(Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sportsPublished 10:02 p.m. MT March 30, 2018 | Updated 10:32 p.m. MT March 30, 2018)
Wide receiver Ryan Jenkins is going into his fourth year at Arizona State, but chances are good you haven't noticed.
He has just four catches for 24 yards to show from nine games combined in 2016 and '17. Injuries have dogged Jenkins going back to the start of his college career at Tennessee, and his decision to initially walk-on at ASU has yet to pan out.
Yet when the receiver group comes up for discussion this spring, Jenkins is always included as a major player. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who coached receivers last season, puts Jenkins third in the pecking order behind All Pac-12 first-teamer N'Keal Harry and Kyle Williams.
"He has great leadership skills and he's probably our best route runner," Likens said. "He's just had a tough career. He's had several injuries that have kept him from showing the world what he can do. I just pray the guy stays healthy because if you see a healthy Ryan Jenkins, he's one of our top two or three receivers."
Some background on the 5-11 Jenkins is required. He was a four-star recruit out of Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., who first committed to Clemson (where his brother Martin played) but instead followed his father's path by signing with Tennessee. Lee Jenkins was a Tennessee defensive back from 1979-82.
Jenkins redshirted in 2013, played in 13 games but had just one catch in 2014. He left Tennessee in February 2015 and largely has been out of action since. Still, Likens puts Jenkins in the running with Frank Darby and Terrell Chatman to be the starting flanker (Z receiver) with Harry at split end (X) and Williams as the slot receiver.
Jenkins said, "I know I battled a lot of injuries last season. That hurt in terms of me getting on the field. I hope with this new coaching staff I’ll be able to get some opportunities and take advantage of them.
"I just want to become a complete receiver in any way, shape or form. From my releases to the top of my routes to playing fast consistently."
Charlie Fisher, who replaced Likens as receivers coach, also is high on Jenkins. "He's a very smart player, he can play all the positions. He's really had a good spring. The big thing for him will be keeping him healthy."
Jenkins is not fully participating in all spring drills and being held out of contact.
He missed more than half of last season with a broken collarbone then was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Now, he's in position to be a contributor in part because of John Humphrey suffering a season-ending Achilles injury on March 20.
"I’ve dealt with some injuries in the past, but it’s all part of God’s bigger plan for my life," Jenkins said. "The people I’ve met at ASU and these coaches and my teammates, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m glad I made the move.
"John John is like our brother and he’s one of us. Any time somebody goes down especially with a devastating injury like that, it’s tough. What we’re going to do is honor John John with the way we play this year and go hard for him."