JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins is pleased with his senior season.
He just wishes there had been more of it.
Jenkins will cap a productive career by playing in Saturday's TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State. He has appeared in 51 of a possible 52 games for the Bulldogs, including 41 starts, but a hip injury limited him for a stretch in October.
The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder from Hamilton, Ga., set a career high in September with 11 tackles and a staggering 5.5 tackles for loss in the Bulldogs' 31-14 win at Vanderbilt. He set a new mark in November with 13 tackles in the 23-17 overtime escape of Georgia Southern.
"I've never had a 13-tackle game before this season, and I've never had an 11-tackle game," Jenkins said. "I've never had five-and-a-half TFLs in a game. I just feel like when I've been healthy this season, I've played the best I've ever played in my career."
The Bulldogs practiced for the final time Thursday at the University of North Florida in preparation for Saturday's game, which could clinch a 10th win this season and a 40th for the senior class. Georgia will be designated the home team at EverBank Field, the site of its annual rivalry clash with Florida.
"We are honing in at this point, making sure everything is right," Bulldogs interim coach Bryan McClendon said after the practice. "We wanted to make sure our game plan is down today and make sure we are game ready. Our goal with two days to go before the game is to assure that our guys are fresh and ready to play."
Jenkins showed plenty of promise as a freshman in 2012, making six starts on an experienced defense headed by outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and collecting five sacks. He had a team-high 12 tackles for loss as a sophomore, when league coaches voted him to the All-Southeastern Conference second team, and he was among the 15 semifinalists last season for the prestigious Butkus Award.
In a 2014 win at Arkansas, Jenkins tallied eight tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, but he blew those numbers away with his performance early this season in Nashville that made him the Chuck Bednarik national player of the week. His injury resulted in him getting pulled early from the 38-31 loss at Tennessee, when the Bulldogs were shredded for a season-high 519 yards, and he sat out the 9-6 win over Missouri that ensued.
"It was a learning experience," Jenkins said. "It made me realize how you never know how long you have to play the game of football. I'm lucky that my injury wasn't as serious as some of the other guys. It made me appreciate the game that much more."
That appreciation was evident in Georgia's stretch run to close a 9-3 regular season. Jenkins had six tackles, a sack and a key forced fumble in the 20-13 win at Auburn before following that with his 13 tackles against the in-state Eagles.
"He's played so well, and down the stretch especially," former Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said in late November. "He's healthy again, and he's playing as hard as he can. He helps his teammates by his passion and fire."
Jenkins has 202 career tackles, 40 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. He is ninth in school history in sacks, needing one against the Nittany Lions to tie current Kansas City Chiefs standout Justin Houston for eighth.
Though an injury kept him from amassing even larger numbers, Jenkins did produce a couple of monster performances from which to choose a favorite.
"I still like the five-and-a-half (tackles for loss) I had at Vandy," he said. "That was just a fun experience."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs will hold a walkthrough this morning, with several players visiting patients at the Wolfson Children's Hospital. The team visited the Naval Station Mayport on Wednesday. It was 83 degrees Thursday in Jacksonville, but Saturday's high will only be 64.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.