Everybody on Rocky Top knows why Jauan Jennings was dismissed from Tennessee football. Is his reinstatement a good thing for the Volunteers?
Okay, I know what you’re thinking; I’m an idiot for even raising the question. But, hold on, a genuine discussion needs to be had in the Tennessee football community.
By now, we all know about the Jauan Jennings saga and why he was dismissed from the team. But, for the folks that cut the cord on cable and internet and have no clue what I’m eluding to, please allow me to enlighten you on the episode of, “How Rocky Top Turns.”
Jauan Jennings left the first game of the season against Georgia Tech with a wrist injury and was unable to return. The 2017 season was going to be his opportunity to take the reigns and be a leader for a team with a lot of holes. Coaches and fans alike were looking for huge things from the big play receiver.
Tennessee needed Jennings to have a big year after losing their best three playmakers on offense due to the NFL draft. In the 2016 season, Joshua Dobbs and Alvin Kamara accounted for 1,427 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Kamara contributed another 392 receiving yards with four touchdowns on limited touches. Tennessee also lost their best wide receiver, in Josh Malone to the NFL draft. In Malone’s last year on campus, he had 50 receptions for 972 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Losing those offensive weapons is never easy for a team. We all knew that Tennessee football needed Jennings and his talent to have a chance in the tough SEC. Not to mention, he needed to be the guy quarterbacks and young receivers could lean on over the course of the year.
Of course, Jennings couldn’t control the fact that he got hurt. It’s unfair to say otherwise. However, one thing Jennings could control was his actions.
The week of the Vanderbilt game, Jennings took to Instagram to release a profanity-laced message to the current Vols coaching staff. You can still find the video on the internet in case you’ve never seen it.
Look, I’m okay with Jennings displaying frustration with coaches. The problem is in the fashion he revealed and expressed his frustration.
We can argue that the coaches were the main contributors to the worst season in Tennessee football history, but that shouldn’t have stopped Jennings from being a leader the team needed.
After the injury, you would think such a competitor would want to be the source of energy for his team. Not the case with Jennings. He decided that being on the field and the sideline with his teammates would be too tough on him because of his competitive nature.
Remember Allen Iverson’s rant about practice? Apparently, Jennings had that video on repeat because he even stopped going to practice. To add to the odd situation, Jennings didn’t try to rehab his injury. But come, Vanderbilt week he assumed he would have a spot in the lineup.
Is this really how a leader should act? Is this how Tennessee football fans want their leaders to act? They ripped Jarrett Guarantano for how he handled not starting against Georgia Tech.
I’ll be the first to admit that wasn’t a good look for the young quarterback. But, you can’t have a problem with Guarantano’s actions and be okay with what Jennings did.
Guarantano has games where you see him with tears in his eyes after defeat. Vols fans should want that kind of intensity out of the players they support and cheer for every week. They should want every player to have that kind of passion when they put on that Tennessee football jersey.
Now if you made it this far you are probably thinking I’m forgetting or dismissing Jennings’s play on the field. There is no question that when he straps on that helmet, he believes he is the best player on the field. I would always want Jennings on my team. But, are we overhyping or overrating the production from the receiver?
Again hear me out before you think I’m dumb. In 2016 he had 40 receptions for 580 yards and seven touchdowns.
He made the plays, and I’m not discrediting Jennings, but two of the touchdowns were fluky.
One was a 67-yard touchdown against Florida, which he was wide open after Tabor slipped. The other was the 43-yard Hail Mary against Georgia. Of course, in the biggest games of the season Jennings made the plays. All credit to him, but I think we all can agree that they were fluky.
Take just those two plays away, and his numbers aren’t much better than Callaways’ from this past season.
With three different quarterbacks, horrendous offensive line play, and other wide receivers struggling to help out, Callaway had 24 receptions for 406 yards and five touchdowns.
Let me clarify by saying I don’t think Jennings isn’t a good player because I do. The question Tennessee needs to ask is “does his production outweigh his attitude?” What happens when Tennessee football losses five games in a row? Because, there is a realistic chance that happens next season. Does Jennings lose control again?
Putting Tennessee football back on top is something every Vol fan wants. But is Jennings worth it? Fans can’t be hypocrites about this.
If it is okay for Jennings to act the way he did, then it must be okay for the whole team to follow suit and act that way. We can’t rip some players and not rip the others. It is a privilege to have that amount of talent and have the opportunity to wear the Tennessee orange and white. The program deserved better, his teammates deserved better, and so did the fans. I’m okay with a second chance, but does Jennings deserve it?