WVU's Jenkins Familiar With Watkins
MIAMI – West Virginia’s Brodrick Jenkins could tell right away that Clemson’s Sammy Watkins was going to be a special football player. They grew up together in Fort Myers, Fla., separated by two years, and Jenkins said he used to be like a big brother to Watkins.
“Growing up me and Sammy were always nice,” Jenkins said before Friday’s practice at Barry University. “I was older so I would always take him home or take him with me. I always tried to keep him around me because I knew he was going to be special.”
Indeed, Watkins is. One of the top football recruits in the country last February, Watkins proved worthy of his lofty status by having one of the best freshman campaigns in ACC history for the 10-3 Tigers, ranked 14th in the country.
Watkins, despite missing one game this year against NC State, managed to catch 77 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had five 100-yard games, including three – Auburn, Boston College and Georgia Tech – that exceeded 150 yards.
Watkins also ran 31 times for 229 yards and returned 26 kicks for 683 yards, including one for a touchdown against Maryland, to become just the third true freshman in NCAA history to earn AP first team All-America honors. The other two were Georgia’s Herschel Walker in 1980 and Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson in 2004. That’s some pretty heady company for the Clemson freshman.
Jenkins, meanwhile, has made consistent improvement during his two seasons in the Mountaineer program. Following Fort Myers legend Noel Devine to WVU, Jenkins appeared in all 13 games during his freshman season in 2010. This year has been even better, the sophomore producing 22 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions while playing on the opposite side of all-Big East corner Keith Tandy.
Jenkins said having the opportunity to practice every day against terrific players such as Watkins and Miami freshman Dallas Crawford at South Fort Myers High helped make him a better player.
“We had a big competition of ’09 versus ’11 with him, Dallas (Crawford) and a couple of my class members and it was so competitive to where we would be practicing offense versus defense and I would make a play on him and our coaches would just stop and we would do one-on-ones right there,” Jenkins said before Friday’s practice at Barry University. “There was so much competition that made it fun and worthwhile.”
Watkins was always a dominating player for as long as Jenkins can remember, going all the way back to his pee-wee football days.
“We had high hopes for him,” Jenkins recalled. “My junior year we were looking for a quarterback because our senior quarterback had just left. We were talking about him coming in and playing quarterback for us as a freshman, but then he came in the last few games and really produced. I remember I got out on a punt and he got back there and took it back. It was like nothing was missed.”
What makes Watkins truly special, according to Jenkins, is his easy-going demeanor. Jenkins believes that has helped him handle success so early in his career.
“Him being the player that he is he takes it very well,” said Jenkins. “I remember I called him one day and I asked him how he felt about how fast (success) came and he said it really did come fast. But I’m just proud how he took it.
“Sammy is a real quiet person, but he can be loud if you get to know him he will open up to you,” Jenkins added.
Jenkins says he won’t have to remind his West Virginia teammates how good Jenkins is because they can see that for themselves. Players know good players.
“The film says it all,” Jenkins explained. “Everybody knows that he’s a big threat, but if we just try and focus on him that could hurt us because they have other athletes.”
Namely, All-America tight end Dwayne Allen, running back Andre Ellington and No. 2 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who finished second to Watkins on the team with 62 catches for 871 yards and four touchdowns. However, Hopkins suffered a mild concussion in an automobile accident on Tuesday and was listed as questionable for the Discover Orange Bowl earlier this week, although he is back practicing with the team.
Clemson certainly has a lot of offensive firepower for West Virginia’s young secondary, now minus starting safety Terence Garvin, to contend with. Jenkins admits defending all of those weapons will be a tremendous challenge - one he says he is looking forward to when the two teams hook up next Wednesday night in the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl.
“I really feel like I have to go out there and do my best to try and help us out,” he said, adding that there might be a little chatter going on out on the field when he lines up across from his good buddy. “There might be a little friendly talking out there because we’re both trying to get that W.”
* West Virginia had its first workout in shorts and shoulder pads at Barry University on Friday afternoon and the team will continue workouts on Saturday. After Saturday’s late morning practice, the players and coaches will take part in a family beach party put on by the Orange Bowl.
* West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said before Friday’s practice that he’s not sure who is going to start in place of Terence Garvin at safety. That will be determined based on performance during practice leading up to the game. “We will find out who it goes this week,” said Holgorsen. “We’re not ready to name a starter at this point.”
* West Virginia players will be sporting new gold shoes and blue-gray gloves provided by Nike for the Orange Bowl.
* Don’t forget to tune in to ROOT Sports on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. for MSN’s hour-long Orange Bowl special. The show will re-air at 1 a.m. on Jan. 4, and again at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. leading into the game.
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