Gary Jennings Fills Multiple Roles As Senior Leader At WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Players who make it to their fourth or fifth year of a collegiate athletic program have pretty much seen it all. Whether it’s on-field items, such as coverages or blocking schemes, or off the field challenges ranging from workouts to academics to just plain life experiences, those that navigate a half-decade of time are positioned not only for success in their final year of play, but also in passing those lessons on to others.
Thus it is that players such as Gary Jennings, one of the wise hands in the Mountaineer receiver room, are even-keeled during their final season of play.
“It feels pretty good – it’s the fourth year of doing it and knowing how everything goes,,” the Stafford, Va., native explained. “We’re able to tell [the younger players] what they are going to be dealing with and what they are doing wrong. We have encountered quite a few things along they way and we are able to help each other.”
Of course, Jennings’ voice, like that of fellow veteran David Sills, might ring a bit louder due to his production on the field. Ninety-six catches in 2017, many of them in the middle of the field where violent collisions await, have a way of building one’s resume and reputation quickly. Thus, he’s one of the most trusted players in receiver coach Tyron Carrier’s plan to bring young players along as quickly as possible.
“It’s a lot of teaching,” Jennings said of tasks involved in mentoring the youngsters. “[Coach] Carrier has put that on the majority of the older guys. We each have a guy following us around (Jennings’ shadow is freshman Randy Fields), and they are all doing pretty well. They have to learn the fast pace because of the maturity of the group and the speed we go at.”
With such a mature and diverse group of offensive weapons in general and receivers in particular, WVU’s offensive coaching staff has to be tempted to mix and match while using them in as many different ways as possible. That could, if overused, lead to diminishing returns. It’s not a problem for Jennings, however, and he believes the work the team has done over the summer, both with and without the coaching staff, will keep everyone together.
As if Jennings’ plate wasn’t full enough, he continues his work on the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, which looks at all aspects of the collegiate game and makes recommendations to improve it. Some of those have been approved and made part of the game in recent years, and Jennings is a thoughtful participant in the process.
“There’s a variety of issues,” he said of the topics the committee looks at. “I knew there was a lot of things that went into it, but there are a lot of rules and details that are talked about on a daily basis [that I didn’t know about]. “I don’t have any personal issues that I want to bring up and change, but my teammates talk to me about that stuff all the time. It’s pretty cool.”
“They [the NCAA] has a different way of looking at game. There are a lot of specific points in every aspect of the game that we discuss.
Jennings will see a familiar face in the room this year, as WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons became the chair of the committee earlier this summer. Jennings’ tenure as a player representative will expire in 2019, but Lyons will be on board through June 2022.
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Jennings was also asked, yet again, about his single touchdown in 2017. In addition to being a quite old subject, the reasons for that are many. First, WVU had two big red zone targets in David Sills and Ka’Raun White a year ago. Second, Jennings, playing the slot, doesn’t get as many deep routes as the outside receivers, so his chances for scores from distance are lessened. Still, some observers look at this as if it’s a problem, which it isn’t.
Jennings, to his credit, doesn’t get flustered when questioned about it over and over.
“That’s just how the ball rolls some times. It’s just how it happens.”
Rest assured that Jennings is looking to add trips to the end zone to his already busy 2018 schedule.