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Waiting game pays off for Bulldogs' Jenkins

Standout CHS WR commits to Miami of Ohio

Posted: February 1, 2011 3:12 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2011 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

ALVONTA` JENKINS STRETCHES OUT to make one of the 47 catches which he made for Camden High during in the 2010 football season. He will sign with Miami of Ohio today.

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As he took his official visit to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio last weekend, Alvonta` Jenkins got a good look at the campus, met with members of the school’s football coaching staff, took in a basketball game and toured the town.

By mid-Saturday afternoon, the former Camden High all-state wide out gave his commitment to first-year Miami head coach Don Treadwell that, after receiving an invitation to join the program, he would be part of the RedHawks’ 2011 football recruiting class.

But for all the facts he learned, the buildings he walked through and people he met, there was one subject which struck a chord with the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder.

"The school is very nice," Jenkins said when asked his impression of Miami University. "All the buildings are very nice and they are close together. They have good facilities and there’s always a place to eat around there … that’s a big plus in my book."

Jenkins closed out his four-year football career at Camden by leading the 2010 Bulldogs with 47 catches for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns, all team-bests. In three seasons as a wide out, he hauled in 94 passes for 1,954 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior, he also averaged better than 38 yards per punt.

The relationship between Jenkins, a member of the winning 2010 South Carolina Shrine Bowl squad, and Miami was more like a whirlwind romance. In the span of some four days, the four-year CHS letterwinner went from preparing himself to attend a baseball showcase in Columbia on Sunday to packing the winter weather gear for a trip to southwestern Ohio on Friday morning.

When Treadwell, a 1982 Miami graduate, was hired on Dec. 31 of last year, the former Michigan State University offensive coordinator hired MSU graduate assistant and former Newberry College head coach, Zak Willis, as his recruiting coordinator and special teams coach. While playing as a walk-on outside linebacker at Furman, one of Willis’ coaches was current Camden High head coach Jimmy Neal.

Willis called on Neal early last week, explaining that the RedHawks were in need of wide receivers and Jenkins’ name kept popping up in conversations with coaches. A few hours later, Willis arrived at CHS, viewing film of Jenkins, meeting him and then, bringing the film back to Ohio for the rest of the coaching staff to see and determine if they liked Jenkins enough to fly him out for an official visit.

For Neal, this was the break which he and his coaching staff were hoping that Jenkins would get; a serious look from a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I) program.

"It was bothering me that he wasn’t being recruited by more schools in the state," said the Bulldog head coach and former recruiting coordinator at Furman. "We had sent a bunch of DVDs out and called people and talked to people but, for whatever reason, Alvonta` wasn’t being recruited as hard as we thought that he should have been. But that’s part of it. They have a job to do, just like the rest of us.

"It was kind of good fortune, a higher being, or whatever took this thing because a mutual friend of Zak’s and mine talked to Zak and Zak called me up about Alvonta` and I said, ‘You have to get him.’ It’s kind of a neat story that this all worked out."

Neal’s connections with Miami do not end with Willis. Starting next season, Jenkins will be coached by passing game coordinator/quarterback-wide receiver coach Charlie Fisher, whom Neal knows from his former post as an assistant at Vanderbilt, under Neal’s longtime friend and former Furman teammate and coaching colleague, Robbie Caldwell, and before that, Commodores’ head coach Bobby Johnson, whom Neal worked alongside when they coached at Furman.

Jenkins said his recruitment process had its peaks and valleys. But he admitted to having been caught off-guard with Miami’s late interest in him.

"I’m very surprised," Jenkins said of Miami’s rapid recruitment of him. "The way my recruiting went, it was up and down. Coaches would call me, every now and then. And then, I would have a dead period where I wouldn’t hear from anybody. Then, just in the past week, it all took place within about three days."

To every coach who inquired about Jenkins, Neal impressed upon them that his former wide out was every bit as good off the field as he was on it. And, in this day and age when the names of college athletes all-too-frequently appear on police blotters, Neal said Jenkins is the type of player which any school would be lucky to have representing their institution.

"We went through a period there where nobody was calling Alvonta`. We were kind of crushed because here was a guy who did everything the right way, academically and athletically," Neal said.

"I have no idea why people weren’t recruiting him harder. You just sit here and wonder what they are thinking and what they’re wanting. He’s a high-character kid who is never going to embarrass the university. He’s always going to be at the right place at the right time.

"The thing is, he runs extremely well. He’s not 6-3 or 6-4, but he is 6-foot-1 and weighs 200 pounds. He’s not a 5-8 or 5-9 scatback kind of a guy. He’s an extremely tough, hard-nosed and physical guy who defensive backs don’t like tackling; I can promise you that. They don’t like tackling him at all."

