Daniel Jenkins is the middle child of Arizona Wildcats running backs.
There is older brother Keola Antolin, already accomplished. He might not be All-Pac-12 caliber, but Antolin was the team’s leading runner last season and has 1,830 career rushing yards. He’s going to run hard, catch the ball out of the backfield and give an honest day’s effort.
Then there’s kid brother Ka’Deem Carey. The star of the latest recruiting class. Everyone is so proud of what he accomplished at Canyon del Oro High School, so eager to see him run as a Wildcat, so quick to anoint him as the next great thing.
Yep, Jenkins is right in the middle.
He’s a redshirt sophomore, in his third year in the program. He doesn’t have the new car smell of a true freshman; he hasn’t banked the accomplishments of a senior.
He has eight career rushes.
But it might be time to stop neglecting Jenkins. He has been second-string behind Antolin through fall camp and was, according to coach Mike Stoops last week, “light years” ahead of every other running back who is trying to swipe his potential playing time.
“Right now, the opportunity is looking good,” Jenkins said.
“There is nothing but opportunity out there for me. I try not to worry about hierarchy and where I’m out on the depth chart. … This is my third camp now, so I have some notches on my belt.”
It was easy to miss Jenkins last season. He rushed twice in the opener against Toledo and six times in the second game vs. The Citadel. Those were his final carries of the season as he sat on his 26 rushing yards the rest of the way.
“Daniel is just maturing,” Stoops said Friday. “He’s becoming a reliable player for us. Really explosive. He’s just becoming more familiar with what we’re doing.”
He seems to be able to provide the solid play of Antolin, mixing in the flashy potential of Carey.
“I just try to focus on consistency, and the big play will come,” Jenkins said.
“It’s not going to happen every play, but if you keep doing your assignment, it’s going to pop eventually. And when I get out into the open field, you’re going to see the wiggle. Nobody is going to catch me when I get there; I’m going to take it to the house.”
Jenkins was rated a four-star recruit by Rivals.com out of Rancho Verde High in Moreno Valley, Calif. (Scout.com gave him three stars out of five.) At 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, Jenkins is similar to Antolin in size … and he hopes to be able to emulate big brother in terms of his pass-catching skills.
“I have focused on that really hard in the offseason, striving to catch every ball that comes my way — good ball, bad ball, it doesn’t matter,” Jenkins said. “As a running back in this offense, you have to catch every ball. That’s vital.”
With opportunity stretching out in front of him for the first time, Jenkins, too, could become vital in the Arizona offense.