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August 15, 2013
Whatever it was, running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee "was excited" to have the fifth-year senior back.
"Quite honestly, D.J. just wanted to play and we didn't want him to leave. But we were trying to help him with his future," Magee told reporters after Wednesday night's practice.
"He was happy to come back, trust me."
Rodriguez joked that the senior's time away from the program was a break from spring practices that the coach "hope[s] isn't a trend."
Otherwise, Rodriguez is happy to have Jenkins back. And it could show in a more prominent role in the offense this season.
As GOAZCATS.com senior editor Tracy McDannald notes in his fall camp round-up earlier this week, Jenkins is among the "best 11" UA has on the offensive side, despite being the 1B to Ka'Deem Carey's 1A on the depth chart.
Carey erupted in the new offensive scheme implemented last season, becoming the program's first national rushing leader in almost six decades. All-America honors and buzz of 2,000 yards and a Heisman Trophy campaign have followed Carey since.
His meteoric rise relegated Jenkins to a secondary role. He rushed 67 times in 2012, 21 of which came with Carey on the sidelines against Arizona State.
More carries could come Jenkins' way, but his mark very well be made more in the passing game. Jenkins had all of four receptions last season, but the many hits UA has taken in the receiving corps could mean more targets in the new campaign.
"The goal is to have two tailbacks back there that can do both (run and catch). So, we think we have that," Magee said of the system.
No matter which back has his number called, Rodriguez said he has equal confidence in their abilities.
"We have two starting tailbacks; I felt that last year," he said. "Ka'Deem had such a big year and took off, but I have 100 percent confidence D.J. is our other starting tailback."
In the context of preseason workouts, a second capable running back makes practices more meaningful.
"It'll give us some competition," Rodriguez explained.
"When you've got competition at every position, it elevates everybody's play," he continued. "When your [second-string players] are close to your [first string], and your [third-string players] aren't that far behind?you aren't holding your breath every time you practice, every time someone gets hurt."
Jenkins is more than an insurance policy, though. One potential parallel from Rodriguez's coaching past is the 2007 West Virginia team, which was third in the nation in rushing. Steve Slaton filled the feature back role that Carey so brilliantly commands, while Noel Devine provided an additional pop in a change-of-pace role, akin to that which Jenkins will fill.
And, since none of the quarterbacks currently embroiled in a heated quarterback competition are likely to see a workload similar to Pat White's in 2007, that means more rushes to share between the two running backs.
The transfer-that-wasn't just might be the biggest addition UA made in the offseason for 2013. And Rodriguez is thrilled.
"D.J. is a great kid," Rodriguez said. "I'm happy he's decided to finish his career where he started."