LSU did not begin recruiting Jaray Jenkins on Monday when he gave his pledge to Ed Orgeron.
It began in January before Orgeron’s first National Signing Day as the Tigers’ head coach, then heated up during the 3-star wide receiver’s first visit to LSU for “Boys From The Boot” and culminated in a commitment on Monday during a return trip to campus.
Neither Jenkins nor Jena (La.) High School football coach Jay Roark anticipated that the in-state receiver would land an offer from LSU this early in the recruiting process, so when it arrived earlier this week a commitment seemed only fitting.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Roark told SEC Country about Jenkins’ decision to commit to LSU on the spot Monday. “I didn’t expect it. About two months, I had been trying to sell (Jenkins) to them. The day before National Signing Day, Coach O called me. He ended up getting on the phone with me again on National Signing Day and got Jaray on the phone.
“The more they evaluated him and when the new coaches were in place, they really liked him, and that got us to this point. They just told him they’d keep their eyes on him and that they’d offer him soon. It just came a lot earlier than we thought it would.”
Jenkins is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and is the No. 16 overall prospect in Louisiana’s 2018 class, per the 247Sports composite rankings.
The Northern Louisiana native and top-100 receiver plays on offense, defense and special teams for Jena. During his junior season, Jenkins hauled in 44 passes for 797 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games. Combine that with 43 rushing yards, 305 kickoff return yards, 491 punt return yards, and Jenkins tallied nearly 1,700 all-purpose yards.
In three varsity seasons, Jenkins has scored 45 total touchdowns and found the end zone in all three facets of the game.
“He changes everything,” Roark stated. “Not only can he make huge plays for us, he takes a lot of attention away from everything else that’s going on and opens up other stuff. It’s very rare that he’s not double covered or bracketed in some fashion. Not only does he gave us a threat with the ball in his hands, but he gives opportunities for other players to make plays.”
Big-play threat — that may be an understatement.
The majority of Jenkins’ receiving touchdowns were 20 yards or more. Only departed receiver Malachi Dupre and rising senior D.J. Chark managed receptions of 20 yards or more in 2016.
LSU is courting Jenkins to play either inside or outside, as well as return kicks for the team, something Roark has known his outstanding receiver is capable of doing since his freshman season when he was tasked with competing against then-Louisiana Lafayette defensive back commit Kamar Greenhouse in a game against regional rival Marksville (La.) High School.
“As a freshman, Jaray had his way with him that night,” the coach recalled. “I knew at that point he was going to be special, no doubt about it. He had a special night against a Division I defensive back signee and he turned out to be something special.”
This spring, Jenkins has emerged as one of his high school football teams’ locker room leaders as Jena prepares for the 2017 season with offseason workouts. Jenkins has made as much progress off the field as he has on it, dating to that game in 2014 until his most recent 1,000-plus-yard season in this past fall.
So what kind of player is LSU getting off the field? A leader, a jolt of positive energy and a positive locker room influence.
“He’s really come along in his leadership role,” Roark said. “We’re starting up spring workouts, and what he does from the time we warm up until his last rep, he’s a constant positive voice with the other guys. He encourages them. He’s a guy you really want around your program. I’m not just saying that because he now has an offer from LSU; that’s just the kind of guy he is.”