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2019 NFL draft: Introducing Jalen Jelks, Oregon’s Senior Bowl Invite

NCAA Football: Oregon at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks have produced a handful of quality defensive linemen prospects as of late, and Jalen Jelks is the latest in that impressive lineage.

A versatile chess piece that lined up all over Oregon’s defensive front, Jelks will be one to watch at next month’s Senior Bowl. A good performance could shoot him into the top-64 conversation.

Jelks recently spoke exclusively with MCM about the impression he hopes to leave on those in attendance in Mobile, the best offensive linemen he’s ever squared off with, and how he gains a competitive advantage pre-snap.

JM: Where were you when you found out about your Senior Bowl invite and what was your initial reaction like?

JJ: I had just gotten home from writing a final. My mom texted me telling me to call her as soon as I could. I thought maybe something bad had happened. I called her and she told me she had just found out that I got a Senior Bowl invite. She wanted to be the first one to tell me. I was just really happy. It’s an opportunity that not many people are lucky enough to get. It’s something I’d been striving for. Especially as a senior, you always think about playing in the Senior Bowl. This is the cream of the crop when it comes to the bowl games. I’m more than excited and I can’t wait for the time to come.

JM: What’s the lasting impression you’re hoping to leave on the general managers and scouts in attendance?

JJ: I wanna showcase the fact that I’m a dominant, physical player. I want them to come away with the impression that I can play for any team and in any scheme.

JM: Tell me a little about your pass rush arsenal.

JJ: It changes. I have a lot of stuff that I use depending on how we’re lined up. Sometimes I play inside because we’re in a nickel package. I’ve played nose tackle on occasion and I’m eating up blocks. That’s when I see double teams, even triple teams at times. If I’m playing outside linebacker, I love getting that one-on-one opportunity. I can keep contain as well. There’s a lot of different stuff I’m capable of doing. It depends on what my coaching staff needs from me.

I have a lot of different weapons in my arsenal. My coaches have worked a lot with me on developing a diverse pass rush arsenal. I’ve been working on technique and getting my hands out and shooting them quicker. We’ve focused on my footwork as well. I’m playing outside and I might have to make sure I have this foot forward and the other one back. There’s so much that goes into it. I’m getting double teamed inside and I have to make sure I don’t get pushed around. It all depends.

JM: How much of being a successful pass rusher is accomplished pre-snap?

JJ: A lot of it. I would probably say 95% of it actually. If you’re going into a play and you’ve already given up on yourself pre-snap, maybe you’re tired and plan to take a play off, you’ve already killed that play. You might as well not even be on the field at that point. I like to take things one play at a time. It’s important to simplify it. It’s just one-on-one, me versus the guy across from me. All I have to do is get to the quarterback. I have a different mentality depending on what type of play it is. It’s important to always attack it with a physical mentality.

JM: How do you counter if your initial move is stopped?

JJ: It depends on what the read was. I like to base my moves off what they do and what he’s giving me. If I’m playing against an overaggressive linemen, somebody who shoots his hands quick, my move has to be quicker as well. It’s all about timing. I just have to make sure I’m taking what he’s giving me. I have to counter back and go inside or outside. It depends how he’s moving. It comes down to which kinda linemen I’m going up against. Some guys are good vertically but not horizontally and vice versa.

JM: Who’s the best offensive lineman you’ve ever gone up against?

JJ: Throughout my entire career?

JM: Yes sir.

JJ: I would probably have to say Jake Fisher. He was still at Oregon while I was red-shirting. Going up against him and some of the other guys on the team such as Hamani Stevens, Hroniss Grasu and Tyler Johnstone really helped me mature as a player. That was probably one of the toughest offensive lines I’ve ever gone up against. We even had Tyrell Crosby as a freshmen that year. That was a tough line.

JM: Is there an NFL quarterback you’re looking forward to sacking one day?

JJ: I’ve always wanted to sack Tom Brady. He’s just a great quarterback. Sacking Aaron Rodgers would be pretty cool as well. I’ve always wanted to sack Rodgers. It would make for a cool picture frame somewhere on my wall (laughs).

JM: You’ve had a lot of great teammates throughout your time at Oregon. If you were going to war tomorrow and could only bring one with you, who would you bring and why?

JJ: One teammate? Man, that’s tough. I’d probably have to go with Royce Freeman, Taj Griffin or DeForest Buckner. It would definitely be one of those three guys. Taj is so fast, he can probably make sure we get away from anybody. DeForest and Arik Armstead for that matter are so big and tough that nobody in their right minds wanna go up against those guys. I respect Royce so much, I know he’d be out there running dudes over like he’s doing in the NFL right now (laughs). Royce is dumb big, dumb fast. That’s how I’ve always described him. He’s so athletic, I believe he could play on both sides of the ball if he wanted to.

JM: Tell me about Justin Herbert as a man and as a leader.

JJ: Justin is a big, goofy guy. People don’t always realize that about him. When it’s time to get serious on the field though, he’s who I want in my corner. He takes things really seriously when he has too, but he knows how to have fun. He’s a great student as well. He’s a big joker off the field. We had a lot of fun together at the Pac-12 media day. I love hanging around Herbert. He’s such a good dude. He’s so energetic on the field. He has such a positive impact on everyone around him. He turns into a different animal when he hits the field.

JM: What has the opportunity to represent Oregon meant to you?

JJ: It’s meant everything to me. I’ve met so many amazing people along the way. This truly is a special, unique program. I’ve been blessed to be apart of it. Regardless of what’s gone on with the coaches over the last couple of years, I’ve loved my time here. This has always been a place of equal opportunity.

JM: I’ve appreciated your time today, Jalen. What can fans expect from you going forward?

JJ: I’m still gonna be an Oregon Duck no matter which NFL team I get drafted by. I’m gonna come back to Eugene and support the guys with every chance I get. I’ll always be a Duck. Go Ducks!