Uncommitted: Jelani Jenkins
High school: Our Lady of Good Counsel. (Olney, Md.)
Size: 6-foot-1, 215 pounds
Tom Lemming’s Top 100: No. 26 overall (No. 4 OLB)
Finalists (alphabetical): Florida, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford, USC
Previous uncommitted: Devon Kennard, Rueben Randle
By Mitch Stephens
So much sets Jelani Jenkins apart but speed is the most literal, obvious and breathtaking.
Recruiters can’t close their respective jaws watching the 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker jet around the edge and sack an exposed and defenseless quarterback or bolt sideline-to-sideline for a loose ball or ball carrier.
Videographers need a wide lens to capture Jenkins’ Roadrunner (beep-beep) attack.
“He probably has the best closing speed of any linebacker in the country,” said CBS Sports recruiting expert Tom Lemming, who has Jenkins as the No. 26 recruit in the country and No. 4 at outside linebacker. “He’s got very good speed for a running back which he could play in college. But at linebacker his speed is off the charts.”
But don’t expect anything rushed or hurried when it comes to his college plans.
Jenkins will consider every nook and cranny of every option right up until next Wednesday’s signing day, when he'll announce his plans on national television.
Jenkins isn’t waiting for a drum roll or the hot TV lights for effect. The 16-year-old with a 3.9 grade point average is backed by arguably the country’s most thorough and analytical family support team.
Educators run rampant in his lineage and his father Maurice is a renowned architect in the Maryland/Washington D.C. region.
In this fantastic read by the Washington Post, Maurice Jenkins devised a remarkable three-page matrix of his son’s college choices, breaking down schools by such categories as world academic ranking, graduation rates, diversity and number of NFL draft picks in the past five years.
His mother Stephanie Hall, stepfather Ernest Hall and older brother Shomari Jenkins aid in a variety of ways from screening recruiter contacts to deciphering coach speak to massaging Jelani’s firm but young ego.
He doesn’t turn 17 until March.
All agree that the final decision will be a family decision, which is consistent with the namesake of his high school choice - Our Lady of Good Counsel.
“We measure out everything and see everything,” Jelani told the Post. “We want to make sure we make the perfect decision.”
That seems like a lot of pressure, though he can’t go wrong with any of his finalists that Maurice announced earlier this month after systematically whittling a list from 24 to 15 to five the last three months.
This is probably the most difficult read from the entire top 100 uncommitted list. But here’s how we see it;
USC (8-to-1): Ranks high on the NFL scale and if Pete Carroll decides to make a home visit, watch out. But it’s a long, long way from home and perhaps too much glitz rather than academia. Besides that, the Trojans have already loaded up with two blue chip linebackers.
Notre Dame (6-1): Lot of matches, especially in terms of tradition. But Jenkins doesn’t appear to be a middle America man to us.
Stanford (5-1): This is the best academic fit, but ranks a little lower on Jenkins-O-Meter. The left coast doesn’t help Stanford’s cause, but up-and-coming coach Jim Harbaugh does.
Florida (3-1): Most forecasters are picking the Gators based on multiple family visits, NFL pipeline, Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and perhaps most important, a mentor in senior linebacker Brandon Spikes.
Penn State (2-1): With all the analysis and breakdowns, here’s the deciding, simple and common factor: Penn State is closest to home. As long as family is convinced that the off-the-field shenanigans are a thing of the past at University Park, then “Linebacker-U” will be Jenkin’s U.
Final take: We actually think Stanford is the best fit for Jenkins, culturally and academically, and the football is just fine. He’ll be noticed and make a giant – and speedy – impact wherever he attends.
Where do you think Jenkins will end up and why? E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For complete Signing Day coverage click here.