It’s going to be weird seeing the Alabama defense without Anfernee Jennings. He was a starter for the past three years and a contributor for the past four.
Jennings came to Tuscaloosa as a 4 star recruit out of Dadeville, Alabama way back in the Class of 2015. He redshirted his first year before earning playing time as a rotational guy in 2016 behind studs like Tim Williams and Ryan Andereson. As a redshirt freshman that year, he appeared in all 15 games and set himself up well for the next season.
With Anderson and Williams gone, Jennings grabbed ahold of a starting position and was a near constant for three straight seasons. In his first season starting, Jennings recorded 41 tackles with 6 tackles for loss and 1 sack. That first sack of his career came against Clemson in the playoffs, a game in which his pressure also forced this memorable play.
Unfortunately, Jennings, who had already missed two games early in the year with an ankle injury, suffered another injury; and this knee injury a brutal one. We found out later that he was actually at risk of losing that leg but quick action for Alabama’s medical team obviated that need for that.
Jennings obviously missed the national championship, but Terrell Lewis gave us this emotional moment with Jennings after Alabama won.
Bill Parcells once said that when you win a championship, it's like a blood transfusion. You’re forever family. You can feel it in this moment. pic.twitter.com/OZOueRalaR— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 9, 2018
Jennings recovered from the injury and retook his spot in the starting line-up in 2018. He made 50 tackles with an impressive 13 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Jennings also led the team in pass break-ups, something he was particularly good at during his career.
Each year, Jennings had improved his play; and 2019 was no different. The fifth year senior was a much-needed veteran in a youthful front seven, and it showed. Jennings finished third on the team in tackles - the highest by an outside linebacker since Courtney Upshaw in 2011 - with 83. He led the team in sacks (8) and tackles for loss (12.5). Jennings was second on the team with 8 QB hurries, as well.
His performance was impressive enough to garner All-SEC First Team honors from both the coaches and the Associated Press. Not a bad way to cap his career.
Plus, Jennings became a father in December.
In many ways, Jennings reminded me of Ryan Anderson, the linebacker he replaced. Both stayed for five years. Both were often overshadowed by other Alabama defenders. Both provided a steady presence on the outside; while they were never the fastest or most agile players, both could stop the run and rush the passer.
Anderson parlayed that into a second round pick and just had his best season in the NFL. Jennings has a good shot at being selected on Day 2 as well.
Roll Tide, Anfernee.