VALDOSTA, Ga. — Xavier Jenkins Jr. was the first receiver recruit of the Class of 2017 for UGA.
He pledged to the “SICEM17” movement in February before he had any stars. That was a savvy early move on his part. He got into the class before other receivers learned just how well assistant coach James Coley can recruit.
The rising senior (Lowndes High School / Valdosta, Ga.) already looks at Coley as a “cool guy” who “really knows how to make me laugh all the time.” The receivers coach at UGA calls him “X-Man” when they catch up.
“Coach Coley told me to get used to hearing Spanish when he coaches me,” Jenkins said. “When we’re at practice and I mess up or do something wrong, he’ll let me know what I did wrong in Spanish sometimes. So I’m already learning a new word or two every time I go up to Athens. When he told me that, I thought it was funny. I will never forget that.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder was also on board before freshman Jacob Eason started throwing darts at the spring game and receivers started looking for the emojis with all the hearts for their Twitter feed.
“I was like ‘Man, this joker has got an arm on him,” Jenkins said. “He threw it straight downfield and then those back-shoulder throws. Nobody can throw a ball better than he just did.”
Right after he said that, he made a gesture. He put two fingers on his hands up and spread them apart briefly. Then he crossed them.
“This is going to me and Jacob right here,” said Jenkins. “All knotted up. That man is going to be my best friend and I am sure going to try to be his out on that field. Me. Jacob. Best friends. Man, Jacob has got a lot of talent.”
Jenkins was candid about what level of impact G-Day made on him as a committed recruit.
“I got out there and was just looking around for so long at all the people for 93K Day,” Jenkins said. “It gave me chill bumps. I was telling my coach that went with me (David Shores) I could already imagine myself playing here. I spent a long while soaking it all in. I told him to imagine me on the field right then. Then I pictured actually playing in the game and making a play and hearing that crowd. I have no idea how big of an adrenaline rush will follow, but I want to find out.”
Don’t expect his commitment to waver, much less change.
“Playing sports growing up my mom and dad always told me no matter what decisions you make in life good or bad the one thing you do in life is if when you start something you are going to finish it,” Jenkins said. “If you make a promise that will do something, then you sure better finish it out. That’s your word right there and I am not a quitter on anything.”
UGA would be wise not to let Jenkins drift for lack of paying him due respect on the recruiting trail. There might be higher-rated receivers that show interest in UGA, and the program is set to sign only four guys at his position. They might have to sign five receivers if high-value targets like Nico Collins, Jeremiah Holliman and Mark Webb all decide to play at UGA, too.
But the coaching staff at Lowndes has been assured that coach Kirby Smart and UGA are crazy about Jenkins and the size and length he brings to the field. There’s also the side benefit that UGA needs to establish more recruiting ties in South Georgia going forward.
He hopes to wear No. 25 at UGA. That’s the number that Josh Harvey-Clemons, a relative by marriage, also wore in Athens before he transferred to Louisville. Jenkins liked Louisville before the Georgia offer, and went to their spring game, too. He’s also been to a spring game at Florida. But he also grew up a Georgia fan.
“I know how it would look if I decommitted from Georgia and went somewhere else,” Jenkins said. “Naw, man. That’s not going to be me. I’d also have to find something better than Georgia has to make me want to decommit. I’m just not sure I would ever be able to find that, too.”
Then, he shared another moment of honesty.
“I won’t lie to you, man,” Jenkins said. “Ever since that spring game I think about that day all the time. I think about that feeling before every practice. I’ve had dreams about it. I just think all the time about being back there playing football for Georgia in that stadium.”
He’s also the rare prospect who will correct his height when asked. Some of the major recruiting sites continue to list him at 6-foot-5 on his profile pages, but he’s two inches shorter than that.
Jenkins wasn’t sure if he would’ve committed to the previous staff at UGA. He had a bad experience at Georgia’s elite “Dawg Night” prospect camp and only got two reps.
“It made me mad a little bit because I loved Georgia growing up,” Jenkins said. “They just kept throwing those commits and big names in and I didn’t get to show what I could do with so many receivers there. It was like there were a thousand receivers there.”
One of those was on a ball throw by Eason but Richt was in the middle of the field obstructing his route. So he didn’t catch that one for fear of running through Richt.
Jenkins wore a red UGA hand towel every day for spring practice. He also has a pair of sunglasses that say “Commit to the G” on the side, and a pair of Georgia cowboy boots he keeps in his car.
“Just a simple country boy here man,” Jenkins said. “I’m going to be that receiver on the team who likes to watch ‘Duck Dynasty’ on TV instead of going to the movies all the time.”
Jenkins, who has had the nickname “Gleesh” since middle school, rips off a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash every time. He said his lowest time was in the 4.3 range. His best skill? His coaches at Lowndes feel it is catching the deep ball.
“Tremendous quickness for a kid that size,” Lowndes coach Randy McPherson said. “He is really explosive. He’s also a lot more competitive and competent this year in spring practice and is definitely what the college coaches are looking for in a receiver.”
His father is a welder and has his own shop. His mother works in the special education department at Lowndes High School as a para-professional.
“If football doesn’t work out, then my fallback plan would be to build stuff,” Jenkins said. “I want to have my own business and build stuff. I wouldn’t mind being a contractor so I will stay on top of my grades and focus on those along with football.”
He’s now rated as the nation’s No. 82 receiver for his signing class, and as the No. 59 player in Georgia this year. That seems rather low, but keep in mind he did not attend many of the recent wave of spring prospect camps and just got rated earlier this year.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.