Jelani Jenkins could return for LSU game

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It looks like Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins could be back on the field for the Gators’ game against LSU on Oct. 6.

UF coach Will Muschamp said Wednesday that Jenkins will see a specialist on Friday and have the surgical pin removed from his fractured right thumb. If Jenkins is cleared, then he could play against the Tigers with a cast on his hand.

"That goes back to pain level and comfort level of playing with a cast," Muschamp said. "Right now we feel like he should be able to go, but again you never know until the guy looks at it, so I don’t want to sit there and say he’s going right now. I’m not ready to say that."

Jenkins fractured his thumb against Texas A&M on Sept. 8 and hasn’t played since. Muschamp said Jenkins was cleared last week to resume weight-lifting and running.

If Jenkins were to play, that would be a huge boost to the defense. The 6-foot, 237-pound redshirt junior has started 25 games and was the Gators’ third-leading tackler in 2011 (75 tackles). He had five tackles this season before leaving the A&M game in the first quarter. LSU plays a lot of two-back sets, which will allow the Gators to remain in their base defense with three linebackers, instead of playing mainly nickel coverages as they have through the first four games this season.

Jenkins would be back on the field at weakside linebacker instead of sophomore Michael Taylor, which would give the Gators their best lineup of linebackers: Jenkins, middle linebacker Jon Bostic and strongside linebacker Darrin Kitchens.

"He provides some real speed for us on the field," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "He’s a terrific blitzer and can match up against a tight end.

"Just his experience playing linebacker, I don’t think you can overlook that."