Thursday, June 21, 2012

Top 10 BYU Freshmen: #2-Ronney Jenkins

Even before Ronney Jenkins put Hueneme High School on the map by rushing for 619 yards in a single game, the Brigham Young Cougars’ coaches had identified Jenkins as a player they wanted to have. Their early recruiting efforts paid off. Once he finished school in 1996, Jenkins left Port Hueneme, California and used his 4.3 40-yard dash speed to get to Provo, Utah as fast as he could.

Jenkins’ arrival at BYU was well received. The Cougars’ rushing attack in 1995 was not satisfactory. The team’s leading rusher had only 449 yards. Although BYU was a quarterback factory, it was the first time since 1987 that the team’s leading rusher had less than 500 yards rushing. All newcomers were given an equal opportunity to play.

Similar to Jamal Willis (number 8 on the list), Jenkins started slow having to learn something he was never asked to do in high school—pass block. He did get his feet wet with at least one carry in every game, but his real contribution early in the season was on kick off returns.

In game four against New Mexico, when the BYU offense was struggling, Jenkins started to come to life. He only had 37 yards rushing, but one of his seven carries was a 6-yard touchdown run that put BYU up 17-14, which was the game’s final score. Breaking the plain of the end zone for the first time was a breakthrough for Jenkins. The next week, he averaged 7.4 yards a carry, led the team in rushing yards, and scored twice.

Jenkins averaged 171 all-purpose yards in back-to-back games against UNLV (169 yards: 29 rushing, 81 receiving, 59 kickoff returns) and Tulsa (173 yards: 53 rushing, 54 receiving, 66 kickoff returns). He added two touchdowns in each game, as well.

A 6-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds left in the third quarter at TCU gave Jenkins at least one touchdown for the sixth consecutive game.

As the season rolled on, Jenkins got better and better each week. In game 10, he was selected by the coaches as the running back of the game after leading the team in rushing yards against UTEP. In game 11, Jenkins registered his first 100-yard rushing game with 109 yards on just 12 carries. In game 12, he had 91 yards and a touchdown rushing and scored another touchdown on his only reception. Game 13 was the climax.

BYU had not beaten Utah since 1992. They needed to beat the Utes to win the WAC Mountain Division and play in the inaugural WAC Championship game. Jenkins and running back Brian McKenzie caught the Utes off guard as they combined for 52 carries, 332 yards, and four touchdowns. Jenkins scored three of those touchdowns, and outscored the Utes all by himself as BYU won 37-17. Jenkins had season highs of 29 carries and 156 yards. The three touchdowns scored was also a season high. He was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Week.

In the WAC Championship game, Jenkins wasn’t involved in the offense much, but he had his best game returning kicks. On four kickoff returns he totaled 107 yards.

Jenkins was awarded for his play with the distinction of WAC Freshman of the Year.

Why number 2?
Jenkins set five BYU freshman records with 733 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns (tied for sixth most in a season, at that time), 14 total touchdowns (tied for fourth most, at that time), 84 points scored (tied for ninth most, at that time), and 1,341 all-purpose yards (tenth most in school history, at that time). He had 922 combined rushing and receiving yards.

Why not higher?
His slow start. Jenkins had 13 carries for 33 yards in the first three games, and zero receptions in the first five games.

Breakout game: SMU (game 5)
Best game: Utah (game 13)

Game-by-game Stats, 1996

Rushing
Texas A&M: 2 carries, 4 yards
Arkansas State: 10 car., 29 yards
Washington: 1 car., 0 yards
New Mexico: 7 car., 37 yards, 1 TD
SMU: 10 car., 74 yards*, 2 TD
Utah State: 6 car., 52 yards, 1 TD
UNLV: 7 car., 29 yards
Tulsa: 7 car., 53 yards, 2 TD
TCU: 9 car., 21, yards, 1 TD
UTEP: 9 car., 66 yards*
Rice: 12 car., 109 yards*
Hawaii: 11 car., 91 yards, 1 TD
Utah: 29 car., 156 yards, 3 TD
Wyoming: 8 car., 12 yards
Kansas State: 4 car., 7 yards
Totals: 128 car., 733 yards, 11 TD (132 car., 740 yards)

NOTE: Bowl stats were not included in season stats in 1996. The totals in parenthesis include the Cotton Bowl.

Receiving
Texas A&M: none
Arkansas State: none
Washington: none
New Mexico: none
SMU: none
Utah State: 1 reception, 11 yards
UNLV: 4 rec., 81 yards, 2 TD
Tulsa: 2 rec., 54 yards
TCU: 1 rec., 1 yard
UTEP: 2 rec., 16 yards
Rice: 1 rec., 11 yards
Hawaii: 1 rec., 12 yards, 1 TD
Utah: none
Wyoming: 2 rec., 3 yards
Kansas State: 1 rec., 15 yards
Totals: 14 rec., 189 yards, 3 TD (15 rec., 204 yards)

Kickoff Returns
Texas A&M: 1 return, 29 yards
Arkansas State: 2 ret., 58 yards
Washington: 2 ret., 42 yards
New Mexico: none
SMU: none
Utah State: none
UNLV: 2 ret., 59 yards
Tulsa: 2 ret., 66 yards
TCU: none
UTEP: 1 ret., 24 yards
Rice: none
Hawaii: none
Utah: 1 ret., 34 yards
Wyoming: 4 ret., 107 yards
Kansas State: no kickoff return stats available
Totals: 15 returns, 419 yards

Top 10 BYU Freshmen
10. Cody Hoffman, 2010
9. Greg Pitts, 1991
8. Jamal Willis, 1991
7. Luke Staley, 1999
6. David Nixon, 2003
5. Mike Morgan, 1979
4. Austin Collie, 2004
3. Randy Brock, 1991
2. Ronney Jenkins, 1996
1. Harvey Unga

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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