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Tennessee did list Jauan Jennings on the official spring roster, though he’s not with the team yet. He’s working his way back to get into the good graces with the coaching staff. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., product, also recently had his knee scoped, so he wouldn’t be practicing even if he were back.
It appears he’s going to be back with the team in the fall. I’ll operate under the assumption he’ll be back with the team this summer. Jennings was dismissed from the team in November by interim coach Brady Hoke after a rant on social media.
Envisioning a role is kind of tough, though. He played only one half of football in 2017. He had 3 catches for 17 yards before breaking a wrist.
It just isn’t clear how much rust the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Jennings will have to knock off when he returns. Plus, he’ll be learning a new offensive system.
Jennings is a big-play player who came through for the Vols in the biggest moments in 2016. If he can get back to that level, he’ll be the best wide receiver for the Vols.
Tennessee struggled to do much in the passing game last season. Brandon Johnson and Marquez Callaway showed flashes but combined for 888 yards and 6 touchdowns. Jennings had 580 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2016, though it was a much better offense with Josh Dobbs and Alvin Kamara in the backfield.
Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton wants to push the ball down the field and stretch the defense by attempting deep passes regularly. Helton comes from USC where he was the passing game coordinator the last two seasons.
Deontay Burnett caught 86 passes for 1,1114 yards and 9 touchdowns in the lead role in 2017. Juju Smith-Schuster caught 70 passes for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns. This was with NFL-caliber quarterback Sam Darnold throwing them the ball, though.
Jarrett Guarantano or Keller Chryst won’t be quite to that standard. A shaky offensive line could spell offensive woes, as well.
I can see Jennings taking over the leading outside receiver role in 2018 with Callaway on the other side of the field. Tennessee will try to get them in 1-on-1 matchups down the field. Both receivers have the size and athleticism to win a majority of these plays.
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