Arizona Wildcats junior running back Daniel Jenkins met with coach Rich Rodriguez in his office Monday morning. It was time for The Talk.
Jenkins had graduated two days earlier, earning a degree in 3 1/2 years in public policy and management, focusing on criminal justice. His minor was in business.
What that degree in hand, and one year of eligibility left, Jenkins is free to transfer to another Football Bowl Subdivision school without having to sit out a year. It was that or stay at Arizona and face another season of limited opportunity behind consensus All-American Ka’Deem Carey.
You can see what Jenkins wanted to do.
“Coach Rod, he was heart-felt. He understood where I was coming from,” Jenkins told TucsonCitizen.com on Thursday.
“He definitely let me know that his wishes were for me to stay. But he understood that it was a personal decision. This has nothing to do with the institution or the coaches or every experience I had here. We definitely left on good terms.”
Jenkins, who carried 67 times for 293 yards and two touchdowns this season, is definitely leaving. He said he has some recruiting trips set up to other FBS schools and plans on enrolling somewhere for the spring semester.
He’ll simply be looking for the best opportunity for playing time.
“I have only one year to show the world what I’ve got,” Jenkins said.
“This was just a personal decision for my career. It was something I had to do. It was not something I wanted to do.”
Rodriguez called Carey and Jenkins 1-A and 1-B at running back early in the season, but coaches had a difficult time taking Carey off the field. Hard to argue with that, as he leads the nation with 148.38 rushing yards per game.
Jenkins (5-9, 196) probably missed his window of opportunity late in 2011 fall camp, when he suffered an ankle injury in the final scrimmage. Sidelined for a few weeks, Carey and Keola Antolin became the tag-team at running back. Jenkins rushed 31 times for 176 yards as a sophomore.
His best game at Arizona came in the 2012 regular-season finale at Arizona State, when he carried 21 times for 78 yards when Carey was ailing with a sore collarbone.
“Here’s the thing,” Jenkins said. “I know what I’m capable of, and so does every coach I played for. The fact that I didn’t get as many opportunities as I would liked, that’s just the thing that happened. On the flip side, I know that’s not the best of me.
“I’ve had flashes and I know I can consistently do that.”
As for the backup spots at running back next season, Arizona has sophomore-to-be Jared Baker, senior Kylan Butler and freshman J.T. Washington, who redshirted this season. The recruiting class includes running backs Pierre Cormier and Zach Green, as well as Mauriece Lee and junior college transfer Mario Alford, both of whom could end up in hybrid running back/receiver roles.
Jenkins, from Moreno Valley, Calif., realized in the summer that he could graduate in Decembe,r and he said he “got on my horse” to make it happen. “My ambition took over,” he said.
That academic achievement will allow him to try to find a place to fulfill his athletic goals in 2013.
Leaving Arizona, though, will be bittersweet, he said.
“Oh man … this is where I grew up. It became a home away from home,” he said.
“I came here as a 17-year-old freshman in college and now I’m leaving a 20-year graduate. I have learned so much from the Coach (Mike) Stoops era and the RichRod era. I’m appreciative of all the coaches, but it’s time to move on.
“I will always be a Wildcat at heart.”