Apparently, Malcolm Jenkins is one who likes to make a good first impression. He did so at Ohio State, and now all indications are he is getting off on the right foot with his new team in the NFL as well.
Though lacking the press clippings of some of his fellow incoming freshman, he quickly earned a starting role his first year in college to kick off what would be one of the great careers in school history even at a place renowned for producing great defensive backs.
He capped his Buckeye career by winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back then became the first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in April. After a brief feet-wetting rookie minicamp shortly thereafter, he was forced to put his NFL career on hold while finishing spring quarter classes back in Columbus, but he made that wait as short as possible.
“He was able to get his exams done and he’ll be in tonight and you guys will see him on the field tomorrow,” head coach Sean Payton told reporters on Friday after the first day of minicamp. “That’s pretty important. That gives us Saturday, it gives us Sunday and that gives us all these OTAs coming up, and he’s already been at the rookie minicamp. I think the learning curve for him will be smaller than it would have been had he had to wait longer.”
Upon his arrival in Metairie, he shared with those in attendance that he convinced his professors to let him take exams and turn in final papers early so he could make it south in time to get some quality work in with the full squad.
“The sooner I could get down here, the more I could learn,” said Jenkins,
as reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “And now I’m just all out.”
The paper went on to report Jenkins was beaten deep in his first drill but then held his own in team and individual drills.
While some growing pains are to be expected, Jenkins effort to begin to get them out of the way did not go unnoticed.
“I think he’s pretty smart,” Payton said. “For all the new players there is a learning curve, but I would say that his ability to learn is a strength for him. I think he's a pretty smart player and he has handled the bulk of what we’re doing now - especially in this veteran camp - pretty well.”...
Jenkins no doubt hopes to avoid a fate similar to that suffered last season by the second player Professionally Speaking looks at this week.
Vernon Gholston was the New York Jets’ first pick (sixth overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft but was essentially a nonfactor during his first season in the Big Apple.
New Jets’ coach Rex Ryan comes to town this year with the intention of getting all he can out of Gholston, and the defensive guru told reporters this weekend, so far, so good.
“I like the way he’s moving on the field,” Ryan told reporters June 3. “He gets better every day. (Defensive coordinator) Mike Pettine is doing a great job working with him on playing the run. He’s knocking guys back. He’s falling in on tackles underneath him, which a lot of times doesn’t happen. Most young guys get straight up the field. So he’s starting to really learn the game a little bit. I think he’s doing a good job picking up the system as well.”
For his part, Gholston said 2009 is going better so far for a significant yet simple reason.
“The biggest difference is just being here,” Gholston said in an interview with CBSsports.com. “Last year I was at Ohio State sitting on my couch and eating chips. Now you’re actually going through the (installation of the defense) and working with the team, getting the calls and signals and learning the ins and outs of the defense.”
He added that he fits better into Ryan’s defense because it calls for more action and less thinking.
At Ohio State, Gholston was at his best when rushing the passer, as evidenced by a school-record for a single season 14 sacks in 2007, but Ryan said he can be a productive player in his defense without putting up gaudy numbers.
“Let’s see how we perform collectively,” the coach said. “I know we’ll be happy with Vernon.
“I’m confident in what I see right now. I think his confidence is up. I believe in the guys that we have teaching him and coaching him. You can tell he wants to be out there. He wants to be part of that group. I see him where he’s accepted. It’s the Jets defense. There is a lot of pride in that.
“The tough thing is, I know where Vernon was drafted and all that kind of stuff. There’s expectations for him individually. We’re wrong by doing that. We just need to place our expectations on that unit. If we do that, sometimes in the stats, he may not show up individually or this player might not show up, but he might play a great game.”...
Wondering about any Ohio State ties to the NBA Finals? The only one this year is the same as the only one last year: Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons. A a player for the Lakers, Cavs and Knicks and long-time assistant for L.A. head coach Phil Jackson, Cleamons prepped at Linden-McKinley in Columbus before moving on to Ohio State, where he averaged 18.1 points per game from 1969-71...
And while we’re talking basketball, the WNBA kicked off its season last weekend with just one alumni suiting up -- Katie Smith. When Smith and the defending champion Detroit Shock face the Washington Mystics, she can swap campus stories with Mystics head coach Julie Plank, a Buckeye hoopster in the early 1980s...
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Check either source right now for more on the folks mentioned here as well as stories, notes and mentions of Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant, Anthony Gonzalez, B.J. Mullens and Kevin Randleman, all of whom grabbed a headline or two in the past week.