KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It’s no secret that Tennessee’s offense struggled mightily in 2017.
Not having wide receiver Jauan Jennings on the field was part of the reason the Vols had trouble moving the football with any consistency. He broke his wrist against Georgia Tech in the first half of the season opener.
Jennings caught 57 passes in his first 26 games of his college career, including two of the most important grabs in Tennessee history. They took place in back-to-back weeks in 2016. His juggling sideline tiptoe catch gave the Vols a fourth-quarter lead they didn’t relinquish against Florida, and his “Hail Mary” grab in Athens allowed Tennessee to escape with a victory over Georgia.
That’s the good thing about Jennings. He’s a clutch player. A tough kid who isn’t going to shy from contact. Someone who can turn a football game around in an instant.
But there’s another part of the Jauan Jennings story. Tennessee wasn’t giving Jennings many opportunities to speak to the media during the season. The reasoning? Coaches and administrators weren’t sure what was going to come out of his mouth.
The week of the season finale, Jennings said he was hoping to play against Vanderbilt, but the coaches wouldn’t let him. He posted a profanity-filled rant on social media, railing against that coaching staff, calling them fake and saying that they were liars. Shortly thereafter, interim coach Brady Hoke and then-Tennessee athletic director John Currie kicked Jennings off the team.
“Obviously there was some movement that happened before I was here. I had no control over that,” new coach Jeremy Pruitt said Wednesday.
Pruitt is correct: None of the Jennings drama happened on his watch. But now that he’s in charge, it will be up to him to see if Jennings will be part of the program going forward.
From the sound of things, Jennings could end up back on the roster.
“From my standpoint, I know Jauan has reached out to Coach (Phillip) Fulmer,” Pruitt said. “I know they met, and I actually reached out to him. I felt with him talking to Coach Fulmer I should do that. There will be a time probably in the next couple of days that me and him may possibly sit down and see where things are at.”
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