December 17, 2013

Coach: Jenkins brings physicality to the secondary

At 6-foot, 210-pounds, Juan Jenkins was physical enough that he wasn't only a safety at Gainesville High School in Florida.

Rather, Coach Mark Latsko used the Purdue commitment in multiple ways, with Jenkins moving down into the box as a linebacker at times.

"He's a physical defender and can play multiple positions," Latsko said. "He has good cover skills. He's listed as a safety and we played him some at safety this year, and some at inside-outside linebacker, so he's real versatile. He played special teams for us. And he's just got incredible football IQ.

"He played multiple positions and he was the one making all our defensive calls and adjusting to the motions, everything like that. He's a real smart defender out there on the field."

Jenkins, a three-star recruit, committed to Purdue on Monday over double-digit offers, including from Central Florida, Utah, Indiana and Illinois. He says he could still take visits, including to Utah.

But he's excited about the Boilermakers, according to Latsko. Jenkins was one of 16 official visitors to Purdue the weekend of Dec. 6-7 - it was his first trip in a plane - and enjoyed his time in West Lafayette.

"As soon as he got back, he was smiles from ear to ear," Latsko said. "He had a great time and Coach (Jim) Bridge who recruited our area did a great job of staying in contact and keeping me in the loop.

"I know Juan was extremely excited after his visit and he told me after I saw him first thing Monday morning, he said 'I'm going to go ahead and commit.' And I think he waited around another week before making it official. But he knew as soon as he got back from the visit that that was going to be the place for him."

As a senior, Jenkins was the Hurricanes' third-leading tackler, with 112, despite missing three games with an injury. He also had a sack, an interception and forced a fumble.

Latsko says some programs thought Jenkins lacked in coverage skills, but that was only because those abilities were outshined by his physicality near the line.

"It's not that he can't cover," he said. "In his travel 7-on-7 AAU team, he played cornerback. He has good hips and good range. He's just so big and strong at the line of scrimmage that Purdue's getting a great physical ballplayer with the capacity to play multiple positions."

Like the rest of Purdue's growing 2014 class, Jenkins didn't seem to be intimidated by the Boilermakers' rebuilding effort after they finished 1-11 last season.

"I'd say the coaches did a good job of letting them know that there was a coaching change and they were playing not necessarily with their own recruited players," Latsko said, "and that there recruiting class was going to be part of the upswing at Purdue."

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