Jelani Jenkins opts to leave for draft

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- An injury-plagued season hasn't kept linebacker Jelani Jenkins from being the latest Florida player to decide to bypass his final season for the NFL.

UF announced on Monday that Jenkins would not return for his redshirt senior season. He joins tight end Jordan Reed, safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd as early entrants. The deadline to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15, and players have until Jan. 18 to withdraw.

"Jelani informed me that he wishes to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "We wish him the best of luck and encourage him to return to Florida and complete his degree."

Jenkins' announcement is a surprise because the coaching staff was expecting him to return in 2013.

The 6-foot, 237-pound Jenkins missed four games this season because of a broken finger and broken foot, and also was bothered by a hamstring injury.

He had 29 tackles, two sacks and one interception. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown with two seconds remaining to give the Gators a victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Jenkins suffered a broken finger against Texas A&M in the second game of the season and missed the next two games.

He returned against LSU but suffered a hamstring injury and missed the Vanderbilt game. He started the next six games and suffered a broken foot against Florida State in the regular-season finale. He underwent surgery and missed the bowl game.

Defensive end Dominique Easley announced Monday night he is returning for his senior season. Easley had a team-high four sacks this season.

"I'm comin back for my senior season," Easley posted on his Twitter page. "we gotta get where we need to get."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.