In joining the RedHawks, Jenkins will be part of a program which is called "The Cradle of Coaches" in having produced coaches such as Red Blaik, Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian, Weeb Ewbank and Jim Tressel. Player-wise, Miami has sent its share of past performers into the NFL, including two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When meeting with the Miami coaches, Jenkins said the tradition of the program was brought up on more than one occasion. But that was not the only thing which impressed him.

"They talked about them (players and coaches from Miami) and how good the academics are there. They also talked about getting a good job when you graduate from there. It’s a prestigious school," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he enjoyed meeting and talking with Treadwell and looks forward to playing for the former Miami wide receiver.

"The coach is very straightforward with you," Jenkins said of Treadwell. "If he didn’t feel like you would fit in, then he wouldn’t you to come there. He graduated from there. He has a good coaching staff, I believe.

"The way they were talking about it, it was that they needed wide receivers. That’s why they recruited me, because half of their wide receivers, at least, were graduating this year."

In 2010, Miami enjoyed the biggest one-year turnaround of any FBS program in the country as former head coach Mike Haywood led his team to a 10-4 season, including winning the Mid-American Conference title and then, winning the godaddy.com Bowl in Mobile.

"I didn’t really know too much about them before. I knew they won a bowl game last season so, that’s pretty good to get to a bowl game and win it" Jenkins said of his previous knowledge of the RedHawks’ program. "It wasn’t really a big factor in my decision whether they had a winning or losing season."

At Camden High, Jenkins was used both in the slot and as the "X", boundary receiver. Neal said he can see Jenkins being used on the outside at Miami, but he would not rule out seeing him in the slot. He said Treadwell and company are getting the complete receiver package in Jenkins.

"I think he can fill either role," Neal said. "I think he would be a better outside guy because he is so strong. Alvonta` can go up for the ball and just grabs it. He also makes those over-the-head catches, which is not an easy thing to do. And, as Camden fans have seen, he really does a good job of going across the middle for balls.

"Alvonta` is a team-first guy, there’s no question about that. Whatever his responsibility is, whether it’s blocking, running the routes and not being the first option, he ran everything wide-open. He’s just an outstanding guy. Miami is getting a great one and they’re ecstatic about it. They are very excited about getting Alvonta`. They think they’ve stolen one, big time."

As for the game itself, Jenkins said he anticipates having to play at a faster level in college. He is not going into this deal with blinders on, he said.

"I’m guessing the speed of the game is going to be the biggest change," he said, "because in college, everybody is pretty good. In high school, you could have some mediocre players, but in college everybody is going to be good. So, you have to step it up."

Football is one of two sports played by Jenkins, who is also a standout for the CHS and Post 17 American Legion baseball teams in the spring and summer months, respectively. Upon arriving back in the Palmetto State on Sunday, Jenkins hurriedly headed to A.C. Flora High School to take part in an invitation-only baseball showcase attended by a host of major league scouts and non-Division I baseball coaches.

Jenkins said he has not ruled out trying to play both sports at Miami, whose roster of Major Leaguers includes former Kansas City Royals’ and Atlanta Braves’ starting pitcher Charlie Liebrandt.

"He (Treadwell) said that, if I’m doing pretty good with everything, maybe I can play (baseball) in two years. So, you could possibly play both," Jenkins said of being a two-sport athlete. "Right now, though, it’s looking like it is going to be just football."

Jenkins said having his college choice behind him, "is a big relief. This was a big decision for me to get out of the way," he said with a smile. "I’m good now."

Jenkins is far from the only person who is relieved by how things all turned out over the past week. While Neal has had several other of his former players sign with FBS schools in the past, those players were all but guaranteed a chance to play at that level before they took to the field for their senior seasons. With Jenkins, the suspense nearly got the best of the Bulldog boss who admitted this was a special commitment and, who by this morning, will be a Miami signee.

"I’m not going to lie to you," Neal said, "I’m probably the most excited I’ve ever been about one of our guys making this type of decision and things working out for him like it has for Alvonta`.

"You saw it coming for a lot of those other guys. We started out with him last year. We sent out a lot of good tapes of Alvonta`. The thing is, he is such a quality student and a quality person. You just knew this is what schools want. They always talk about wanting high-character kids because sometimes, at the college level, kids make bad choices and decisions. Alvonta` will never do that.

"Without being too preachy, I think this is where God wants him. There’s a reason why he’s going to Miami of Ohio; whether it’s where his future wife might be or whether it’s a future job opportunity for him down the road, I think there’s a reason why the other people in this state and in the Southeast weren’t recruiting him. I was surprised by that, but we’re all very, very happy about the way it has all worked out for Alvonta`."

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