UGA notes: John Jenkins changes tune, vows to return

TAMPA — Upon further review, Georgia’s John Jenkins said Friday he’s definitely returning for his senior season.

The 6-foot-3, 351-pound nose guard has waffled about whether to turn pro after his first season with the Bulldogs. He requested an NFL draft evaluation earlier this month and said earlier this week he was going to give the pros serious consideration.

But then Jenkins said before Friday morning’s practice he had decided to remain a Bulldog.

“That’s where I belong. I belong at Georgia another year,” said Jenkins, a six-game starter this season. “I believe at the end of next year I’d have no choice but to be ready.”

Jenkins said he had not yet received his draft grade from the NFL’s advisory board, but didn’t need to see what it said.

“Unless [the grade is] first round. Then I’d be a dumb guy not to go out,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s what I’m going to get. I think everybody knows I need to come back and polish up more with [defensive line] coach [Rodney] Garner behind me. That’s what I need to do.”

With his size and athletic ability, Jenkins seems to be an eventual NFL player. He has progressed exponentially during his six months at UGA. The junior college transfer went from playing behind sophomore Kwame Geathers to becoming a six-game starter. He enters the Outback Bowl with 28 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks and 10 quarterback pressures, all solid numbers at a position primarily designed to tie up interior blockers.

Jenkins is one of several Georgia underclassmen considering early entry to the NFL draft. Safety Bacarri Rambo said Thursday he had received a third-round draft grade from the NFL and was still “50-50” whether to stay or go. Tight end Orson Charles also is thinking about it, as is outside linebacker Cornelius Washington and a few other players.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to apply for early entry.

Richt on tailbacks

Heading into the final days before Monday’s Outback Bowl, Georgia coach Mark Richt still was not sure who might start at tailback.

Ken Malcome entered bowl practices No. 1 on the depth chart. Since then Richard Samuel and Isaiah Crowell have returned from ankle injuries.

“We haven’t really talked about it, but my guess is, right this minute, I’d say there’s a good chance at least three or four of them will get in there and play,” Richt said after Friday’s practice. “I’m not sure who’s going to start just yet.”

Samuel is a real X-factor for the Bulldogs. He was playing the best of all of them before an ankle injury at the end of the Florida game led to surgery. He has rehabbed and has pronounced himself ready to play this week.

“Richard’s looking good,” Richt said. “When he practiced just a tad before we left town, it was sore and was bothering him. He could only go so far before having to shut it down. But he’s had no problems down here.”

Outlook for Gilliard, Tyson

It’s starting to look like two of Georgia’s defensive starters might not be able to play Monday. Linebacker Michael Gilliard and defensive end DeAngelo Tyson remain sidelined with ankle injuries.

“It’s just a nagging thing,” said Gilliard, an 11-game starter at middle linebacker who is third on the team with 65 tackles. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. It hurts. Right now it’s up to me. So I’ve just been taking mental reps hoping I’ll be ready.”

Richt was holding out hope for Gilliard.

“Mike’s been able to practice a little bit against the scout team, but DeAngelo hasn’t practiced at all,” he said. “I don’t think DeAngelo will end up playing, but Mike’s got a chance.”

Tyson, a senior, started every game this season before his ankle injury, suffered against Georgia Tech, sidelined him for the SEC Championship game. He will be replaced by Garrison Smith in the lineup while Christian Robinson will get the start at Mike linebacker.