UT Vols' Jennings knows what's needed to become better QB

UT Vols' Jennings knows what's needed to become better QB

April 27th, 2015 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

The University of Tennessee's Jauan Jennings (15) looks for an open teammate during the Dish Orange & White Game in Knoxville on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Final score was Orange 54, White 44.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- The gray Tennessee football jersey Jauan Jennings wore Saturday was entirely misleading.

For the Orange and White Game, the Volunteers who were off limits for contact traded green practice jerseys for the alternate third jerseys, but Jennings was the only one of Tennessee's three quarterbacks whom defensive players could hit.

And that was fine by the freshman.

"I definitely wanted to be live," he told the Times Free Press after the spring game. "Being live, I feel like for me, brings out my full potential. Obviously there's still a lot of things I've got to work on being a quarterback at this level.

"But I know I can get there with the work ethic I have and the support and the base I have in my family and people who trust and believe that I can be a quarterback at this level.

"I'm really just going to take this process in and go into May and try to come back a better quarterback."

The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder's strengths and weaknesses were on display in Tennessee's annual spring conclusion.

The University of Tennessee's Quinten Dormady (12) looks for an open player during the Dish Orange & White Game in Knoxville on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

The University of Tennessee's Quinten Dormady (12) looks...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Sharing second-team repetitions with fellow freshman Quinten Dormady, Jennings recorded a game-high 58 rushing yards with an impressive 45-yard touchdown run.

He completed just one pass in five attempts, and during the quarterback challenge portion of the afternoon during which starter Josh Dobbs and the freshmen aimed passes at stationary targets, Jennings struggled mightily with his accuracy.

During his final season at Murfreesboro's Blackman High School, Jennings made impressive strides as a passer and threw for 2,155 yards and 22 touchdown passes on the way to a Mr. Football award.

Jennings would be the first to tell you, though, he's still got a long way to go.

"Obviously I'm best at running right now," he said. "If I improve my throwing, how good can I be at this level? That's something I obviously see that I'm better at running, and that's something that everybody else sees. You're always going to have to work at something. Mine just happens to be throwing. I'm just going to have to work hard at it, and I'm going to.

"Every day I've made strides in getting better at throwing the ball. I just have to continue working on the small things like my feet, my mechanics and just working on getting my eyes to the target. I have to start letting the ball go instead of just thinking about it, and once that happens I think I can be a dynamic player at this level."

Both Jennings and Dormady flashed some potential Saturday.

Dormady was sharp on his first two passes. The first was a throw on the run to receiver Josh Malone dragging across the middle of the field, and the second was a dart on a slant pattern to Pig Howard to convert a third down. He later threw on the money to Malone, matched up against walk-on Isaiah McDaniel, for a 65-yard touchdown pass.

The Texan then hit every target except the final one in the quarterback challenge before Dobbs edged him out.

"Footwork is probably one of the main things I'm going to continue to work on," he said, "and still just watching film and trying to basically critique myself and then fix those little glitches in my game to be the best I can be."

Jennings' touchdown run came when he saw room to run as he rolled out to his right on a play-action pass.

"They've done great things all spring, but it was great for them to show it out on here on this stage," Dobbs said of the freshmen. "Quinten did a good job managing the offense, and he had the big play to Malone, which was great to see.

"Jauan did the same thing as well. He managed the offense today. The plays he got, he made the most out of them. Obviously he had the big run, which shows his athleticism. Both guys did a lot of good things today, but it's not like they haven't shown up all spring."

A third freshman, Sheriron Jones, is slated to arrive this summer to add to the mix as Tennessee hopes to identify its backup to Dobbs. Dormady clearly exits spring ahead in that battle, but Jones was the highest-rated of the trio coming out of high school.

The notion that Jennings' athletic ability may be served at a position other than quarterback has been out there, but thoughts of a position switch are premature at this early point in his career.

Jennings certainly is determined still to prove himself as a quarterback.

"I just have to get better at throwing the ball," he said. "Running the ball and the competitive edge, I'm up there, if not better. It's not about that. I'm just worried about the team. The best players are going to play. I want to win.

"Right now, I don't think I can bring that winning edge, because I'm not throwing the ball well right now. But that's just something I have to work on. Fall is far away. Well, it's not that far away, but I still have time to come back and get better."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.


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