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Jelani Jenkins to enter 2013 NFL Draft

Florida's exodus continues.

Al Messerschmidt

Florida's losing another talented defender: Jelani Jenkins, a redshirt junior, will enter the 2013 NFL Draft, according to Gator Country's Andrew Spivey. also reported the news late Sunday night, but I have no idea what is. So. Update, 1:39 p.m.: GatorZone confirmed the news Monday afternoon, with this statement from Will Muschamp:

"Jelani informed me that he wishes to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL," said Florida head coach Will Muschamp. "We wish him the best of luck and encourage him to return to Florida and complete his degree."

Muschamp's statement on Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam, and Jordan Reed entering the NFL Draft mentioned their "high grades" from the NFL after entering paperwork for evaluation.

Jenkins was injured for much of 2012, missing Florida's games against Tennessee and Kentucky with a broken thumb, playing sparingly with a large cast against LSU, missing Florida's subsequent game against Vanderbilt, and missing the Sugar Bowl after sustaining a foot injury against Florida State. But in the games he played, he was good, not great, and he finished behind Michael Taylor and freshman Antonio Morrison in tackles.

That's part of why observers and fans thought it would be unlikely for Jenkins to go pro, but, as a redshirt junior, he's likely very close to his degree, and as an oft-injured player, he might be trying to get to the NFL before his body betrays him enough to sabotage a pro career before it begins.

I like Jelani a lot, and he's very good at Twitter (he's one of the few Florida athletes I follow from both @AlligatorArmy and my personal account), dating back to and even before Cockroach War 2K11, in which Jenkins encountered a roach in the bathroom of the apartment he shared with fellow Florida player Josh Evans and proceeded to tweet throughout his battle with it.

I suspect Jelani understands the risk he's taking by going pro after an underwhelming season, and that Will Muschamp probably cautioned him against jumping to the NFL, based on the likelihood that he'll be picked lower this year than he would after a strong senior season. But Jenkins is also the recruit who used a three-page matrix of comparisons to help him make his college decision. If he's making this decision with similar care, I trust him to have accepted the inherent risks, and wish him the best of luck in his post-Gators career.

Jenkins would be the ninth Gator to depart Florida with eligibility remaining after the 2012 season. Florida could have up to 30 scholarships available to offer to the class of 2013.