Closer to home

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - Scott Wright swright@ ok­la­homan.com STAFF WRITER SEE JENK­INS, 2B

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.”

[AP PHOTO]

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.