Running back overcoming injuries

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Will Ferguson and Will Ferguson | The Daily Wildcat Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona football team held a scrimmage at Kino Memorial Stadium Saturday, April 14, 2012.

At this time last year, Daniel Jenkins limped around on crutches in devastation.

The compact running back out of Rancho Verde High School put together an impressive spring only to have it end with a high ankle sprain toward the end of Arizona’s 2011 spring game.

After battling former Wildcat Keola Antolin for the No. 1 running back spot all through spring, Jenkins became an afterthought.

His explosiveness took a hit. His lateral quickness wasn’t the same. As a result, Jenkins missed Arizona’s first two regular season games and wasn’t himself even when he could play aside from a 43-yard performance against UCLA, a 57-yard rushing game against Utah and a 48-yard day against Louisiana-Lafayette.

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“The politically correct response would be to say no but obviously it set me back,” Jenkins said of the lingering affects that spring game ankle sprain had on the rest of his 2011 campaign.

The injury lingered so much that it couldn’t leave Jenkins’ brain as he entered this past Saturday’s spring game.

“I was praying to God before to keep me healthy,” Jenkins said.

His prayers were answered.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound ball of muscle rushed for 30 yards on five carries including an elusive 23-yard touchdown scamper. Despite a sore hamstring from an injury he suffered earlier in camp, Jenkins looked like the player that appeared on his way to splitting carries with Antolin and Ka’Deem Carey a season ago before his ankle injury.

“I was thanking God that I didn’t get hurt,” Jenkins said. “It’s good to just be able to come out here and perform. I think the biggest thing is staying focused and staying committed to what you’re doing. I’m glad I was able to do that and come back strong this year.”

Jenkins turned in an impressive 2012 spring campaign and figures to be Arizona’s No. 2 back behind Carey. He ran for 81 yards and two scores on nine carries in Arizona’s first spring scrimmage on March 24 and with his newfound health should see even more looks in head coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread option attack.

Arizona’s running back corps is as deep as its ever been with Carey, Jenkins, Kylan Butler, Taimi Tutogi, Greg Nwoko and Jared Baker. But in Rodriguez’s system, which often times features two or even three running backs at a time, Jenkins will get his touches.

“If we got five we can win with, we’ll play all five,” Rodriguez said earlier in the spring.

Each back brings something different to the table, and Jenkins’ combination of power and speed figures to be the perfect fit.

“It suits my strengths a lot actually. I like the way they call their plays,” Jenkins said of Rodriguez’s offense. “The bellies, the zones and the powers, it’s a lot of different things to set up a running back to cut and get north and south to score.”

Rodriguez has made it clear that the depth chart won’t be set until a couple weeks into fall camp. There are plenty of backs that could potentially steal carries from Jenkins, a redshirt junior.

But all signs have pointed to Jenkins playing a major role in Arizona’s backfield, and at least this time heading into the summer and fall camp he’ll be healthy enough to prove his worth.

“I think everybody has bought in to his system and culture,” Jenkins said. “It should be a fun season.”


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