FLORENCE — The final statistics from North Alabama’s 42-14 victory at Southern Arkansas this past Saturday show cornerback Janoris Jenkins with no interceptions or pass break-ups.
For most cornerbacks, that would be considered a bad game.
Jenkins, however, is no ordinary cornerback.
In UNA’s first five games, Jenkins has displayed the skills that made him an All-American at Florida and a potential first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
“Janoris just continues to amaze me,” coach Terry Bowden said. “He has certainly shown everybody why he was an All-American at Florida.”
In the win against Southern Arkansas, Jenkins finished with six tackles, including one for a loss. He added a blocked field goal and a spectacular 89-yard punt return in the third quarter that gave UNA the lead for good.
“I just do what the coaches ask me and perform to the best of my ability,” Jenkins said. “I feel like I did a good job and we all did a good job as a unit.”
The touchdown Jenkins scored against the Muleriders was his third of the season. He also returned a punt for a touchdown against Glenville State and had a fumble return for a score against Abilene Christian.
Returning punts has given Jenkins an opportunity to show what he can do with the ball in his hands. He ranks fifth in Division II with an average of 24.8 yards per return.
“Punt returns give me a chance to do something with the ball in my hands,” Jenkins said. “Teams have been throwing away from me, so I just try to take advantage of a punt return or any opportunity I get to make something happen.”
Cornerbacks are often judged by how many passes they intercept. Jenkins has no interceptions in five games entering Saturday’s game at Arkansas Tech.
“Nobody has really challenged Janoris,” cornerbacks coach Blake Farris said. “Central Oklahoma was the only team that tried to throw deep against him. His name speaks for itself and nobody has really challenged him.
“As a cornerback, it can be frustrating when nobody throws at you, but it is also a good thing. It shows the other team is giving you respect.”
With opponents not challenging him with passes, Jenkins has improved his game in other ways. In addition to his big plays as a punt returner, he ranks third on the team with 33 tackles.
“It’s frustrating when they don’t throw at you, but at the same time you have to play football,” Jenkins said. “Interceptions don’t really matter. I have to make the best of the plays that come to my side.”
Jenkins was projected as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft had he left college after last season. He chose to stay at Florida and was later dismissed from the team by new coach Will Muschamp after he was arrested for possession of marijuana. It was his third arrest in his time at Florida.
After looking at several schools, Jenkins decided to transfer to UNA in July.
Although Jenkins is playing at a lower level this season, that has not lessened the interest from NFL teams. More than 10 NFL scouts were in Florence last week to check on him.
“The scouts talk to me about staying focused and staying out of trouble,” he said. “I know that’s something I’m capable of doing. That’s one reason I came to North Alabama.
“It’s been great here. It’s a small town, but’s its a great atmosphere and it’s the perfect place for me. I feel like it’s the best decision I could have made to come here to North Alabama. I’m very comfortable here.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.