Charlotte Christian had a well-designed screen set up and with a Division I running back prospect and other speedy skill players on the field, it should have been a play that worked. But their opponent in last week’s opener was Our Lady Good Counsel from Maryland, and they have Kris Jenkins Jr. on their defensive line.
“(Kris) made a play on a screen where he re-traced and went back where the other team had a really nice screen set up,” Good Counsel head coach Andy Stefanelli said. “Of course, we work on that, but he was in a very difficult position to have to turn, go back and track down a very fast running back like it was nothing. It was a tackle for loss when it should have been a 15-20 yard gain. Those are the types of plays where we say, ‘Wow.’ It’s hard to get a kid to recognize it quickly and then have the athletic ability to turn and run and make a play like that on a running back.”
Jenkins Jr. is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and a 2020 commit to play football at the University of Michigan. His father, Kris Jenkins Sr., was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
Plays like that screen he ran down fit the profile of what many would expect knowing his background, but there are more nuances to him than just football.
“He’s a very good student, very strong in classroom, a very bright young man,” Stefanelli said. “He is into other things. He is in the choir. He does his own thing. He gets along with his teammates, gets along with everybody on the team. He is one of those kids who is very non-judgmental. You never really see him down. He is a lovable kid. He hangs out with the kids in the choir. He is not your typical big football jock. He is well-versed in many things and has a lot of interests.”
Still, football comes naturally to Jenkins Jr.
He played junior varsity as a freshman and Stefanelli was the head coach. His sophomore year, Stefanelli was named varsity head coach and Jenkins Jr. came up with him. At the time, the talent was clearly there, but it needed to be developed.
“We saw glimpses of what he has become,” Stefanelli said. “Back then, he was kind of a goofy freshman. He was very forgetful, even kind of spacey, but a big, lovable kid with a heart of gold. He was really fun to coach because he was just a sponge. We would coach him and wouldn’t think he would be grasping it then he would do it perfectly in the drill. With all the God-given talent he has, we knew as long as the maturity came, he could be something really special.”
That maturity happened. Stefanelli said those early mental mistakes are now few and far between. Along with that, he has added size and strength. He was running track, which initially kept his weight down, but now that he has added it, that ability to run at 240 pounds is what has made him a Power Five recruit.
“He is incredibly strong,” Stefanelli said. “Take that ability with his size and he can really be something.”
Growing up, Jenkins Jr. played other sports as well as football. He was able to see his dad and learn from him. As he has developed into an outstanding high school player, his father has continued to be a presence.
“He is a great parent,” Stefanelli said. “He doesn’t get too involved. He lets us coach him and appreciates the work we do. I’m sure he talks with his son on rides to and from school, and at home is giving him tons of knowledge, but is supportive of our program. Nowadays parents hover over their kids and inadvertently put tons of pressure on them and really the only time Kris gets angry with Kristopher is when it’s related to school; it’s never a football problem. It’s really refreshing.”
Kris Jenkins Jr. is a coach’s dream in many ways and soon, it will be Michigan’s coaches who get that benefit.
“He makes us look good,” Stefanelli said.
Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Penn State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and others had all offered Jenkins Jr. prior to his commitment to Michigan.
Blue-chip in-state recruit to visit
Clarkston junior offensive lineman Rocco Spindler will take an unofficial visit to Michigan on Saturday for the Wolverines’ game against Army. Spindler (6-5, 285 pounds) is one of the state’s top recruits.
Michigan has offered along with Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State and more. He has been a standout on both sides of the ball since his freshman season, but the Wolverines are recruiting him on offense primarily.
He is the son of former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Marc Spindler.
Additional Army visitors
Kaden Saunders, a sophomore wide receiver from Westerville (Ohio) South with a Michigan offer, will be in attendance Saturday.
He will be joined by Aurora (Colo.) Regis Jesuit quarterback Nicco Marchiol, another sophomore with a Michigan offer.
Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.