Niners rookie wideout A.J. Jenkins was a standout last season for the University of Illinois.
After watching A.J. Jenkins in minicamp earlier this summer, some observers weren’t impressed.
The rookie wide receiver from Illinois appeared out of shape and out of sync on the field.
“He hasn’t looked very good,” one person told Pro Football Weekly, adding that although Jenkins showed flashes, he “looked really bad at times.”
“Maybe he’ll show more in training camp,” the observer added.
Well, it’s now time for training camp, and Jenkins – who participated in Monday’s first workout for rookies, quarterbacks and a few veterans – says he’s ready to go.
He heard the earlier criticism and says people will see a different A.J. Jenkins now, one who’s ready to contribute in any way he can.
“I’ve made long strides,” Jenkins told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “Obviously, I had criticism when I first came in as far as being in shape. That’s irrelevant now. I’m just trying to help the team win, whether that’s playing special teams, offense or being a real good teammate.”
Jenkins told Inman he’d been taking part in a “pretty intense” offseason workout program.
The 6-foot, 190-pound receiver, who was a first-team all-Big Ten selection in 2011 at Illinois, was the 49ers’ first-round pick in April, the 30th overall selection in the NFL Draft.
As a senior for the Illini, Jenkins posted some phenomenal numbers, including a Big Ten-leading 84 receptions for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns.
But in minicamp for the 49ers, Jenkins hardly looked as if he were ready to come to training camp this summer and challenge for playing time.
Now, he says, he feels more prepared and is ready to do whatever is necessary to be successful.
“My mindset has really been a lot stronger since the first day of rookie minicamp,” Jenkins told Inman. “From this day forward, all the way into January or February, it’s going to be a long season, and my mind is ready for it.”
Going into camp, the wide receiving corps appears deep, and Jenkins – unless he makes a big splash in camp and exhibition games – may find himself behind several players.
Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss are the likely starters at wideout, with free-agent acquisition Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr., and Kyle Williams also in the mix. Free agent rookie Chris Owusu of Stanford also could compete for a roster spot.
After being drafted, Jenkins signed a four-year deal worth a reported $6.95 million.
Jenkins says that since minicamp he’s been getting advice from teammates such as Moss and Manningham about how to prepare for the season.
“I’ve taken a lot of advice from guys, even (Michael) Crabtree and Ted Ginn,” Jenkins told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ve been like a sponge, trying to take everything in that they’ve told me.”