The Florida Gators have announced that junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins has decided to leave school early and declare for the NFL draft. He would be the fourth junior to leave early this season joining Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam, and Jordan Reed.
Jenkins, from Good Counsel high school in Olney, Maryland, came to the Gators in the 2009 recruiting class and was considered the top linebacker in the country by most recruiting services.
After sitting out his first season, he moved into the starting middle linebacker slot as redshirt freshman finishing second on the team in tackles. He moved over to the weakside linebacker last season where he once again finished second on the team in tackles.
This season his stats slid back considerably as he missed four games due to injury including the Sugar Bowl after suffering a season ending foot injury against Florida State in the finale. He was the co-hero of the Louisiana-Lafayette game, though, catching a blocked punt in the air and returning it for a game winning touchdown with two seconds left in the game.
He appeared in 36 games as a Gator making 32 starts. His career numbers are 182 tackles, 16.5 for loss, 6 sacks, 7 pass break ups, 3 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.
Jenkins is a somewhat smallish linebacker with good speed and instincts and above average tackling skills. He projects as an outside linebacker on the next level and is rated the number seven OLB on nfldraftscout.com.
While it was public knowledge Jenkins was seeking NFL draft advice, it is still somewhat of a surprise that he is leaving due to the fact that he missed so much time this season due to injury and with him still nursing a foot injury he may not be able to work out properly prior to the draft.
With him leaving and Jon Bostic graduating, the Gators are left with only juniors Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball as well as true sophomore Antonio Morrison as the only experienced returning inside linebackers.