KNOXVILLE — The extra month of waiting felt much longer for Ryan Jenkins.
Finally, the young wide receiver will head to the University of Tennessee and begin his football career.
With the second session of summer school slated to begin Monday, the son of former Volunteers defensive back Lee Jenkins will arrive on campus today, along with defensive end Kendal Vickers, nearly a month later than the rest of Tennessee's 2013 signing class.
The delay probably created more anxiety for the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Jenkins, a Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter High School graduate who flipped from Clemson to Tennessee in January. That was nearly four months before Vickers, a former South Carolina commitment, joined the Vols' class in late May.
"The days have definitely been longer," Jenkins told the Times Free Press eary this week. "A lot of early mornings and late nights. All I'm thinking about during training and all that is Tennessee. I just can't wait to get up there. Saturday will be a long time coming."
And there's little time to waste.
Despite a rash of injuries, the Vols' returning receivers and early enrollee Paul Harris benefited from 15 spring practices with new head coach Butch Jones and Zach Azzanni, the demanding and energetic receivers coach. Fellow 2013 signees MarQuez North and Josh Smith arrived in June. In late April, the Vols added Johnathon Johnson, a 5-9, 179-pound resident of Friendswood, Texas, who played last season at Blinn College and also arrived in June.
While some of his competitors at the Vols' position of greatest concern were in Knoxville, Jenkins was in Marietta making up a math class he didn't pass the second semester of his junior year.
"It's been pretty tough," he conceded, "but it was only a month, so when I get up there I'm just going to have to turn it into hyper speed and get caught up on the plays and the system and the overall college life.
"I'm going in there with a sense of urgency, making up all the time that I missed studying plays and getting repetitions in the offense. I know fall camp starts early August, so by the time we hit fall camp, I'll be fully caught up."
That's the biggest challenge for both Jenkins and Vickers, a 6-3, 240-pounder from Havelock (N.C.) High School. A three-star prospect, Vickers committed to South Carolina last November, but since it appeared he would not qualify academically and instead head to Georgia Military College, the Gamecocks filled their class. Once he became a late qualifier, the Vols brought him to Knoxville for a visit and took a flier on him.
Given the inexperience and inconsistency shown during spring practice, the Vols' receiving corps may need quicker help from Jenkins, and he said that's the message Azzanni has relayed to him.
"He's real honest, because there's a lot of inexperience at the receiver position," Jenkins said. "He wants me to come in, and he says if I do my thing in terms of picking up the playbook and in terms of adjusting to the pace of the practices -- because they like to practice real fast -- my conditioning is there, I'm making plays in fall camp -- I'm going to have a very good chance to start. I have a lot of internal pressure on myself already to get that done.
"That's a goal of mine, and I'm just going to do anything I can to contribute."
Jenkins said he's been running and lifting weights every day with a focus on his conditioning. He's been text-messaging freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs, a friend of his since the sixth grade, to stay updated on workouts. It's difficult, though, to replicate Tennessee's summer workout program, which included a grueling regimen of 52 110-yard sprints at Neyland Stadium last Thursday night.
Yet that's only part of Jenkins' preparation. He said he's "got down" some of the playbook he's been studying thanks to some hourlong phone conversations with Derrick Lett. With his partial playbook in front of him, Jenkins has reviewed formations, routes and personnel groupings with Tennessee's offensive quality control assistant, who played under Azzanni at Bowling Green and now helps him with the Vols' receivers.
Though he'll begin his career as a slot receiver due to his size, Jenkins said he has the ability and versatility to play the outside receivers positions, too.
"However I can help out this receiving corps or help out the offense," he said, "that's where I'll be playing. I think I can help them, like I said, on the inside and the outside, because a lot of quote-unquote slot guys, they can't play outside because they can't take the top off the defense. I have the ability to, if DBs are pressing me on the outside, I can get off the press [coverage] and I can take them deep on the skinny post or the go route.
"I feel like I can do both. There's already great guys there already, like [Jason] Croom and Pig Howard. I'm just going to try to come in and just do anything I can to contribute."
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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