South Carolina determining how to best use 6-foot-7 transfer receiver E.J. Jenkins

Eric Boynton
South Carolina transfer wide receiver E.J. Jenkins began his career at FCS program Saint Francis University (Saint Francis Athletics photo)

South Carolina transfer E.J. Jenkins has played wide receiver his entire life. Now, he's not only trying to upgrade his talent to compete in the SEC, but he's also trying to learn a new position at tight end.

Off the field, one thing he hasn't been able to master over his life is equaling his father's preparation of his longtime favorite food — Cream of Wheat.

"It was an all-the-time thing for me and my family growing up," Jenkins said. "My dad used to cook it all the time and the way he made it ... even when I was 10 years old I'd try to make it myself and could never make it the same way he did. I'm still trying to learn how to do it. Whenever I see him, I tell him to keep bringing me three big bowls of it so I can just keep eating."

When asked his father's secret, Jenkins replied, "I think it's the amount of butter and sugar he puts in it, and I can never get the amount right to make it perfect. I like the little chunks in it so I try to make the little clumps and just can't seem to figure it out yet."

If the redshirt senior can quickly find his footing with the Gamecocks, then there's a good chance opposing teams will have a hard time figuring out how to defend the 6-foot-7, 242-pound redshirt senior. 

"Playing tight end or receiver it's really a matchup nightmare," Jenkins said. "Playing tight end is kind of new to me especially with different techniques and blocking schemes, stuff like that. It's really been coming along well and I'm just a student of the game and can't wait to learn more."

Jenkins has always been the tallest guy on the field and to this day studies highlights of 6-foot-5 Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson and his physical style of play, calling it "inspirational." Jenkins was a 6-foot-2, 150-pound high school freshman and called it a "long rise" developing into his body.

He's long been a problem for defenses and rarely hasn't been double-teamed. He recalled a game two years ago against Central Connecticut where the opponent dropped a defensive tackle to press him in the red zone.

"It was the first time I'd ever seen something like that," Jenkins said. "I was getting triple-teamed that game, so I've seen it all."

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Jenkins played in only two of his four years at FCS program Saint Francis in Pennsylvania where he teamed with current USC quarterback Jason Brown before the pair transferred together. He redshirted his 2017 freshman season and caught five passes the next year before his one full season in 2019 was a big success.

South Carolina transfer wide receiver E.J. Jenkins (1) celebrates with former Saint Francis teammates Shaun Hastings (Saint Francis Athletics photo)

He caught 39 passes for 779 yards and set a school record with 13 touchdown catches. After Saint Francis had initially postponed the 2020 season to this spring, the school announced a full cancellation a week before students were to return to for the first semester of 2021.

"He's a legit 6-7 and 240 pounds and he's fast, physical and will go up and get any ball you throw, so I can put it in his vicinity and I know he'll catch it," Brown said. "There are not going to be too many guys who can guard him."

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USC coach Shane Beamer and his staff have been undergoing some early experimentation trying to figure out where he best fits, although other tight ends on the team have proven versatile. Nick Muse was one of the team's better pass catchers last year and Jaheim Bell has flashed some versatility.

“Like all our (tight ends) you’ll see them lined up all over," Beamer said. "That’s what we want to have in this offense, the flexibility to move guys around. E.J. is a guy that’s a little bit of everywhere right now and is being asked to do a lot. We want to get our best guys on the field and create matchups. We certainly can do that with him.”

Jenkins said Muse, one of the team's most definitive leaders, has taken him under his wing and the two have spent a lot of time together both on and off the field. Muse has taken an obvious liking to the new guy.

“He can do it all," Muse said. "He’s a guy who has to be more physical whether it’s the block point or going to the ball. If you’re going to critique him, it has to be little things. The big things he already has -- the size, speed, whatever you need -- he can do as an in-line tight end or as an outside guy.

"He reminds me of me, but faster and athletic. Hopefully he gets used the same way I do and we’ll be a dynamic one-two punch this year."