Ten NFL drafts have come and gone without an offensive lineman from Oklahoma State hearing their name called. The last time it happened was back in 2010 when the Seattle Seahawks used the sixth overall selection on Russell Okung. Since then, the program has only had three first-round picks in total.
Their fortunes are about to change. Oklahoma State may not send many offensive linemen to the league, but when they do, it tends to be in the form of an exciting talent.
The 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with talented offensive tackle prospects, but Teven Jenkins easily stands out among them.
Jenkins’ stock has soared throughout this process and it’s easy to see why. On tape, Jenkins is a tough and competitive blocker that plays through the whistle. He’s always the enforcer at the point of attack. He has the type of build and profile that screams 10-year NFL starter.
I had a long conversation with Jenkins that paints a picture of why he’s considered an elite talent. We talked about growing up in Topeka, why he chose Oklahoma State, his mentality as an offensive lineman, and a whole lot more.
JM: You grew up in Topeka, Kansas. I know it’s the capital, but I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about Topeka. What was life like growing up?
TJ: I had a good upbringing. Just like any other city, Topeka has some streets and areas that you want to avoid. I tried to stay away from the rougher parts of town.
I always felt like somebody was trying to influence me to head into those parts of town, but luckily I had some great people in my life that kept me away from that. The good people in my life kept me away from all that. They made sure I stayed clear of those areas.
I had a great upbringing. My support system was excellent. I didn’t grow up in a rough neighborhood. I grew up on the southeast side of town. It was the better side of town. It was a middle-class, blue-collar type of neighborhood.
There are definitely some parts of town in Topeka that are out of control. There are certain parts of town that definitely get a bad rep nowadays.
JM: You also went to the local high school where you played basketball and baseball in addition to football. What did you enjoy about playing baseball and basketball, and how did they make you a better football player?
TJ: I really enjoyed playing those two sports. They made me a better athlete in general. They improved my footwork and I play with greater hip flexibility because of it. I have an easier time getting low to the ground. I can take certain angles that another guy can’t. There’s so much that goes into it.
Those sports made me a better football player because they opened up my horizons. Having different types of competition in life is a good thing. I never strayed away from football, though. Playing those two sports, the skills you learn don’t stray too far from football either. Playing multiple sports definitely helped me with my speed too. They made me a better overall athlete.
JM: You finish high school and you chose to attend Oklahoma State. Why OSU over some of the other offers you had?
TJ: I get this question a lot. I narrowed it down to which strength coach I thought could get the best out of me. Coming into college fresh out of high school, I knew I was gonna spend a lot of time around the strength coach. That’s a day-in, day-out activity for a young kid. I decided to go with strength and conditioning coach Rob Glass from Oklahoma State. We had a great connection. I felt really good about the work he was doing at OSU.
That was my No. 1 factor. After that, I had to decide whether or not I felt comfortable enough to play for the O-line coach there. I decided that I was very comfortable with that. He was only there for a year and a half. I believe he left for another job at Marshall.
Things worked out the way they did. I wound up playing for three different offensive line coaches but I feel like going to Oklahoma State was the right decision. My strength and conditioning coach [coach Glass] is still there today.
JM: I love that. Oklahoma State hasn’t had an offensive tackle drafted since Russell Okung went in the top 10 back in 2010. You’re obviously going to end that streak. Nonetheless, the school hasn’t exactly been known to produce many NFL O-linemen as of late. That’s one of my favorite things about you as a prospect. You’re about to end that drought by getting drafted really early in April.
TJ: I feel like we’ve had some good players on the O-line over the past couple of years. Zachary Crabtree was one of my mentors. He didn’t get drafted, but he signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent.
We had a lot of great leaders on the offensive line that went undrafted. They got overshadowed throughout the process. I don’t know why that happened. Maybe it had something to do with what you said. There’s a negative stigma about the offensive line at Oklahoma State. Maybe that’s been the case since Okung got drafted.
Being the one that’s about to break that streak is a huge accomplishment for me. I’m so happy to have the chance to do that for my school.
