Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers, a rundown of everything happening in LSU Tigers recruiting, with Sam Spiegelman. In this edition, we discuss how LSU secured a commitment from Jaray Jenkins and what the small-town wide receiver brings to the Tigers.
JENA, La. — Jaray Jenkins had been on LSU’s wide receiver board dating to last year, but the Jena (La.) High School standout did a fantastic job of maintaining his status as Louisiana’s best-kept secret.
Jenkins, a 3-star wideout from Northern Louisiana, committed to LSU during an unofficial visit to one of the Tigers’ first spring practices. Believe this: It was a long time coming.
At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Jenkins is being courted to play receiver on the outside and assist on kick and punt returns. Because of where he’s from and because of his skill set, he has drawn comparisons to current LSU senior D.J. Chark. Those two have known each other for years and continue to stay in touch. More on that later.
LSU is ‘a dream come true’
Jenkins was aware that a trip to Baton Rouge for a spring practice not only would lead to an offer but also the exclamation point on his recruitment.
Jena High coach Jay Roark had been in touch with Tigers coach Ed Orgeron since before National Signing Day 2017, and in turn, Orgeron and area recruiter Steve Ensminger simply were waiting to make the offer.
For the LSU staff, it was an easy sell. Jenkins’ cousin, M.J. Patterson, is a senior linebacker on the team. His older brother, David Jenkins, signed with the Tigers coming out of high school in 2011. He was next to follow in the family’s footsteps, so when the opportunity finally was offered, it resulted in an instantaneous boom.
“I was at our boys [basketball] playoff when [Orgeron and Ensminger] gave me a call. We had been talking for a long time, and they told me they were going to offer,” Jenkins recalled to SEC Country. “I talked with my mom and dad, and finally, we just made it happen. We talked about how to play a role on the team and what to expect when I’m there, where I would be on the field and the things I needed to work on to prepare for my senior year.”
Jenkins committed on March 13 and has yet to think twice about it. Several college coaches have come through Jena during the NCAA evaluation period these last few weeks, most notably Mississippi State, the SEC West rival attempting to flip Jenkins the hardest.
However, Jenkins insisted he is solid in his commitment largely because of his relationship with all of the LSU coaches recruiting him. That includes Orgeron and Ensminger, as well as wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph, who will return to Jena to check on his lone commit this week.
“It’s been good talking to all of the coaches and the players that go there, and it’s a good experience because I’m from Louisiana. It’s home,” Jenkins said.
“[Orgeron] will call and ask how my family is doing, how my mom is and my dad is, and if I’m ready to be a Tiger. He’ll ask if I’m ready to come out the locker room and come out the huddle and battle. It’s a dream come true.
“Coach Mickey calls me almost every week. He’ll talk about what the receivers are doing at practice, what they’re working on or what I need to work on. He’s honest. He’s a man of his word, and whatever he says he does.”
Football in his DNA
Jenkins is staying true to his word, too, attempting to follow the LSU coaches’ advice on how to improve ahead of his senior season. That includes getting in better shape, sharpening his routes and working on his hands.
Those tools are a necessity, according not only to the coaches but also Chark. Another native of Jena, Chark’s family and Jenkins’ family have been close for years, and continue to be even after Chark moved to Alexandria during his high school career.
Chark has provided Jenkins with some tidbits on his craft and insight into Matt Canada‘s offense, which Jenkins saw during LSU’s spring game last month. He saw enough to realize that this style is especially fitting for his skill set.
“I think it will be [a good fit],” Jenkins said. “They’re doing more things, showing all their weapons this year. Matt Canada is a good offensive coordinator, and he truly balances everything out between the run and the pass. D.J. told me about how they use a lot of motion and stuff to get defenses off-balanced and how they run routes off it. They do a lot of things to confuse defenses.”
The comparisons between Jenkins and Chark are just. Like Jenkins, Chark was a bit underrated coming out of high school. He was rated as the No. 64 wide receiver and No. 20 overall prospect in-state, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Unlike Jenkins, Chark had to camp at LSU to secure an offer from then-coach Les Miles. However, both receivers’ offer sheets look similar. There’s LSU and some pass-happy Power 5 programs, as well as other in-state hopefuls.
At this point, the LSU commit is working to enjoy the same sort of career trajectory that LSU’s new No. 7 has enjoyed.
“We talk once in a while, and when I was young he would come by, but now when I go [to LSU] we talk and goof around,” Jenkins said. “We’re similar. We’re both outside receivers. We’re both aggressive at the ball and catch it at its highest point, and we both have speed. He’s got a lot of shoes to fill this year. [Leonard] Fournette was a great player, but he deserved it.”
Putting Jena on the map
Chark may be close with Jenkins — perhaps to a level such as family — but Jenkins alone boasts a shocking amount of football talent in his own family with the aforementioned Patterson and David Jenkins.
David was the No. 155 overall recruit in the Class of 2011 and the No. 11 corner, but after a redshirt year opted to transfer to TCU.
“They wanted him to play a different game. TCU was the next-best fit for him,” Jenkins said of his older brother’s decision to transfer. “He told me and my dad, and we were shocked. We thought that [LSU] was where he really wanted to go, but he had to do what was best for him.”
Jenkins’ brother-in-law, Jason Hatcher, played at Grambling and was selected in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Like Jenkins, Hatcher is from Jena. He was a Pro Bowl defensive lineman in 2013 and the first to put their small town on the map.
Talk about shoes to fill.
Those big shoes are what drives Jenkins to overcome the odds. He prefers to speak less and play more.
His hometown is reflective of his personality, and he wouldn’t trade Jena for a fourth star and more offers. It’s his town, and he’s hoping to be the next elite prospect to make it big.
“I like where I am now,” Jenkins said. “Not so many people came from here and there are a lot of players that haven’t made it. I’m just trying to make a change.”
As a junior, Jenkins reeled in 44 receptions for 797 yards and a dozen touchdowns in 11 games played. Combine that with 43 yards rushing, 305 yards on kickoff returns and another 491 as a punt-return specialist. Overall, Jenkins amassed more than 1,600 all-purpose yards.
Jenkins has scored 45 touchdowns in three varsity seasons, scoring touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. He may be a quiet kid, but his game speaks volumes.
“I’m just a player that picks up my teammates when they’re down. I see what they’re doing wrong, I pat them on the back and make sure they know what to do,” he said. “I let my game speak for itself. I’m hoping to put Jena on the map.”
Jenkins is nine months from inking his national letter of intent, but he is eager to advance to the college stage and compete for playing time with the Tigers. That’ll bring him one step closer to his larger-scale dream.
While the LSU commit often remains calm on the outside, there is no denying the drive he possesses. As the youngest of four uber-talented brothers, Jenkins is a product of hard work and bigger dreams. His brothers’ paths have provided him with the motivation to do more with his talents.
Jenkins is striving to eclipse all those who came before him, with his family and his small town on his back.
“I had two other brothers play here. They had a chance to do other things and left it behind,” he said. “They could’ve went to college. They were going to, but then they just quit. They could do it, and they always pushed me to be better than them. It pushes me to be even better. I’ll never go into a game thinking that I’ll do this or I’ll do that; I just go into a game ready to play, and whatever I can do I’m going to take.
“It’s great for me because I can put them on the map.”
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