UK Football

Jenkins ends up in spotlight

There are some big names on the Kentucky defensive line.

End Jeremy Jarmon is a quarterfinalist for the Lott Trophy, which is given to the nation's best defensive player.

Tackle Myron Pryor has played at an All-Southeastern Conference level when not slowed by a high ankle sprain and could be a high NFL Draft pick next April.

Tackle Corey Peters has emerged as a force in his junior year.

But the biggest key to the unit's success might be the guy people rarely talk about: senior defensive end Ventrell Jenkins.

Jenkins signed with Kentucky as a defensive tackle and played there for most of his first three years on campus. But, facing a shortage of ends, the UK staff moved Jenkins in the spring for a trial run. Jenkins immediately earned a starting position opposite Jarmon, and his emergence has given the Wildcats four quality players up front.

"I think Ventrell has kind of played in the shadows the last two, three years," Brooks said. "Being a full-time starter at defensive end has put him in a totally different position. He's always been a guy who plays with high energy and plays snap to whistle. His presence has solidified what, in my opinion, has been a true SEC front four. We have a very good front group on defense."

Jenkins' 27 tackles are the most among all the UK defensive linemen, but it's not as if this is the first year the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Columbia, S.C., native has made plays. He picked up a pair of sacks in a limited role as a freshman in 2005, and his four sacks last year were second on the team behind Jarmon's nine.

The UK coaches noticed the number of big plays Jenkins made inside at tackle and thought those skills would allow him to transition into a pass-rushing end. With Pryor, Peters and Ricky Lumpkin stacking the tackle position and no proven end outside of Jarmon, the move seemed natural.

"He has the explosion, quickness and first step," Brooks said. "He might not have necessarily the 4.5 speed, but his first one or two steps are as quick as anybody."

UK defensive line coach Rick Petri labeled Jenkins the unsung hero of his unit.

"Without a doubt, he's overlooked," Petri said. "But I think more and more people are becoming aware of him. He's beginning to feel more comfortable at the position he's playing, and he does multiple things for us if needed. Without him, we'd be in a little bit of a quandary."

The days of Jenkins' anonymity are slowly fading. He was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after his two-sack performance in UK's 14-13 win over Mississippi State last Saturday. Jenkins admitted it felt good to get noticed.

"It's a great honor, especially in a league like the SEC," Jenkins said. "It feels great. Not to take anything from my teammates, they're great players. But when you've got great players like that with you on the defensive line, it's going to be hard to get recognition. You're going to have to go that extra mile and do extra special things."

But Jenkins also knows that being surrounded by Pryor, Jarmon and Peters can have its benefits. Jenkins said both of his sacks were the result of Pryor, who played just 19 snaps on his gimpy ankle, getting a push up the middle.

"I couldn't have done it without Myron," Jenkins said. "Myron blew his man up and flushed him my way. I can't take all the credit (for the award) even though it does feel good. You put Ventrell Jenkins out there against the whole Mississippi State offensive line, and I would lose every play."

Outback Bowlto scout UK-Georgia

A representative from the Outback Bowl will be at Saturday's Georgia-UK game.

The Outback Bowl will take place on New Year's Day at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. The bowl pits the SEC against the Big Ten.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl will also be represented at Saturday's game.

QB Newton to visit

UK recruit Morgan Newton will be at Commonwealth Stadium for the Georgia-UK game.

Newton's Carmel High School team will face Harrison in an Indiana Class 4A sectional finals matchup Friday night.

Newton rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries while going 10-for-12 passing for 105 yards in Carmel's 44-21 win over Lafayette Jefferson last week.

Kentucky's other quarterback recruit, Texas' Ryan Mossakowski, will also be at the Georgia game.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader