Teven Jenkins’ lack of experience at left tackle in college is not a concern. So says Oklahoma State offensive line coach Charlie Dickey.
With all the talk about Jenkins playing 26 of his 35 college starts at right tackle, this fact has been overlooked: Jenkins was the starting left tackle heading out of camp in 2020. He started Week 1 at left tackle. Then a series of injuries forced the Cowboys to realign the offensive line.
Starting right tackle Hunter Anthony and starting right guard Cole Birmingham both suffered significant injuries in Week 1 that kept them out for months. The next available tackle was redshirt freshman Jake Springfield, a former walk-on who earned his scholarship only weeks earlier.
It came down to this: The less experienced Springfield felt more comfortable at left tackle. So Dickey moved Jenkins back to the right side.
“I was just running out of guys and the guy that was a younger guy just felt more comfortable playing that position,” Dickey said in an interview with Shaw Local. “That’s just how that played itself out.”
As far as Jenkins’ ability to play left tackle, that’s not a problem.
“Oh yeah, he won’t have any issues with that,” Dickey said.
The Bears signaled they have no problem sliding the rookie second-round draft pick into the left tackle position. They made that clear when they released starting left tackle Charles Leno earlier this week.
Releasing Leno almost certainly means Jenkins will be the starting left tackle. Some combination of veteran Germain Ifedi, veteran free agent signee Elijah Wilkinson or rookie fifth-round pick Larry Borom could be in play at the right tackle position.
Jenkins believes he can play anywhere. He made a point to ask his coaches for practice reps at left tackle even when he was starting on the right side. He feels he can play anywhere.
“It was one of those things where it wasn’t a big adjustment,” Dickey said. “To me, in my opinion, he didn’t have to go take a ton of reps at one spot. You could move him over there and he could do it. It was a very natural thing for him to do.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace sees Jenkins as a viable option at both right and left tackle. Pace studied pretty much every game Jenkins played in, including several games when Jenkins played on the left side.
Jenkins’ performance stood out against Texas last season – when he went up against edge rusher Joseph Ossai, a Cincinnati Bengals third-round pick.
“He’s blocking some good players on the Texas front that went high in this draft,” Pace said. “You just saw the nastiness and the finish and the toughness that he played with in that game, which was awesome to see.”
Dickey credited Oklahoma State strength coach Rob Glass with fostering that nastiness in Jenkins. In a pre-draft interview with KSNT News in his home town of Topeka, Kansas, Jenkins said he chose to attend Oklahoma State, in part, because of his immediate connection with Glass.
Jenkins knew he would be spending more time with Glass than his offensive line coach (at the time Dickey was the offensive line coach at Kansas State; Oklahoma State hired Dickey in 2019 when Jenkins was already on campus).
“[Glass] does a phenomenal job with our guys and I think a lot of that toughness came within our summer conditioning, all the stuff that he did with our strength staff,” said Dickey, who also coached Bears lineman Cody Whitehair at Kansas State. “It came with what we did in practice and it just was one of those things that it continued to get better and better.”
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy believes Jenkins is just starting to tap into his potential. Gundy used to walk up to Jenkins in the weight room and tell him he could be worth $30 or $40 million some day. If that wasn’t motivation coming from the head coach, what is?
In the two years he worked with Jenkins, Dickey saw those work habits continually improve. At this point, it’s all about refining the finer points. Jenkins already possess a long, quick first step. He already has prodigious upper-body strength and his arms are rock solid in the chests of opposing defenders.
The next step, in Dickey’s mind, is time with Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo. It’s the level of attention that comes with being a pro and no longer having to worry about studying for class. It’s about total devotion to the craft.
Dickey knows Jenkins will pick things up quickly. He has already seen it.
“You could give him a technique to do and he could mimic it, he could do it right away, he had no issues doing the techniques that were taught,” Dickey said. “He just was very natural at doing those things. He’s just going to get better and better.”