To build depth, USF‘s coaching staff has had to rely on its youth early this season.
Many young players who redshirted last season are now part of the regular rotation at certain positions.
Take redshirt freshman safety JaQuez Jenkins, who sat out all of last year during a redshirt season and now finds himself as a backup safety.
Jenkins, who went to Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, appears to have found his place. He has four tackles on the year.
Jenkins took the time to speak with reporters Monday. Here’s what he had to say about his experiences as a young player and what he hopes to accomplish this season.
Media: What’s it like to be out on the field and play in a role as big as you are as a freshman?
JaQuez Jenkins: It was a great experience to see 90,000 fans (at the Swamp). They’re right up on you, you know, just talking – saying everything. It was a great experience first of all.
M: How much have you learned in these first two games with the time you’ve had on the field and getting to work with some of the more experienced players?
JJ: I’ve experienced a lot. Mistral Raymond and Jerrell Young have helped me out a lot. They’ve helped me learn the ropes. I think I’ve come along a lot.
M: What was your take on the overall performance of the defense on Saturday?
JJ: To be honest, from an effort point, I feel we played great. If you look at the first half, we were right with those guys. In the second half, they just came out, and for some reason, we were just kind of down and stuff. Talent-wise, we’re neck-and-neck with those guys.
M: How much defense did you play in high school?
JJ: About 20 plays a game – only when I needed to. Like on third down situations or second-and-long passing situations.
M: What was the transition like to college from high school, where you played mostly quarterback your senior season?
JJ: For some reason, I always liked to hit. It wasn’t that big a transition for me. As far as learning
the safety position and the techniques, I was never really taught that in high school. Coming here, they really helped me out a lot.
M: What are the most important things the team has to do these next two games to get ready for the Big East season?
JJ: I would probably say communication. Being a safety is kind of like the quarterback of the defense, so just communicating and knowing what we’re doing at the same time. I think we’ll be great. I think we’re going to win the Big East with our defense.
M: Can you use this game as motivation, especially going toe-to-toe with Florida for much of the game?
JJ: Any time you step on the field with Florida, I think you’re playing the cream of the crop. We already thought we could play with anybody. After coming out in the first half and even in the second half, we didn’t give up any big passing plays. I feel our confidence is high, not only in the secondary, but the defensive line and linebacker. I feel like we’re pretty good on defense.