Hometown: Baltimore, Md
High School: The Gilman School
Can you believe Jennings is a junior already? It seems like he just stepped onto grounds. In his first game as a Hoo, he had 4 receptions for 61 yards. He also returned a punt for 27 yards (on a handoff from Dominique Terrell). That year, Jennings had 20 receptions for 238 yards and a TD. He also led the team with 599 KR yards, averaging 20 ypa. Last season, Jennings doubled up on his production, with 48 catches for a team-leading 568 yards and 5 TDs. No longer the primary KR, he had just 2 returns, again averaging 20 ypa. For his career, he also has 10 rushes for 49 yards.
Jennings was a 4 star prospect coming out of HS. Scout ranked him the #43 WR in the nation, while Rivals (#10) and ESPN (#15) ranked him as an Athlete. Rivals ranked him the #191 player in the nation, while ESPN ranked him 98th. In HS, Jennings played QB, RB and WR as well as KR and PR. As a senior, he rushed for over 1500 yards of offense and 19 TDs, while also returning 2 KO and a punt for TDs. He was recruited by the likes of Ohio St, South Carolina, and Oregon, schools that know something about speedy WRs. In total, he had nearly 25 scholarship offers. Some of those schools saw Jennings as a possible CB, but with the Hoos he was 100% a WR.
The Hoos haven't had a WR with Jennings' speed and quickness in some time. When Jennings came into the fold, big things were expected of him. Jennings, however, had played mostly QB in HS. He was still learning how to be a WR. That meant learning how to run routes, how to block, and how to catch. That last one seems obvious, but it is something Jennings has struggled with during his career thus far. He's had some big drops. He's gotten a lot better at the route running and he's a solid blocker, especially when you consider how small he is. But the catching thing has been a problem. Hopefully, he was able to spend this offseason working on that part of his game. It is possible that the QB carousel the Hoos have had during Jennings' career has hurt him. He's had to constantly adjust to a new QB, each of whom has different timing, and each of whom throw passes with different speed and rotation.
Jennings is a legit 4.4 guy, plus he's quick and shifty. He can make people in the open field, and he can run by them afterwards. In two years, he's already got 2 TDs of 50+ yards. Scouts may tell you that Jennings doesn't have a second gear. That he's not a true home run threat. Tell that to Miami, after he caught a quick screen (about the 15 second mark) and took it 53 yards to the house, helping lead the Hoos to an upset victory in Miami. Obviously, he has some help from blockers, but he easily outruns the Miami secondary. Case in point, Darius Jennings has plenty of speed.
Jennings enters this season as the starter at WR opposite Tim Smith. The Hoos have as much talent at WR as they've had in a long time, but Jennings is going to be counted on for major production. Obviously, a lot will depend on the ability of David Watford to get the ball into the hands of his WRs, but Jennings could easily outpace his production from last year. He's improved a great deal as a WR, and he's only going to get better.