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Arizona Wildcats running back Daniel Jenkins: ‘It was like I never left’

Daniel Jenkins looks for running room against Arizona State in November. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Daniel Jenkins looks for running room against Arizona State in November. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Running back Daniel Jenkins was asked to summarize his time at Washington State.

“Short,” he said.

Jenkins, who announced his transfer from Arizona after graduating last December, spent about a month in Pullman this spring, but was never part of the team. He didn’t sign scholarship papers. He didn’t participate in spring practice. He wasn’t enrolled in school.

“Just trained and worked out,” he said.

He said it was about the beginning of this month that he reached out to Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez about a possible return to the team. The coach announced Jenkins’ return last week, and the senior met with the media Monday.

“It was just a combination of events,” said Jenkins, who didn’t get very specific.

“My family. I had some things going on with them, and I had an opportunity to come back and finish my career at Arizona. I decided to come back.”

Jenkins, from Moreno Valley, Calif., said Washington State coach Mike Leach was “disappointed” when he told him that wouldn’t officially be joining the Cougars this summer, as planned.

“But I continued to let him know it was a personal decision,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t have any ill feeling toward them or anything like that.”

He left Arizona on good terms but was in search of a place where he could better showcase his talents for his final season. He returns on good terms as a potential leader, but the playing-time situation is the same. He’s still on the same depth chart as consensus All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey.

Rodriguez has at times called Carey and Jenkins co-starters, but the distribution of the carries says otherwise: Carey rushed 303 times for 1,929 yards last season; Jenkins ran 67 times for 293 yards.

Jenkins (5-9, 196) has shown flashes of being a very good Pac-12 running back; it’s just that he hasn’t had a very big window of opportunity at Arizona.

“I’m happy to compete,” Jenkins said.

“I’m a competitor. I’m looking forward to the challenge and doing some very big things within the offense and playing a very big role.”

The Wildcats don’t have a passer like Matt Scott anymore, so perhaps there will be more carries for the running backs. Other options include senior Kylan Butler, sophomore Jared Baker and incoming freshmen Pierre Cormier and Zach Green.

Jenkins, who earned his undergraduate degree in public policy and management in 3 1/2 years, will take graduate classes in the fall. He said he stayed in close contact with many teammates after he announced his transfer.

And now …

“It was like I never left,” he said.

“I’m happy to be back, and they were happy to have me.”

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