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Arizona Wildcats running back Daniel Jenkins transfers to Pac-12 school

Daniel Jenkins

Daniel Jenkins ran 106 times for 495 yards in his three years at Arizona. Photo by Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Wildcats transfer running back Daniel Jenkins has found the opportunity he was looking for elsewhere in the Pac-12.

The graduate student — meaning he can play right away in 2013 — decided Wednesday to attend Washington State.

“Out of all the options I had, that presented the best opportunity for me to excel,” Jenkins said. “They plan for me to be the feature back. That was the appeal to me — that opportunity.”

He should have plenty of that.

Washington State’s leading rusher was senior Carl Winston with only 280 yards. True freshman Teondray Caldwell was next with 56 carries for 269 yards.

Mike Leach’s pass-happy Air Raid offense often ranks among the worst rushing teams in the nation, but there is always room for one back to be in the spotlight and rush for around 1,000 yards while being a productive pass catcher. Such players when Leach was at Texas Tech included Baron Batch, Taurean Henderson and Shannon Woods.

Washington State running backs coach Jim Mastro — who tried to recruit Jenkins to Nevada out of high school — had a leading role in convincing the running back to jump to Pullman. Jenkins added this about Leach:

“He’s a really cerebral type of guy. He’s a smart, smart guy. Obviously, an historic coach with what he’s done in the past.”

Jenkins announced his decision to leave Arizona in the week after the team’s win in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15. He rushed 67 times for 293 yards and two touchdowns this season as the backup to sophomore Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher.

Calling himself a “Wildcat at heart,” Jenkins needed to go elsewhere for a chance to show his skills in his final season.

“I wouldn’t say it was important to stay in the Pac-12 necessarily,” he said.

“But, at the same time, I definitely like the idea of staying at the same level of competition and do the things I know I can do playing against these teams. I want to play against the best of the best, and that’s what this is.”

Jenkins will have one more chance to run at Arizona Stadium. The Cougars play in Tucson on Nov. 16.

“I’m sure a lot of people are going to be hyping it up, but it’s going to be another game for me,” Jenkins said. “There wasn’t any animosity leaving Arizona, so that wasn’t a factor.”

He said he is unsure of his area of graduate study at Washington State. He took only 3 1/2 years to earn his Arizona degree in public policy and management, focusing on criminal justice. His minor was in business.

Jenkins said he plans to enroll at Washington State in the summer. He said he will be working out at home in Moreno Valley, Calif., in the meantime.

“I’m going to be getting ready for a big-time season,” he said.

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