JM: I’m sure everybody at Oklahoma State is so proud of you. You finished your career at Oklahoma State with two really strong seasons in 2019 and 2020. How do you look back on your career?
TJ: I look back and think that I had a couple of solid seasons. I can always get better, though. I don’t really pay attention to the good plays. I look back on it and I look at the things I could have done better. I watch the plays where I didn’t do so well. I don’t watch the highlights. I pay attention to what I didn’t do as well as maybe some other guys did.
I look at my mess-ups and my failures. I look for how I can capitalize by getting better in those areas. Nobody gets better by watching their highlights. They’re fun to watch, but that’s where it stops. Where you get better is by watching your failures and learning how to change the outcome of those results.
JM: I love your attitude and outlook on that. That’s the right way to approach the game. How are you finding this pre-draft process so far? What does your training regimen look like?
TJ: It’s been a lot of fun. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. This place [EXOS in Frisco, Texas] is keeping me very happy. Everybody is so top notch here.
I feel lighter. I’m way faster in everything I’m doing. We do a whole bunch of workouts in the morning and afternoon. I feel great. This is the best my body has felt in years.
Weight-wise, I’m down quite a bit from the 2020 season. I played this past year around 325 pounds, maybe 330. I weigh 315 pounds today. I’ve cut my body fat percentage by like six or seven percent. I’m down to 19.5% body fat right now.
JM: That’s excellent news. You’ve played a lot of left tackle and right tackle in your career. You’ve also played at guard. Has there been a consensus opinion from NFL teams on where they see you playing at the next level?
TJ: Teams have been asking me that question. They wanna know what my opinion on that is. They wanna know where I feel most comfortable. Most teams have asked me where I see myself playing on the first day of camp.
I always answer that question the same way. I see myself playing somewhere on the right side. It doesn’t matter if I’m a guard or tackle. I can play both. You saw it on tape.
Teams like that answer.
This whole time at EXOS, I’ve been working on my stance as a left tackle or left guard. That’s where I’m trying to get more comfortable. Playing right tackle or right guard comes naturally to me. That’s where I’ve been playing since high school.
Even before high school, I was a right tackle and defensive end growing up. I’ve spent some time getting more comfortable playing on the left side of the offensive line here at EXOS because I believe that versatility is always a good thing.
JM: That’s a terrific way to approach it. What’s your favorite part of playing the offensive tackle position?
TJ: My favorite part of playing the tackle position is that I take great pride in taking care of my teammates. I really enjoy helping provide a clean pocket.
Say I make a big block or a cut-off block. Seeing Chuba [Hubbard] or Spencer [Sanders] take the ball 30 yards downfield, that’s the best thing in the world to me. I enjoy helping my guys make big plays. If my quarterback got hit at all during the game, I look back at my performance and say that I did a bad job. I had a bad day at work that day.
JM: That’s an offensive lineman mentality right there. When I watch your game, the biggest thing that jumps out at me is how consistently you take control of a rep right off the snap. You do it with your hands. The power, timing, and positioning of your strike is extremely advanced.
TJ: It all resorts back to practice. My offensive line coach this past season, coach Charlie Dickey, put us through a lot of great drills and workouts. He worked on my ability to strike and anchor. We worked on how to strike and press. More importantly, we worked on when to do it.
He taught me not to lunge. That’s another thing I continue to work on this offseason. I gotta make sure I keep my shoulders back. Coach Dickey emphasizes the strike of your hands. He wants to see powerful hands and he wants you to place them well.
I have a lot of people to thank for that. I agree with you, that’s one of the bigger strengths of my game. I have to give coach Dickey credit for that.
JM: Playing at Oklahoma State, the Air Raid offense can be polarizing at times. It sort of goes back to how we discussed offensive linemen getting overlooked at OSU. How did playing in that offense prepare you for what’s next?
TJ: It prepared me for a lot of things really. We used to run a quick three-drop system. We switched to a five-to-seven step drop. It changed a whole bunch of things for us.
