The 2008 NFL Draft will kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday and likely feature the highest drafted player in USF history.
Following a stellar senior campaign that included 41 tackles, 12 pass deflections, three interceptions and a school-record 100-yard kick-off return, Bulls cornerback Mike Jenkins earned All-American honors and became one of this year’s top defensive back prospects.
Mock drafts have the cornerback being selected anywhere from No. 7 by the New England Patriots to No. 20 by Tampa Bay’s own Buccaneers. If the Bradenton native is taken anywhere in the first round, he will surpass former USF linebacker Kawika Mitchell, drafted No. 47 overall in 2003, as the University’s highest drafted player.
Despite a busy pre-draft schedule that has included visits to numerous NFL teams, Jenkins took the time to speak with the Oracle about the current state of the Bulls, his Draft-Day competition and his plans for Saturday.
The Oracle: You were on the sidelines watching USF’s Spring Game last week. How did it feel being a spectator for the USF football team for the first time in four years?Mike Jenkins: It was pretty good but at the same time I kind of miss it. In a way, it was a good way to finish up the year because I think I’m going toward bigger and better things – not necessarily better but more developed and established – and that’s something that’s going to be really good for me.
O: The team lost a big part of its defense with the graduation of linebacker Ben Moffitt and cornerbacks Trae Williams and yourself. How do you think the defense looked out there?MJ: I think they looked really good. The defense I knew was going to be pretty good because of Coach Burnham. He’s always hard on us regardless of anything. They have two corners and a linebacker they have to replace but I feel like they’re solid at middle linebacker with either Tyrone McKenzie or Brouce (Mompremier) filling in, and I feel like Tyller Roberts and Jerome Murphy are pretty solid at the corners too.
O: With the departure of Trae Williams and yourself, USF’s defensive backs – especially projected starters Roberts and Murphy – have some pretty big shoes to fill next season. How do you think they’re going to do?MJ: I definitely feel like they’re going to be good. Tyller has been here for four years now. He came in as a true freshman and played behind me and Trae and I think he’s been around long enough to step in as a solid corner and he definitely has game experience. Jerome is just a raw athlete. He’ll probably be one of the best corner backs to come through the school if he just gets his technique down and learns how to study the game.
O: Obviously, Saturday is going to be a big day for you. How are you feeling as draft day approaches?MJ: Aw man, I’m starting to get stressed, I’m starting to get excited, I’m feeling all kinds of things right now. I’ve been visiting some teams but, as the time winds down, I’m clueless about where I could go. I’ve heard everything from eight to 20, so hopefully I’ll get to have a short day on Saturday and my name will be called early.
O: There have been a few mock drafts that have you going at No. 20 to the Buccaneers. How would you feel continuing your career at Raymond James Stadium?MJ: I’d feel real good with that. I’d be able to get back to the fans and have a big fan base from here at South Florida. I was pretty much raised in Tampa from my freshman year and it’s been about five years, so, like I said, the fans have always been good to me and hopefully if I get drafted there I could give something back to them.
O: Some scouts have Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Troy’s Leodis McKelvin ranked ahead of you as far as defensive backs in the draft. Do you wonder why cornerbacks from non-BCS conference schools are getting more attention than you when you competed at a higher level during your career?MJ: Well, you know, those boys went down to the Senior Bowl, which I sat out of because of a hamstring injury, and they went there and I think they did a good job of proving themselves. But, there is a lot of talk out there about them going to smaller schools, so I don’t know if that’s going to effect them come draft day or not. They’re all good guys and I’ll be happy for all of them no matter how it turns out.
O: Some people might not know that you and Rodgers-Cromartie grew up together in Bradenton and have known each other for a long time. Do you guys still keep in touch?MJ: Oh yeah. We talked pretty much every day when I was down in Orlando training and he was my roommate. He’s one of my good friends. We’ve known each other since – I want to say 15 years now. We have the same agent. Coming out of high school, his school wasn’t that good so he didn’t get attention from a lot of big schools but he’s a real good guy.
O: What are your plans for Draft Day?MJ: Well they’re probably going to invite me up (to New York), but I don’t think I’m going to go. I think I’m just going to stay down here with my family and spend some time with my teammates before I head away from South Florida.
O: Are you planning to come back and visit USF at all later this year?MJ: Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be back. I’ll be back for the practices and I’ll be back to workout – that’s just normal to me.