Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham knows college recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint. After trailing behind Alabama and Florida for almost a year, Grantham and his staff pulled out a come-from-behind victory to land one of the top defenders in the nation and an enormous prize for the Bulldogs' defense.
ESPNU 150 defensive end Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County) committed to Georgia on Monday night, choosing the Bulldogs over Alabama, Florida and Auburn.
"I am picking Georgia and I would like to say, 'Go Dawgs,' " Jenkins announced live on Fox Sports South.
Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide were often mentioned by Jenkins as front-runners, but Grantham kept up the pressure and made multiple personal appeals to Jenkins and his family. Georgia was at no time mentioned as a leader, but Grantham was the last coach to meet with Jenkins before the player's announcement, talking with him last Friday for half an hour.
"The depth chart wasn’t as deep and my family didn't exactly feel safe with me going to Alabama,” Jenkins said. “And I love Alabama. I love Alabama to death. When I was first being recruited I thought I was going to end up at Bama. I never would have thought I was going to Georgia."
The coaching staff in Athens was a big selling point for the Bulldogs, with head coach Mark Richt and Grantham connecting with the entire Jenkins household. And Jenkins knows his family will rest easy with him at Georgia.
“It is a benefit for me and my family together, because I don’t want to go someplace where my mom is worried about me all the time,” Jenkins said. “I just want to go to a place where that I can feel comfortable and be able to go to the coach and just confide in him and stuff like that. That is just why I chose them.”
One of reasons the Bulldogs trailed for Jenkins was the question of stability in the coaching staff before this past season. But then Georgia amassed a 10-game win streak and captured the SEC East title. Grantham's defense, which seemed lost at times during his first year, bounced back in year two to be ranked among the top five defenses in the nation. So, with Richt and Grantham in the process of getting contract extensions, one of the knocks on the Georgia program was no longer a factor. At the end of the season, Jenkins was rethinking his view of the Bulldogs.
“I didn’t feel like I could play for Georgia at first,” Jenkins said. “Something about Georgia just drew me out. I just love the chance to play for Georgia on the upswing. That is one of the things I am really excited about.”
Jenkins’ commitment is Grantham’s first signature recruiting win over Alabama. Jenkins’ father, Ronald Jenkins, told DawgNation that his son feels Grantham can prepare him for the next level. The success of Justin Houston, who left early for the NFL, and Jarvis Jones, who was recently named an AP All-American, also helped Grantham make his case.
“I really like what Coach Grantham has done with Jarvis Jones and what he did with Justin Houston last year,” Jenkins said. “He just turned Jarvis around. I am not saying Jarvis wasn’t good, but he has done a lot of things with him and I like what he does with his defense.”
The aggressive nature of Grantham’s defense has appealed to his players since his arrival in Athens, and that has carried over into recruiting. Jenkins has mentioned the scheme Grantham employs as a major selling point.
“Jordan wants to rush the passer,” Ronald Jenkins said.
On Jenkins' official visit in November, Grantham went into detail with him about how he would use the 6-foot-4, 247-pound standout to pressure the quarterback. With increased contact came increased understanding, and the Bulldogs went from being an afterthought in the summer to actually having a chance in the fall.
“Georgia and Alabama, they were neck and neck the whole time for my senior year,“ Jenkins said. “Ultimately I made the decision last week, well actually a couple days ago, because I was iffy and I wanted to be sure it was the right decision. Me and my dad and my mom sat down and it was an intense conversation.”
Phylicia Jenkins was happy with her son’s decision, so there were no fireworks like the sort that accompanied Landon Collins’ commitment to Alabama.
“Georgia is a good fit for him all around -- academically and playing time,” Phylicia Jenkins said. “I am confident in the coaches and the staff. Coach Grantham’s been excellent. We are just happy. I support him 100 percent.”
The combination of early playing time, a shallow depth chart and a chance to develop with Grantham did the trick for Jenkins.
Jenkins’ commitment gives the Bulldogs two of the top defenders in the state of Georgia. The No. 1 player in the state, outside linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes), is undecided and still in the mix. ESPNU defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor (Millen, Ga./Jenkins County) committed to Georgia last June.
Georgia, whose Class of 2012 ranks 7th nationally, now has serious momentum going into the final weeks before signing day.