I’ve seen a lot of NFL offenses incorporate some quick drop step things as of late. It pops up on tape.
I feel like my pass sets are going to make such a smooth transition to the next level because of the drop depth of the quarterback. It’s easy for me to adjust to that because once I figure out where the depth of the quarterback is, I can change up my stance and anything else I need to change. It reflects in my game. It’s going to be a smooth transition for me.
JM: Let’s talk a little more about your pass sets. Do you have a favorite?
TJ: My favorite thing to do is jump set. Guys never expect that. Once you do that and get your hands on them, they can’t move at all. It’s a lot of fun for me.
When you do a jump set, they have to be patient enough to figure out if it’s a passing play or running play because you’re going right at them. They don’t always know how to react at first. When you get them on first, that puts them in a tough spot if you get your hands in the right places.
We did some horizontal sets, something like a 45-degree set if there’s a 5-technique or 6-technique lined up there. When it was a wide-9, we were supposed to do a vertical set.
If there was a viking look, which is two 3-techniques and a 5-technique, we attempted a vertical set to protect ourselves from getting picked on twists. If it was a true pass set on third down, we ran more vertical sets than usual.
JM: That’s an excellent explanation. EXOS has been putting players through something like a mock combine as of late. Have you run through any of those drills, and if so, what were some of the numbers?
TJ: Yeah, I did. I hit 34 reps on the bench press. I had a 33-inch vertical jump and I ran the 40-yard dash in 5.03 and 5.06 seconds in my two attempts.
JM: Those are some fantastic numbers. We’ve reached the virtual part of the draft. How is that process going for you, and which teams have you met with so far?
TJ: The process is going smoothly. I’m having a lot of help from my girlfriend (laughs). She has a calendar and she’s helping me set up and keep track of the appointments. She’s helping me set the schedule.
I met with the Cardinals yesterday and I’m meeting with them again today [editor’s note: the interview was completed on 3/3]. I’ve spoken with the Chiefs. We’ve already set up a future meeting.
I’ve also spoken with the Broncos, Ravens, Colts, Patriots, Buccaneers, Jets, Bills, Packers, Jaguars, Saints, and Titans. I heard from the 49ers in February.
JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. What sort of mentality does it take to become a successful offensive lineman?
TJ: It’s pretty straightforward. I just go out there and try to be a d***h**d (laughs). You can’t worry about anybody’s feelings. Do your job. Whoever is in front of me, it’s my job to beat their ass up.
The No. 1 rule is to protect your quarterback.
JM: You’re a guy that plays through the whistle. It pops up on tape time and time again.
TJ: I feel like I added that element to my game in 2020. I did that after my strength coach Rob Glass reiterated it to me. He told me that if I was thinking about entering the 2021 draft, and I quote, “you need to start road grading motherf****rs.” So that’s what I did. He also told me not to be a slap d**k (laughs). What that means basically is, don’t be somebody that finds difficulty in everything. Practice makes perfect.
I started training this past offseason harder than ever before. It definitely worked in my favor.
JM: That’s hilarious. I love strength coaches. We’ve talked a lot about your physicality, your mentality, and how polished your hands are. What’s one strength of your game that you think doesn’t get talked about enough?
TJ: I would definitely say my ability to climb up the second level and get up on a safety. I’m telling you, go back and revisit my film against Oregon State. On that play where Tylan [Wallace] busted that wide receiver screen, I was downfield blocking for him (laughs).
That’s my favorite thing to do. I love to run downfield and block somebody in space.
JM: That’s a terrific answer. We’re going to end things on that note. I’ve really appreciated your time today. I feel like you’ve allowed me to pick your brain in a way that shows why you’re one of the best offensive linemen in this year’s draft. In closing, when an NFL team spends a first-round pick on Teven Jenkins, what kind of guy are they getting?
TJ: They’re getting a trustworthy, hard-working man first and foremost. I have a blue-collar type of work ethic. That’s how I’ve been my entire life. That’s the only way I know how to be. I’m ready to go to work day in, day out. That’s what you can expect from Teven Jenkins at the next level.