At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, the three-star defensive end out of Dadeville (Ala.) High brings a unique skill-set to the class, one that allows him to play defensive end, linebacker, tight end and wide receiver for one of Class 4A's top programs.
With another year of high school football yet to be played, Jennings has the chance to crack the top 10 in the state rankings and challenge for a fourth star rating before it's all said and done. Why does he have that chance? BamaMag took an in-depth look at his tape and recalled an in-person evaluation from Dadeville's playoff upset of Alabama signee Ronnie Clark and Calera (Ala.) High, in which we were able to take in live.
Jennings has a big frame, but plays more athletic than it suggests despite carrying 240-plus pounds for most of the season. He is rangy and really flashes in sealing the edge or pursuing ball carriers from the back-side on defense like a true weakside defensive end would do. At the point of attack, it's a bit of a game of hit and miss, but when he connects, his initial strength and length enables him to attain an immediate advantage against a blocker and when his quickness is factored in, he'll win more than he loses.
Once Jennings reaches the ball carrier, often at or behind the line of scrimmage, he uses his power and athleticism to become a ferocious finisher. It also happens in space, perhaps most impressively, as his pursuit is second to none among defensive linemen in Alabama. His motor is good enough to sustain his prowess for most of the game, despite playing a lot on offense and actually being a featured pass-catcher with better moves and speed than one would think at 6-3, 240.
With the athleticism, endurance, length and power boxes all checked, it is still his versatility that stands out most. Jennings can play a true outside linebacker position and flourish as a cover-guy or come off the edge with speed and quickness from the second-level. He's not quite as polished as 2014 Alabama signee Keith Holcombe, but he has a similar frame and is nearly as versatile and rangy as the Crimson Tide legacy with one year of improvement remaining. Depending on how he handles his body as a senior, Jennings absolutely has a shot to take his game to the next level in a hurry.
Still Needs Work
Where most boxes are checked, including some very important ones, there should be an asterisk next to some others. For example, strength. Jennings is good at the point of attack in short spaces, meaning he can deliver a blow and use the newfound space to get by his blocker, but cannot sustain it just yet. This means if an offensive linemen gets his hands on the junior, he has a hard time making an impact on said play.
One contributing factor for why he flashes more than dominates a game is not only his long-term strength, but his pad level. Jennings is used to playing in space a bit more, so he has a tendency to get vertical out of his stance, though his athleticism, initial power and length enables him to still win more battles than not. At the SEC level, he'll need to sure that up if he's to be a true linemen, though it may not be the case, which we'll get to later on.
Finally, among the great attributes the three-star shows, he's still very raw. The unpolished prospect has plenty to learn in his technique, not just pad-level and long-term strength. He must improve his pass-rushing skill set, developing go-to moves and counters off of those same moves, to win battles off of the edge against long and athletic tackles. When Jennings is in space, his lack of technique doesn't affect him as much, because the occupiers are smaller players and he usually has enough speed and agility to get by them in pursuit anyway.
This is the fun part. Jennings could legitimately play several positions at the SEC level if he honed in on one for the time being. He could be a vertical threat as a tight end, as he's a solid blocker already, with great hands and above-average run after the catch skill. He could add weight and likely become a very good 5-technique defensive end, meaning he'd play on the line in a 3-4 scheme, like in Alabama's base defense, with his length and strength. Or, Jennings could add some weight and focus on maintaining his versatility and play an outside linebacker spot in the 3-4 look, possibly the SAM or JACK linebacker spots within the Crimson Tide defense, enabling him to rush the passer, play the run from the second level and drop back in pass coverage at times.
The outside ‘backer spot is the early favorite for Jennings, in my opinion. If he can simply add 10-to-15 pounds over the next year and a half or so, before getting on campus and competing at Alabama, it could benefit him greatly to play an outside linebacker spot. It would take him some time to adjust to the college and specifically SEC level, but both JACK and SAM linebacker positions are among Alabama's deepest on the current and immediate future rosters. Jennings would have the time to truly develop on and off the field before being asked to contribute consistently, and could be a terror at that time.
Years from now, should Jennings hold his ranking as a top 50 defensive end and a three-star talent, many may say that the in-state standout was the steal of Alabama's class of 2015.
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