The freshman athlete was used to wearing red in practice, the jersey color designated for quarterbacks so defensive players are brightly reminded not to tackle their signal callers. But on Tuesday, Jennings — who in the spring stood next to quarterback Joshua Dobbs waiting on his turn to take a rep — is now catching passes from him after being moved to wide receiver for fall camp.
“It was different, but it was a good different,” Dobbs said about his new receiver. “Jauan is very athletic, as we all know, so it was kind of like he just went out there and started balling. It was great to see.”
Jennings flashed that athleticism in consecutive practice days when he hauled in impressive snags during individual drills that drew audible praise from Butch Jones. The 6-foot-4, 202-pound athlete who came out of high school as a Scout four-star safety before moving to quarterback with the Vols brings a versatile skillset to the table that can impact Tennessee’s roster in more ways than one. When Jennings realized his best shot at helping the team right away meant creating more depth at wide receiver, he jumped at the opportunity.
"I'm excited about Jauan. You know, he's kind of sipping through a fire hose right now at the wide receiver position but I see an individual who is a very, very gifted athlete,” Jones said after Tuesday’s practice.
“He's very, very competitive and he has very good hands and he loves to compete. He made some catches [Tuesday] where you kind of did a double take and he got you excited.”
The switch to wide out wasn’t exactly a secret. Jennings was the only quarterback who was allowed to be tackled during the Orange and White Game April 24, where he dashed for an electrifying 45-yard touchdown.
The Murfreesboro native's pure athleticism and extensive experience as a quarterback have only helped the transition. Jennings understands the mindset of a wide receiver through his work with the unit in meetings and film room study and realizes the vast football acumen it takes to learn the position.
“I know the receivers sit in on our meetings and we sit in on their meetings, so we all try to see the same thing. Quarterback and receiver have to see the same thing to be on the same page,” Dobbs said.
“I guess it helps, but there’s a lot of guys who know a lot about football and are picking up on the offensive playbook very quickly. It’s definitely good to see that, not only from him, but other guys across the board.
It’s extremely early in the process. That much is clear by how patient wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has been with Jennings, who receives extra coaching in practice and sometimes runs individual drills more than the rest of the unit as he tries to lock down the fundamentals of the position.
But the early returns have been promising, and Tennessee is excited about its new multitalented weapon who adds yet another wrinkle to the Vols’ explosive offense.
“He had a really good first day. He picked up on his stuff well,” Dobbs said. “Obviously going from quarterback he already knew stuff, but he definitely picked up on it well, ran good routes and showed good hands. It was exciting.”
Butch Jones speaks with reporters