Idaho State redshirt senior linebacker Mario Jenkins is one of two Big Sky Conference players to be named to nationally recognized watch lists.
Jenkins, who was named Big Sky Conference Freshmen of the Year after the 2014 season, was named to the Buck Buchanan watch list last week, an award given to the FCS’s top defensive player. Cal Poly wide receiver Keelan Doss was added to the Walter Peyton Award watch list.
“He studies the game, studies the opponent, he’s what you want out of a fifth-year senior captain to be,” said head coach Rob Phenicie. “He wears his emotions on his sleeves during games.”
Jenkins was one of six players added to the list in the past week. Along with Jenkins, Northern Iowa linebacker Jared Farley, Samford defensive end Ahmad Gooden, Elon linebacker Warren Messer, San Diego defensive end Jonathan Peterson and Southeast Louisiana linebacker Sione Teuhema, were added to the list, bringing the list’s total to 27 to go along with its 21 preseason selections.
The watch list is updated throughout the season and its 25 finalists are named after the end of the regular season. A panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries vote on the finalists.
Headlining the preseasons additions were P.J. Hall, a defensive end from Sam Houston State, who was the award’s runner-up last season and is one of the list’s eight returning finalists.
Jacksonville State defensive end Darius Jackson, who finished fourth in voting and was the Ohio Valley Defensive Player of the Year last year, is also back on the list. Also returning to the list is Brett Taylor, a linebacker out of Western Illinois, finished seventh in last year’s voting. South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard finished 10th last season and Houston Baptist linebacker Garrett Dolan finished 11th.
Going into last weekend, Jenkins lead the Big Sky in tackles with 11.7 per-game, which ranked fourth nationally. The Nampa product has collected 82 tackles as of October 19, which is 10 shy of his season total from last season, 92. Jenkins missed the 2015 campaign with a blown ACL.
“After the Nevada game, [Jenkins] was crying,” Phenicie said. “I said, ‘what’s up, man?’ And he goes, ‘I’ve been waiting five years for this.’ That’s the type of kid he is. He is not only the heart and soul of our defense, but our team.”
North Dakota’s Cole Reyes is the only other Big Sky player on the list, but the reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year will miss the remainder of the season.
Jenkins, who according to Phenicie, has been receiving interest from NFL scouts along with Skyler Phillips and JonRhyeem Peoples, tallied a career-high in tackles against Cal Poly with 18 and in the upset win over Nevada, Jenkins had 17 take downs. Jenkins has recorded double digit tackles in four games this season and leads Idaho State in that department.
“It’s always good if you have a guy because they all come through and bring doughnuts through the office,” Phenicie said. “The Jaguars got us pizza last week, it was awesome. That guy was the best one.”
The award was first given out in 1995 and previous winners have consisted of Dexter Coakley, Rashean Mathis, Arthur Moats, Kyle Emanuel and Jered Allen who played at Idaho State from 2000-2003, and helped the school win its last conference title.