When Jonathan Jenkins left Oxford after Ole Miss' Grove Bowl game to return to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, he was hopeful that the Rebels were as interested as they said they were.
Still, the big defensive tackle maintained a level of skepticism. After all, sometimes recruiting can be nothing more than a series of sales pitches.
On Wednesday, however, that skepticism was erased. The Rebels did indeed offer. Now the ball is back in Jenkins' court.
"(Ole Miss defensive line) Coach (Terry) Price came down and talked to (MGCCC) Coach (Steve) Campbell and they asked me to come in and talk to them," Jenkins said. "After that, Coach Price sat in on my workout and after that he said I'm what Ole Miss is looking for as far as the guys that are leaving and what they want and he said I had a full offer."
Jenkins, a 6-foot-4, 340-pound Connecticut native, said that while it's too early to name a favorite, the Rebels do have a built-in advantage of sorts. Jenkins' former MGCCC teammates, defensive end Wayne Dorsey and safety Damian Jackson, both began school at Ole Miss in January, went through spring drills and basically won starting jobs on the Rebels' defense.
"To be honest with you, yes, it's an advantage, just for the fact that I've seen the program," Jenkins said. "I'm really close with Wayne. Wayne's like a big brother, and I've seen how they react to the program.
"I've asked him if it's the real deal or if he regrets it? Wayne said when he first came there, he was kind of iffy just because he was at a different program. But he said, 'John, I love it here. They treat you right. They're firm, but they love the game. You can see it in their faces. They don't beat the fun out of the game for you. They show you so much love. It's the real deal.'"
Like Dorsey, who is a Baltimore product, Jenkins has urban roots. He admitted that he wondered if he'd find the small-town charm of Oxford appealing when he first arrived for his visit a couple of weeks ago.
"(Dorsey) said, 'John, it's like a city in a country environment,'" Jenkins said. "When I was there, I felt it myself. It was like a city with no tall buildings, and the people were nice. I felt welcomed there."
Dorsey, however, didn't choose Ole Miss because of a welcoming environment. He chose the Rebels because of the availability of immediate playing time. The Rebels lost Greg Hardy, Marcus Tillman and Emmanuel Stephens off the 2009 team, creating a vacancy up front that Dorsey could fill immediately. After the 2010 season, Ole Miss will lose defensive tackles Jerrell Powe, LaMark Armour, Ted Laurent and Lawon Scott. That figures to be the Rebels' most compelling recruiting tool.
"Ole Miss will have lost four or five defensive lineme," Jenkins said. "In order to get to the league, I have to find a place where I can play right away."
The Rebels, however, are anything but an automatic selection. Jenkins said he's going to take his time and seek the advice of family, coaches and Dorsey. He also has to decide if he wants to play college ball closer to his Connecticut home.
"A lot of people ask if I want to go back home," Jenkins said. "I kind of do and I kind of don't. I have to look at depth charts now. I want to go to the league. I'm looking at the small things, how coaches are with their players, the relationships they have, the formations and schemes that they run. I'm looking at everything. It's way too early, to be honest with you."
Jenkins said he now has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, UAB, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Jenkins said Auburn said an offer is coming once Tigers coach Gene Chizik approves the defensive staff's recommendation. Syracuse is interested, Jenkins said, as are Rutgers and Alabama.
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