Thoughtful Jennings Leaves No Stone Unturned in Prep For Final WVU Season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One of the first things that becomes apparent when speaking with West Virginia senior wide receiver Gary Jennings is the care that goes into his answers. Sure, there are a few cliches, prompted by the coaching staff’s warnings to not provide any bulletin board fodder, but that’s just a side note for Jennings, who puts a good bit of thought into his answers.
That holds sway no matter what the situation, from mid-summer interviews with games still two months away, to immediate encounters just minutes after an exhilarating win or a tough loss. The Stafford, Va., native can be counted on to speak frankly, and to give questions due consideration.
That’s one of the reasons he is just one of three student-athlete representatives on the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee, which is a driving force behind changes to the college game. Recent recommendations such as practice time reductions and recruiting guidelines that have been endorsed by the committee have gone into effect — no doubt buoyed by Jennings’ careful deliberation and opinions on the process.
Thus, when Jennings offers his thoughts on any topic, especially the hotly anticipated 2018 Mountaineer football season, fans should sit up and take notice. There’s not just coachspeak here.
Take, for instance, his view on his personal progression. After snaring 97 passes for 1,096 yards in 2017, there might not seem to be a lot to do in that area, but he disagrees.
“I’m trying to be a different animal next year. Just be better I’m fine-tuning some things that I might not have necessary been as good at. I can work on route running and catching the ball.”
Not mentioned in that answer, but likely on his mind, was the paucity of touchdown catches. He had just one last season, and four overall in his Mountaineer career. Some of that is due to the presence of David Sills, who led the team with 18 such grabs, and some due to the way in which he was used as a mid-range receiver, producing critical first downs and catches in key situations. It did seem as if he had the bad luck to be tackled near the goal line after a number of catches, and there’s no doubt that he is working on turning those into scores.
“You learn a lot of things as you grow older, a lot of lessons as you struggle,” he said with a veteran’s eye looking over his career.
The chance to enter his name in the NFL Draft was also there, but again, a thoughtful and considered viewpoint was important in deciding to return for his senior season.
“Conversations were made,” Jennings said of the process that led to all of the underclassmen deciding to return. “We figured out that if everyone came back it could be very special this year. [My career] has definitely flown by. I just can’t wait to go out with a bang.”
To that end, Jennings notes that additional work has now become the norm.
“There’s not much different [in terms of the workouts], but as far as extra work goes that is sort of mandatory. We are always eager to get better — catching balls, extra footwork, whatever we can do. We put in a tremendous amount of hard work to be the receiving corps that we were last year and we are doing double that this year to be even that much better.”