KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Receiver Jauan Jennings might give off the impression he’s back on the Tennessee football team — depending on how you interpret his social media posts.
Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer had a different message Monday.
Jennings was dismissed from the program by former athletic director John Currie in November after a social media rant that included racial slurs and criticism of the interim coaching staff.
Jennings was upset Brady Hoke wouldn’t let him rejoin the team after he was excused from weeks of practice and team meetings following his season-ending wrist injury in the opener.
Phillip Fulmer gets involved
Fulmer met with Jennings two weeks ago to review what happened. The Vols’ new athletic director said new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt has also met with Jennings.
Fulmer indicated Jennings is not yet back on the team, contrary to reports originating from independent bloggers who do not cover the team on a daily basis.
“As the athletic director, I did my due diligence and job, and the responsibility is on Jeremy, and Jeremy put it back on Jauan,” Fulmer said on WNML’s Erik Ainge Show on Monday. “[Jennings] has a lot to do to prove that he wants to be on this football team.”
Jauan Jennings must change
Fulmer made it clear it’s not a slam dunk Jennings returns with the Vols, either. The Tennessee athletic director explained that Pruitt has put certain prerequisites into place that the star receiver must meet.
“If history has any kind of truth to it, he won’t make it, with what he has done before,” Fulmer said. “But if he changes and listens and learns, and everything, then he’ll get there in the fall. It’s up to him. He can’t blame any other coaches; it’s up to him.”
Fulmer made it clear he believes Jennings is worthy of consideration for reinstatement to the team. Jennings is enrolled in classes at Tennessee, as the school chose not to take any action against him for his rant.
“There are clear limits that you can go; everybody needs to understand that, [and] he hadn’t really crossed those limits yet, but he had sure embarrassed himself and embarrassed the university and said some things that he wished he had back,” Fulmer said. “How many times did we do that at 18 years old? I’ve done it. We’ll see where it goes.
“First and foremost, it’s the credibility of our university that has to come first. I think if he gets through this process that he has in front of him, then he will have proven himself that he’s willing to get back to the team.”
Saving the person
Ainge, a former Tennessee quarterback, said he believes Fulmer and Pruitt are more concerned with Jennings’ personal growth than his potential to help the football team.
“If it’s possible to help the young man, football is probably the last thing that anybody is thinking about,” Ainge said. “You just want to have these guys have success.”
The Vols sorely missed Jennings last season, as he was the only proven returning receiver and the team struggled mightily in the red zone.
Jennings with his size, athleticism and competitive nature, could have easily helped Tennessee win games against Florida and South Carolina, where an inability to convert near the goal led to losses.