As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
Should Florida State regain the might it possessed from 1987 through 2003, it’ll likely be accomplished through the defense. In 2012, it’s a senior unit occupied by nine returning starters — stunning for a group that only allowed 15.1 points per game last season. The centerpiece of the defense is its line, and specifically, our featured player today, senior DE Brandon Jenkins.
An active pass-rusher (all part of the FSU scheme), Jenkins collected eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season. And even though those figures were among the best in the ACC, they still ended up amounting to a “disappointing” year for Jenkins (coming off a breakout 2010). For the senior, who lacks the size and strength of many NFL-caliber ends, he excels on speed and aggression. His 4.59 40-yard dash time may not scream “elite,” but his nice burst off the line is still a huge advantage. Repeating their strong effort from last year, the ‘Noles defensive front traces directly back to Jenkins success. Even if he fails to get the ball-carrier, his ability attracts attention away from teammates and opens up easy lanes for tackles.
When not getting after the runner, Jenkins (as stated above) still makes a huge impact on the game, seen as one of the team’s leaders in a group full of veterans. It’s this perception that’s gotten him named to the respective watch lists for the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards. And even with all the attention directed his way, the senior still manages to stay incredibly focused, humble and team-oriented just the same. When asked about NFL aspirations, he told the Miami Herald last week:
“That’s the thing, you can’t let that get ahead of you, I have team goals first, ACC championship, national championship. Then once you do all that, then that’s when I’ll think about the NFL.”
If he can keep that mindset over the next four months, it’s tough to imagine how Jenkins won’t find himself playing in a BCS game this January, and then on Sundays next fall.