ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia senior nose tackle John Jenkins can look back at last football season with a lot of fond memories.
It's just that none of them came early.
After arriving last summer following a two-year stint at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the 6-foot-3, 358-pounder from Meriden, Conn., failed to make it through the first preseason practice. He recovered from that, but then came opening games against Boise State and South Carolina.
"Those two games told me that I didn't know what I was doing and that I needed to fix it quick," Jenkins said. "I was supposed to penetrate a certain area and I wasn't there, or I was supposed to use a certain technique. It was the little things, but the little things count in this game.
"Fortunately, I had the guys around me who were able to guide me through the basics."
His improvement wasn't immediate, but Jenkins supplanted Kwame Geathers in the starting lineup for Georgia's sixth game at Tennessee, which would be the first of seven starts. Jenkins wound up with 28 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks, and his closing stretch was impressive.
Jenkins had six tackles against Georgia Tech, three tackles and a quarterback pressure in the SEC title game against LSU and an interception in the Outback Bowl against Michigan State. The Bulldogs finished fifth nationally last season in total defense, and their 101.2 rushing yards allowed a game was the best for the program since 1985.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said recently that Jenkins and Geathers continue to battle and that both could play at the same time on a front that should have more rotation than a year ago.
"I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year, and I have a lot better grasp on the playbook," said Jenkins, who shared defensive MVP honors this spring with All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. "I'm excited about what this defense can accomplish this year, but I'm just excited that it's another season. There are a lot of things to be excited for."
The Bulldogs will scrimmage for the first time this morning after holding two 90-minute workouts Tuesday, with the morning session focusing on special teams. ... Head coach Mark Richt said punt returns are being handled by Malcolm Mitchell, Branden Smith, Bacarri Rambo, Rhett McGowan and Damian Swann, who has a neck sprain, while kickoff returns are being shared by Justin Scott-Wesley, Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. ... When asked about a couple of touted freshmen, Richt said safety Josh Harvey-Clemons has about four interceptions so far and he's not ready to anoint John Theus the starting right tackle just yet.
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