One conclusion is inescapable when assessing Steven Jenkins career at A&M: the Aggies were a much better defensive team when he was on the field. Jenkins was suspended prior to both the 2012 and 2013 seasons and the A&M defense struggled mightily without him. Nowhere was the lack of his presence on the weakside more apparent than in last year's shootout with Louisiana Tech, when the Bulldogs continually abused the Aggies while running out of their "big bone" formation.
Jenkins was lightly recruited as an undersized linebacker out of Pensacola, Florida and chose to go the JUCO route. He was recruited by Dat Nyguen out of Coffeyville Kansas Community College, signing with the Ags in 2010. He took over a starting spot by midseason of his first year at A&M, and never let it go.
As the Aggies entered their inaugural SEC season in 2012, much was made of how thin A&M's linebacking corps was. However, Jenkins, along with Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart was able to help the Aggies hold the line. Jenkins contributed 79 tackles from the weak side, good for third on the team. In 2013, with Stewart and Porter gone, A&M would require even more from Jenkins. He responded by leading the team in tackles with 96 (8th in the SEC), despite missing the first two games due to a suspension. Jenkins was able to accomplish this without the benefit of an experienced defensive line to occupy blockers, and seldom had a clear path to the ball carrier.
Much has been made of Jenkins lack of "SEC size" throughout the past two seasons. Prior to the Bama game this season, A&M special teams coach Jeff Banks commented on Jenkins size compared to the Bama linebackers observing:
"That a typo on the linebacker?" asks Jeff Banks, the Aggies' first-year special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. "6-6, 252? What the (heck) is that? We got (A&M linebacker Steven) Jenkins coming in at 209."
Jenkins weighed in at 216 yesterday, less than LSU safety Craig Loston came in at the recent NFL combine, and itt stands to reason that he played much lighter than that during the season. Moreover, Jenkins was measured as only 5' 11.3" tall, which means he should definitely forego any aspirations he might have about playing quarterback in the NFL.
Still, no matter how big his body is, no A&M fan can dispute that Jenkins' played large on the football field. He was always around the football, and played fearlessly, never hesitating to take on blockers or meet larger running backs (see Jeremy Hill) at the point of attack.
Steven Jenkins came to A&M with a chip on his shoulder, eager to prove he could play with the big boys, and that made him the perfect fit for an A&M as it entered the SEC. Good luck in the future, Mr. Jenkins. You accomplished what you set out to do when you left Florida for JUCO. You proved you belonged in big time college football. Thanks for helping the Aggies on their quest to prove the same.