams, Aaron Brule and Nelson Jenkins all verbally pledged to Kansas. It’s well known now that it all tied to former Warren Easton coach Tony Hull. In the end, only Harris and Williams wound up signing with KU, but the news took the college football world by surprise for a few days.

Jenkins is often the forgotten man of the quintet, and just 10 days later, LSU delivered their scholarship offer to the talented DT. Unable to resist the lure from home and strong connections between Plaquemine and LSU, Jenkins went ahead and flipped his verbal pledge that same day.

Jenkins then took on the camp circuit a bit, traveling to Houston for an Under Armour camp. At a camp where future Texas signee (and LSU target) Anthony Cook took home Alpha Dog recognition, 247 writer E.J. Holland rated Jenkins the best defensive player in attendance:

An LSU commit, Jenkins had a big day in the trenches. He moves so well for his size and knows how to knife through double teams. In 1-on-1’s, Jenkins used his speed to get around offensive lineman. He also used his hands well and appears to be one of the region’s better pass rushing defensive tackles.

A few months later, Alabama came through with their scholarship offer. Jenkins, who committed to Kansas while holding but few offers, suddenly held offers from two premiere schools in the SEC.

A couple months later, Jenkins headed to Oregon for the annual Opening Finals. Jenkins, coming off having his appendix removed, injured his thumb early on on Day one, limiting his reps. From an evaluation standpoint, little more information came out from that point.

In mid-October, Jenkins injured his meniscus, prematurely cutting off his senior season and requiring surgery. With that, seemingly went his recruiting process as well. Jenkins would take only one official visit, to LSU, in early December, and sign with LSU just 12 days later during the early signing period. Rumors of a last minute Alabama visit circulated, but nothing ever materialized.

The Numbers

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

247 Composite Rating: ***
247 Composite Ranking: .8773

Jenkins ranking outright indicates the services believe him to be a 3-star prospect. Considering his troubles with injuries and lack of much available Senior tape, I won’t fight the notion too hard here. I do think there’s a solid chance he could outperform that ranking considering he’s impressed in camp settings against upper-tier athletes and did hold an offer from Alabama, along with LSU. That’s not the sign of a not talented player.

The Film

The thing that stands out about Jenkins is how well he moves for his size. Jenkins is a really good athlete and that pops on tape. He gets out of stance in a hurry and he can play in pursuit. That should translate to some solid pass rushing ability on the next level.

He’s a big fan of the club over pass rush move, and regularly turns to that tool in the arsenal. It shows his raw power and also explosive ability. He actually plays with really solid leverage too, which is particularly impressive if he’s truly the six-foot-four LSU lists. If there’s one thing I look for in young interior lineman as far as translating to early playing time, it’s playing with leverage. You’ve heard low man wins countless times, but in the very least, low man doesn’t often lose, so if you have that tool available, you can probably deal with the rigor of college football DL while still learning more advanced stuff.

He’s a bit of a Cost Co. brand Rashard Lawrence. I don’t think he’s nearly as explosive and probably not as naturally strong, but he’s closer to that style of player than a big, bruting type like Ed Alexander. I don’t think stacking up double teams will be in Jenkins future. He doesn’t look supremely comfortable digging in and anchoring against that type of attack.

Instead, Jenkins wants to be on the offensive. He’s the type of guy that will jump the snap and force a fumble. He wants to dine in the backfield. That translates to him being on the End and not at the Nose, at least for most snaps.

The Future

Plenty to like here. Jenkins sports a great frame and the depth chart should afford him opportunity to get bigger, stronger and to develop his technique. He plays a lot like the best athlete on the field, which can cause some to fall into bad habits. I think he’ll need some time adjusting to the caliber of competition and learning to rely on his technique and coaching.

That said, I do like how he plays with leverage, and reports suggest he looks pretty near to the 290 and carries it well. That’s a college-ready frame, even if he’s not yet college-ready strong nor bringing college-ready technique. Unless he knocks some socks off in Fall Camp, I think he’s headed to a RS. And that’s a very good thing for a program that struggles to maintain quality depth due to NFL attrition.

Given Jenkins a year to grow in the program, a year to adjust to playing and as a RS Sophomore you may have a starting caliber player on your hands. Think of a trajectory like Glen Logan, who many suspect will have a breakout season in 2018.

High End: Capable starter.
Low End: Depth or injury casualty.
Realistic: Pass-rush contributor early on who eventually winds up starting as an upperclassmen.