Jeremy Pruitt recalls decision to let Jauan Jennings return to Vols: Some people make the most of second chances
When Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt to lead the Volunteer football program, the first-time coach had a lot of fires that needed to be put out following a wild coaching search that had to be revamped in the middle of the coaching search following an abrupt AD switch. The Early Signing Period was also less than two weeks away when Pruitt got the job.
Needless to say, there was a lot going on.
It would have been easy to dismiss one of the items on the agenda but Pruitt wisely chose to consult people in the building when it came to the recently-dismissed Jauan Jennings. Former interim head coach Brady Hoke and former Tennessee AD John Currie decided to dismiss Jennings from the program following a social media outburst from the receiver that was critical of the previous coaching staff during the program’s disastrous 2017 season.
Instead of handling the situation, they simply dismissed Jennings.
As Pruitt noted on Monday, there were some that didn’t want Jennings to return to Tennessee. Those people are all gone, according to Pruitt.
Tennessee’s coach was asked to recall his decision to allow Jennings back on the team soon after his arrival on Rocky Top.
“I asked a lot of people in the building what they thought, most of them that said I wouldn’t let him back don’t work here anymore. The people that said let him back all work here,” Pruitt said on Monday. “When you start talking to the players that play on the team, the Trey Smith’s the Daniel Bitiuli’s and they say, ‘No coach, we want this guy on our team.’ I knew enough about those guys in recruiting to know what was right and what was wrong.
“We gave him an opportunity and set out some things that we required him to do and he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do, everything that we’ve asked him to do. It goes to show you that when you get second chances, some people make the most of them and Jauan Jennings has made the most of his chance the second time around. He is going to graduate in December, good for him. He has had a great senior year, I know he wants to finish it on a positive note. And he’s going to leave his mark on the University of Tennessee – not only as a football player – but as a person, person of character and a leader that has given his all for the University of Tennessee.”
Jennings has not only proven to be one of the most consistent players for Tennessee since Pruitt’s arrival, but he has also been an invaluable leader for the program this season. When the Vols faced adversity early in the season, it was Jennings that publicly vowed the season was far from over and challenged his teammates on and off the field to continue to fight.
Coming a seven-catch, 174-yard, two touchdown performance against South Carolina, Jennings is playing the best football of his college career and was named co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. According to Pruitt, that’s not surprising given the effort the senior gives every single day for the Vols.
“What a leader, what an ambassador he has been for the university, he is getting his degree,” Pruitt added. “Talking about the passion that he plays with, the toughness. I’ve seen it every day at practice. What you all see on Saturday is what we see every day. We need a team full of Jauans. He has helped shape guys on our football team on how he has how he goes about his business, how he competes, because it’s contagious. It’s great having him here and I’m thankful I’ve had the chance to coach him the last few years.”
Many thanked Pruitt for welcoming Jennings back to the program upon his hire and while the Tennessee coach threw the receiver a lifeline at that time, we may look back at Jennings as the player that saved the coach’s program when things got their darkest on Rocky Top.