Stuck behind two dynamic rushers on the Arizona Wildcats' depth chart, Daniel Jenkins is forging an identity of his own.
Call him the finisher.
"It's just my running style," he said. "It's a little power and speed, a little bit of both."
No UA tailback punctuates his runs with as much force. And with three weeks left in the season, none has more to gain.
Jenkins rushed for a career-high 57 yards on six carries and scored his first career touchdown in last week's 34-21 loss to Utah at Arizona Stadium. Though he remains behind starter Keola Antolin and freshman Ka'Deem Carey heading into Saturday's game with Colorado, the 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pound Jenkins figures to receive even more playing time.
The sophomore from Moreno Valley, Calif., is averaging a team-high 5.4 yards per rush since returning from a high-ankle sprain in Week 3. The UA's "bone" formation - a full-house set run out of the shotgun formation - allows as many as three running backs on the field at the same time. Jenkins is usually one of them.
"I don't know if you can compare us - we all have good things that we do, we're all pretty versatile. It's hard to compare to somebody else's style," he said.
"We all do a great job of doing it all: running, catching, blocking. We all have our strengths."
Against Utah, Jenkins provided one of the biggest highlights of the season - a dashing, cutting 29-yard touchdown that cut the lead with 23 seconds remaining. Interim coach Tim Kish praised the effort, and running backs coach Garret Chachere called it "the kind of run that can set a career going the right way."
Arizona was facing third-and-10 from Utah's 29 when coaches called a draw play. Jenkins took the handoff from quarterback Nick Foles, used a jump-cut to get past Utah defenders at the line of scrimmage and dashed toward the UA's sideline. The Wildcats' running back then lowered his head and beat a Utes defender in a sprint to the end zone.
Jenkins was happy enough that he celebrated, even though the Wildcats trailed by two scores with almost no time left. But it's hard to blame him: Jenkins had just run for more yards (29) than he had in the entire 2010 season (26).
"I definitely knew I always had that in me. It's just a matter of getting an opportunity," he said of the big run. "You have to step up when you get it. I was fortunate enough to get it, and thank God I capitalized on the opportunity."
Jenkins' late-season surge could serve him well for 2012.
Antolin will graduate this spring, leaving Jenkins, Carey and Jared Baker in the running for the UA's every-down back. Taimi Tutogi and Greg Nwoko will likely serve as change-of-pace backs or fullbacks, depending on which style of offense the UA's next head coach chooses to run.
Regardless of what the future holds, Jenkins figures to receive a fair shot. He's getting better by the week.
"Daniel is healthy, and he's got a lot of confidence going right now," Kish said. "Fresh legs and a fresh mind going out there … that's been good for us."
• What: Arizona at Colorado
• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Fox College Sports (check your channel lineup for availability)
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM