Anfernee Jennings wasn’t usually a flashy player; and he didn’t rack up impressive stats - until the Sugar Bowl, at least. That said, he was crucial for the Tide defense, especially with the almost-season-ending injuries to Christian Miller and Terrell Hall.
Jennings was injured against Florida State like Miller and Hall (and Rashaan Evans); and he sat the next two weeks before returning for SEC play. Jennings was also injured late against Clemson, and that forced him to miss the National Championship. Between those two injuries, he was a steady force on the outside for Alabama.
What made the injury during the Sugar Bowl even more frustrating was that Jennings turned in two of his best performances in his final two games. He notched 11 tackles, 5.5 of which were for a loss, and his lone sack against Auburn and Clemson.
2nd and 8: Jennings (#33) has his hand in the dirt on the strongside. He makes contact with the right tackle first. Jennings gets his right arm inside the tackle’s chest and holds him off, allowing him to cleanly disengage and pursue the quarterback, Kellen Mond. Isaiah Buggs (#49) helps blow the play up and forces Mond back inside. Facing defenders ahead of him and Jennings coming around the backside, the quarterback crumples to the ground for no gain.
2nd and 8: Jennings is lined up as an inside backer to the right of Rashaan Evans (#32). The Aggies motion their slot receiver left to right, faking the handoff to him. Jennings gets his feet moving on the snap, stepping up as Mond hands off to Trayveon Williams. The left guard ranges up to the second level, but Jennings easily sidesteps the block. Williams runs right into Jennings and Buggs, and is forced to a stop. He gains maybe a foot.
1st and 10: Jennings is standing on up on the weakside. He gets a good jump off the snap and bullrushes the right tackle. Jennings explodes into the tackle, who’s left leg gets caught by the guard’s leg. This lets Jennings knock him on his backside, and now the linebacker has a path to the quarterback. Da’Ron Payne (#94) is applying pressure from the interior, and Mond rushes a pass. He just barely gets the ball out; but Jennings smacks his throwing arm, causing a fluttering pass which falls incomplete. The refs don’t blow the whistle right away, however; and Shaun Dion Hamilton scoops and scores. It’s overturned on review, though.
2nd and 10: Jennings is on the weakside and drops back into coverage to take away a possible hitch route from the outside receiver. Auburn goes with a little screen to the tight end, Jalen Harris, who has come across the line, and he has three blockers ahead of him. Jennings sees it, though; and he changes direction quickly. None of the Auburn blockers are in a position to stop Jennings, who goes low and takes Harris’s feet out from under him. It’s a positive gain for the Tigers, but Jennings keeps it at third and medium.
1st and 10: Jennings doesn’t really do much here, and he doesn’t impact the play. He comes from the backside after evading the left guard. RB Kerryon Johnson has already been stopped for a minimal gain by a few defenders, but Jennings doesn’t just stop. He still runs over and jumps on the pile. Like I said, nothing big, I just love the hustle and playing until the end.
1st and 10: Jennings comes so, so close on this play. Auburn has a running back and an H-back on their right, which is the side Jennings is on. Jennings rushes, and neither the right tackle nor the H-back pick him up. Kerryon Johnson has to quickly do so after the play-action, but Jennings is almost at Jarrett Stidham. The H-back realizes what’s going on and spins around, and he gives Jennings a shove in the back. Jennings falls forward, right into Stidham. He grabs ahold of Stidham’s legs and is bringing him down for the sack when Stidham somehow manages to toss it to Johnson, who somehow manages to gain about a foot. One of the defenders in the gang-tackle of Johnson? Anfernee Jennings, who saw what happened and hustled back to try and help more.
2nd and 7: Jennings has his hand in the dirt as the left defensive end. The tight end picks Jennings up initially, but the right tackle is right there and ready to help. It’s a roll out for QB Kelly Bryant to the other side, but it doesn’t take him long to abandon the pass and try to scramble. Jennings sees it and reacts. The tight end can’t do anything, and the tackle is too deep to do anything. Jennings brings him down at the line of scrimmage.
1st and 10: Jennings is standing up on the left. Clemson has trips to that side, and Bryant starts off alone in the backfield. RB Tavien Feaster comes in motion, and Bryant has the option to give it to Feaster or keep. He keeps it. Bryant takes two steps before Jennings, who was unblocked, is all over him for a loss of three.
3rd and 1: Clemson is driving, but the Tide defense has a chance to make Clemson choose between a long field goal and going for it on fourth down. Jennings is on the strongside. The Tigers’ lone receiver on the left motions across to try to get the defense flowing that way as Bryant keeps it and runs to the left. Jennings does a good job off the snap and engaging the tight end. He’s able to shed the block and set the edge, forcing Bryant back inside. It’s blocked pretty well, though; and Bryant does an admirable job staying on his feet for a nice chunk of yards.
1st and 10: Clemson has the ball deep in Alabama territory after a fumble. The Tigers bust out some motion, with the running back going out to the left and the H-back going to the right. Then the running back goes in motion again, this time to the right. Bryant keeps it instead of handing it off, which is a mistake because the unblocked Jennings only has eyes for Bryant. Jennings rocks him for another tackle for loss.
2nd and 2: I included this play in the Sugar Bowl breakdown.
QB Kelly Bryant is in shotgun with a running back on his right hip and trips left. The Tide have three down linemen. Anfernee Jennings (#33) is standing up on the left, and Rashaan Evans shows blitz late on the right. Raekwon Davis (#99) pushes upfield on the snap, getting picked up by the right guard, but he also draws the right tackle’s attention, who has to swat away Rae’s hands with his left arm. That quickness from Davis distracts the tackle just enough for Jennings to blow by on the outside and get an angle on Bryant. The running back tries to come back, but he’s too far away. Bryant doesn’t see it coming, and the ball flutters out as he’s hit. And it flutters out right to Da’Ron Payne (#94).
The big man catches it and takes off running. The svelte defensive tackle deftly avoids one attempted tackle and keeps on rumbling. The right tackle who blew the block on Jennings eventually drags Payne down with a horsecollar tackle, but not before Payne has gained another five yards.
2nd and 10: Jennings is on the right side of the defense. With Clemson down big late in the game, a run isn’t likely. Jennings rushes and tries to go around the outside of Mitch Hyatt, the left tackle. He swats away Hyatt’s punch and tries to get the edge, but the tackle does enough to shove Jennings upfield past the quarterback. Bryant, however, feels pressure that isn’t quite there yet; and he scrambles to the left. Jennings throws Hyatt off and is in perfect position to drag Bryant down. It’s his first and only sack of the year.