Sept. 5, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A week ago, Brandon Jenkins was preparing himself for what would be his final season opener as a collegiate football standout. Now, FSU's All-American defensive end may never play another snap for the Seminoles.
Jenkins sustained what would turn out to be a season-ending injury to his left foot in the second quarter of the 'Noles' 69-3 win over Murray State last weekend.
Following the game, head coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters that X-rays on the injury were negative. Monday he reiterated the same thing, going so far as to say that FSU's two high-profile defensive-end signees, Mario Edwards, Jr. and Chris Casher, would probably redshirt because of the team's impressive depth at the position.
By Monday night, both proved to no longer be true.
An MRI and pressure-bearing X-ray revealed that Jenkins had in fact sustained an injury to the Lisfranc join in his foot. The sprained joint is the one that connects the top of the foot to the bones and ligaments in the toes and will require an as-yet-to-be scheduled surgery for FSU's typically injury-proof star.
The injury effectively ended a season for a player that nearly didn't have a senior year to begin with. Jenkins' off-season flirtation with declaring for the NFL Draft could have resulted in an early-round selection this past April. Instead, he turned down a pay day to return and help his teammates carry Florida State back to the top of the college football mountain.
After the season, Jenkins will have to decide once again if he wants to come back for a redshirt senior year or declare for the 2013 draft knowing full well he might not be healthy enough in time for the NFL Combine next spring.
"That's one of the things in this world that's not fair, because he is everything that's right about college football," Fisher said. "He wanted to come back and be a first-round draft pick, lead the team to a national championship, finish his degree and do all the right things."
Saturday's game will mark the end of what was a 28-game streak of starts for a pass-rushing force that has racked up 22 1/2 sacks during his career. Jenkins would have entered the game against the Tigers eighth on FSU's career list for sacks and seventh all-time in tackles for loss with 37 1/2.
A big year could have vaulted him towards the top of the record books.
"I think he's struggling," Fisher said. "It's like anything. It's a major blow. He's never really been hurt in his life and to be doing as well as he had been doing - to have the spring he's had, the fall camp he had - and to be hurt on a play that he never got cut, never got hit [is understandable]."
Without Jenkins, FSU turns to the more-than-capable Cornellius Carradine.
Better known as "Tank," Carradine has been Bjoern Werner's backup since he enrolled at FSU last year following a standout junior-college career that made him one of the nation's most sought-after JUCO prospects.
Carradine finished his first campaign with the Seminoles with 5 1/2 sacks and 38 tackles and opened up this season with a team-high nine stops in the win over the Racers. Many considered Carradine to be a legitimate early NFL selection as well -- even before his ascension up the depth chart where he will now be given more opportunities to wreak havoc on opposing offensive tackles and quarterbacks.
"I don't like the way that it happened," Carradine said of his move to the first team. "But that just tells me that I just have to step up now because the team needs me and I need the team. We all have to make it happen for Brandon. I want to prove a lot. I'm going to try to get the job done from here on out."
Carradine's teammates, while still reeling from the loss of their defensive leader, are confident he can continue to be a force.
"Tank is an animal," redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry said. "He just manhandles people out there."
Added Fisher: "We still have very quality ends. There's no doubt [that Carradine is NFL-caliber]. I think a very high draft pick, too. I think he's a really high draft pick. I'll be shocked if he isn't."
Along with Newberry, redshirt senior Toshmon Stevens figures to be a more active participant in FSU's defensive gameplan. Primarily a special teams force as a third-team pass rusher, Stevens is now Werner's backup.
The 'Noles could survive with those four defensive ends but the team did sign two of the nation's top pass rushers as part of the 2012 class -- two student-athletes that earlier this week were shoe-ins for redshirt rookie years.
"Then you've got to play Mario or Casher; whichever one jumps up and takes that next step," Fisher said. "... How fast things can change in 24 hours. We were having a conversation about redshirting guys then all of a sudden [Jenkins is out]. It's a great lesson I try to tell them guys: 'Even though this is going to happen, you can't wait to play. You've got to prepare yourself to play.'"