September 2, 2009 9:57:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- By growing up only 10-15 minutes away from the Jackson State campus, it would have been easy for Mississippi State senior offensive guard Craig Jenkins to stay home to play college football.
It was also tempting because Jenkins had two cousins and two aunts go to school at Jackson State.
On top of that, many of his friends from Pearl High School are in school at Jackson State.
Jenkins could''ve went to Jackson State also, but when MSU offered him a scholarship in September of 2004, he committed to the Bulldogs the following month.
He said it was nothing against Jackson State, but the chance to play in the Southeastern Conference was something he wanted to do.
"The option (to attend Jackson State) was there and I paid them attention a little bit," Jenkins said. "Early in my career, I really didn''t know where I wanted to go so I just let time play its role. (Going to MSU) took the cake."
When Mississippi State hosts Jackson State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jenkins knows there will be some family interests.
"This really hits close to home," Jenkins said. "I''m going to have a lot of people in town this week giving support. I think it will be a pretty good week for me."
The most important thing in Jenkins'' mind is helping MSU start the season with a win.
Jenkins has experienced good and bad times at Mississippi State.
After experiencing a 3-9 record in his redshirt freshman season, Jenkins helped MSU to an 8-5 mark and a win in the Autozone Liberty Bowl.
MSU slumped again last season to a 4-8 record.
With a challenging schedule this season, Jenkins knows of only one way to approach it.
"Every week is a big game, you just try to come out to practice, work hard, prepare each day and try to reach our potential," Jenkins said. "The coaches say we''ve been putting in all of this work and at the end of the week it''s payday. We''re just trying to cash in."
After playing his first three seasons for offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, Jenkins has a new position coach in John Hevesy. Hevesy followed coach Dan Mullen to MSU from Florida.
Hevesy came in with no pre-conceived notions and let all of the offensive linemen know they have a clean slate, including a senior like Jenkins.
Jenkins had 30 career starts at MSU, but that didn''t matter to Hevesy.
"I wanted him to prove to me what he was and who he was," Hevesy said. "If you deserve to play, I don''t care how many games you''ve started here.
"I think he started off a little hesitant toward that, but I can truly say in the last two weeks, he''s stepped it up. We are starting to eliminate the bad plays that he has."
Sophomore Quentin Saulsberry, who is actually listed ahead of Jenkins at left guard on the depth chart, values the lessons learned from his teammate.
When Saulsberry arrived as a freshman last year, he turned to Jenkins and former lineman Michael Gates for advice.
"If it weren''t for them, I don''t know where I''d be," Saulsberry said. "I take a lot of things from Craig by learning and listening to him. I want to thank Craig for everything he''s done."
It doesn''t bother Jenkins that Saulsberry is listed above him on the depth chart.
Jenkins says the entire offensive line has to work together to make things work.
"You can''t single out one leader, but we''re a group," Jenkins said. "One can''t perform without the other. It''s a unit and like a fist. We keep each other up, look up to each other and set examples for each other."
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