Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) runs for yardage in the first half of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE — The Juice Man cometh.

That was Tennessee senior wideout Jauan Jennings' assessment of himself during the Volunteers' weekly media day Tuesday.

"Every day I wake up, I come in with juice," he said. "I came up here with large amounts of energy, and it's never changed."

Jennings insisted he is not the only Vol who refers to him as Juice Man. Asked for details, he said, "Several teammates."

Of course, he also said that "Juice Man" was written on his mouthpiece.

Wherever the nickname came from, it fits. To a Tennessee "T." Given his efforts most of the season — beginning with those two big-boy touchdown grabs against Brigham Young — there should be little argument that the Vols' most dynamic and valuable performer is Jennings, who already has scored eight touchdowns this season, including seven through the air, caught 47 passes for 722 yards and seemingly provided the juice, if you will, every time the Vols most needed it.

Or as South Carolina coach Will Muschamp noted after watching Jennings erupt for two TD catches and 174 receiving yards: "We had a hard time covering and tackling No. 15 in space. He's a competitive guy."

He's been that competitive from the moment he averaged 10.6 yards per catch as true freshman in 2015. Jennings made almost certainly the most beloved Big Orange play of the past five seasons when he went high in the Sanford Stadium end zone on Oct. 1, 2016, to grab the 43-yard Hail Mary pass from quarterback Josh Dobbs that made the Vols shocking 34-31 winners.

Everything from there had been pretty much downhill and depressing for the program until his efforts against South Carolina two weeks ago led to a resounding 41-21 win.

Given that he's also played quarterback this season in the wildcat formation, scoring a rushing touchdown against UAB, about the only thing the Murfreesboro native hasn't accomplished is throwing a touchdown to himself.

Not that he seems to have completely ruled out that option, which can actually take place. For proof, revisit the Tennessee Titans' improbable playoff win at Kansas City in which quarterback Marcus Mariota did just that to extend the Titans' playoff run one more week.

"As a receiver, we just take pride in catching the ball," Jennings said. "It doesn't matter who's in at quarterback."

As great as Jennings has been in recent weeks, sometimes seeming to will the Vols to victory all by his lonesome, it would be reasonable for every member of the Big Orange Nation to worry over what happens to all this juice Jennings is exhibiting when he runs out of eligibility at the end of this season.

For as he also noted on Tuesday, "It's just something that you've got to possess. You can't go out there and just buy the juice. You've got to own it. You've got to already have it."

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AP Photo by Wade Payne / Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings outruns South Carolina defensive back Israel Mukuamu during Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

But before everyone bleeding pale orange begins to panic that all these juice-producing seniors — linebacker Daniel Bituli, defensive end Darrell Taylor, wideout Marquez Callaway, to name just three more — can't be replaced, consider the following observation from Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon, who grew up in Leesburg, Georgia, leaving the Wolverines after two seasons for a program nearer his home.

When asked to talk about his Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, he said only, "No comment."

When asked why he chose Tennessee, he first said, "The real question is, why wouldn't I choose Tennessee? Tennessee, they have legends here, Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt, Coach (Tracy) Rocker, Coach D.A. (Derrick Ansley), coaches like that. The coaching staff they have, the atmosphere here – it's incredible. It's unbelievable."

Having recorded 23 tackles and two sacks to date, his stat line from last week's homecoming win over UAB was fairly incredible: four tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and his first collegiate fumble recovery.

But it was something he said about Pruitt as his time with the media was wrapping up that should give Volniacs the biggest reason to feel good about their second-year head coach attracting more Jenningses and Taylors and Bitulis and Solomons to Rocky Top in the future.

"Just seeing a head coach who cares about his players way beyond football," Solomon said. "About being a man, about being a father. Coach Pruitt did an in-home visit (for Alabama) when I was in high school. He was the only coach who didn't bash my decision (to go to Michigan)."

Instead, according to Solomon, Pruitt told him, "I'm a phone call away if you ever need me."

So when he decided to leave the Wolverines, noting that "I definitely wanted to come here," Solomon made the initial contact with the UT staff.

Pruitt may indeed sometimes seem a bit rough around the edges, but his recruiting touch is as smooth as his shaved head.

None of this means the Vols are guaranteed to beat Kentucky for the 33rd time in 35 seasons when the two meet in Lexington at 7:30 Saturday night. The Wildcats are 4-4 and coming off a bye week. Tennessee hasn't won a road game all season.

Yet when Jennings observed "there's a large amount of pride in going into someone else's house and taking it over," he didn't seem overly brash or overconfident. It seemed more a statement of fact. After all, in Big Orange Country, UK is known as The Cure.

Make it Juice Men 27, Mildcats 14.

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Mark Wiedmer

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