KNOXVILLE – It didn’t take long for new Tennessee wide receiver commitment Ryan Jenkins to change his mind.
Less than one week after visiting Knoxville, the longtime Clemson commitment flipped his pledge from the Tigers to the Vols on Monday. The 5-11, 180-pound native of Marietta, Ga., is ranked as a four-star prospect by multiple recruiting services, making him the highest-ranked recruit to join the Vols since new head coach Butch Jones took over in December.
“Ryan Jenkins is one of the top slot receivers in the country,” 247Sports analyst JC Shurbutt said, via Twitter, after the announcement was made. “Biggest get to date for Butch Jones and the Vols.”
Jenkins is the son of Lee Jenkins, a former UT defensive back, who was also an 11th round pick of the New York Giants in 1982.
The younger Jenkins picked the Vols over multiple SEC offers, including Mississippi State, Missouri and Vanderbilt in addition to Clemson, Louisville, Oklahoma State, UCLA and others.
“He possesses excellent lateral quickness, loose hips and is smooth in all of his movement skills,” ESPN.com wrote in a scouting report. “He shows initial burst off the line and a burst out of breaks, but is much better when he can get a free release and get vertical up the field. He flashes good burst and acceleration when he finds an open seam in space and has a longer, smoother stride.”
Jenkins is the 18th commitment in Jones’ first recruiting class and the sixth to pledge since Jones took over.
ESPN.com: 4-star; 45th best wide receiver nationally
Rivals.com: 3-star; 48th best wide receiver nationally
Scout.com: 3-star; 79th best cornerback nationally
247Sports.com: 4-star; 17th best wide receiver nationally
Nooga.com analysis: Jenkins isn’t the type of prospect that will send fans into a frenzy, but he’s the biggest commitment Jones has received so far. The former staff, which preferred taller receivers, didn’t make Jenkins a priority and the Vol legacy opted to go with Clemson. The new staff has been all over him and made a huge impression on him during his visit last weekend.
He’s plenty fast (4.5 40-yard dash) and is big enough to be an effective slot receiver in the SEC. He does a good job of separating from defenders and finds open spaces in zone coverage. He does a good job of catching the ball with his hands and doesn’t let it get into his body.
Jones’ offense at Cincinnati relied heavily on having receivers who ran precise routes and who could break tackles once making the catch. Jenkins should be a good fit for what Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian are looking for in a receiver.
How he fits: Tennessee needs help at receiver and it needs it next year. Jenkins will have a chance to contribute as soon as he steps on campus. No Tennessee receiver that is expected to return next year had more than 19 catches or 149 yards of receiving. Only Pig Howard, Jacob Carter and Vincent Dallas recorded any receiving stats.
Jenkins is the third wide receiver commitment in the 2013 class, joining Josh Smith and Paul Harris. They’ll join Howard, Carter, Dallas along with Drae Bowles and Cody Blanc as the scholarship receivers on the roster. Jason Croom could play tight end or receiver next season.
Junior Hunter has already declared for the NFL Draft and Jones said in December that he expects Cordarrelle Patterson to do the same, though Patterson hasn’t officially declared.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football and basketball for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS