Closer to home
Kansan Teven Jenkins will be somewhat close to his hometown when OSU faces K-State.
MANHATTAN, KANSAS — Oklahoma State offensive lineman Teven Jenkins relished the opportunity two Saturdays ago to celebrate his team’s victory over Kansas with family and friends, many of whom hadn’t seen him play in person since he was overpowering defenders for Topeka High School. The Kansas lad is back in his native state again, this time about 60 miles west of his hometown for the Cowboys’ 11 a.m. kickoff against Kansas State in Manhattan. Jenkins found himself in a tough spot two weeks ago at Kansas, when left tackle Arlington Hambright suffered an ankle injury on the game’s first series. Jenkins, the Cowboys’ starting right tackle, had to move to left tackle, a position he had practiced only briefly before the season. Jenkins seamlessly made the switch and played the position again last week. Depending on Hambright’s health, Jenkins could stay on the left side or return to the right. At a time when the Oklahoma State offensive line has come under broad criticism — first for its struggles with run block-
ing, and last week, for the seven sacks it allowed in pass protection — it needs an anchor. Could Jenkins become the rock on the Cowboys’ offensive front?
“He doesn’t know how good he’s gonna be yet,” OSU defensive end Jordan Brailford said. “He has a great combination of size and power and speed.
“He’s really good now, but he’s definitely gonna take another step. He’s one of the best tackles I’ve faced.”
Kansas State was one of the teams to offer Jenkins, who was a three-star recruit in 2016. He picked OSU over the Wildcats, Louisville, Nebraska and others.
Now a 6-foot-6, 310pound redshirt sophomore, he’s OSU’s most athletic offensive lineman with the frame to make him attractive to NFL scouts in a couple years.
“Teven’s the only guy besides Zach Crabtree — because I’m pretty athletic myself — that could beat me in a sprint,” right guard Larry Williams said. “Sometimes I feel like he settles, but for the most part, I think he takes full advantage of his athleticism.”
Even before injuries briefly pushed Jenkins into the starting lineup last season, he had been identified by offensive line coach Josh Henson as someone who could help the team.
Jenkins would rotate in for a few series a game at the beginning of last season, and when Crabtree went down for a couple weeks with a foot injury, Jenkins took over, establishing himself as a viable future right tackle.
He came into this season as the starter, before the Hambright injury forced him into an unfamiliar position, which he had practiced only “a dash” before the last two weeks.
It might not seem difficult to go from right tackle to left, but it’s a mental trick as much as anything, essentially reversing everything you’ve been working to perfect.
Foot alignment, how you move into proper blocking position, and which side players are attacking you from — not to mention that teams often send their best pass-rushing defensive end at the left tackle, and thus, the quarterback’s blind side.
“Coach Henson always has us prepared,” Jenkins said of the switch. “Anything can happen and we’ve got to be ready. Footwork is the biggest difference going from right to left. You can always get your hands in good position. It just comes down to footwork, technique, the little stuff.”
OSU coach Mike Gundy had lofty expectations for his offensive line in August, but in recent weeks, he’s been highly critical of the unit’s performance.
But the linemen are banding together amid the tough times, knowing they can push the offense to a better place.
“It’s motivational,” Williams said of Gundy’s criticism. “But at the same time, it’s nothing we don’t hear all the time. To be an O-lineman, you have to have thick skin. I feel like, at times, some people never were a lineman, so they don’t understand.
“At the same time, it is motivational, because it’s the head coach, and if he sees we’re not performing to our levels that we need to be, then we need to step it up.”
Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins will be back near his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, when the Cowboys face Kansas State at 11 a.m. Saturday.