As a true freshman and sophomore, Jauan Jennings caught passes from Josh Dobbs at Tennessee. In total, Jennings caught 54 passes from Dobbs in 2015 and 2016, totaling 729 yards and seven touchdowns in those two seasons. The two connected for some of the most memorable plays in recent UT history, most notably the Hail Mary touchdown against Georgia in 2016 and the 67-yard touchdown grab Jennings had against Florida that same year.
Jennings saw Dobbs at his peak at UT, so if he thinks a player is reminiscent of the former standout QB, that statement shouldn’t be taken lightly.
During a media availability on Tuesday, Jennings was asked about true freshman quarterback Brian Maurer and his propensity to run around and create plays for the Vols. According to the redshirt senior receiver, Maurer’s daredevil attitude and ability to make plays happen on the run reminds Jennings of his old teammate.
“He kinda reminds me of Dobbs,” Jennings said of Maurer on Tuesday. “Just seeing him in the open field, man, it’s electric. It definitely brings juice to the sideline.”
So far this season, Maurer has made some eye-popping plays and some bad freshman mistakes. One area that has wowed fans the most has been his ability to pick up chunks of yards on the ground. In Maurer’s first appearance as a Vol against UT-Chattanooga, he scored on a six-yard touchdown run, becoming the first true freshman quarterback to score a rushing touchdown since, you guessed it, Josh Dobbs.
On Saturday against Mississippi State, Maurer ripped off two long runs, one going for 23 yards and another totaling 13 yards. On his longer run, the freshman utilized a spin move to evade a Bulldog defender and gained another handful of yards in the process.
According to Jennings, that spin move was a 9.5 out of 10.
“Nah I’m joking, it was a 10,” Jennings said while laughing. “Definitely a 10.”
Maurer’s other long run against the Bulldogs proved to be his final run of the game and one of his final plays in the contest period. The freshman ran beyond the first down marker, and instead of sliding to avoid a hit, took a Mississippi State defender head-on.
The result was Maurer flying through the air and landing awkwardly on his head. Maurer would spring up and run back to the huddle without looking fazed at all. But a couple plays later, he threw a bad interception, and he was evaluated on the sideline once he came off the field.
Maurer was diagnosed with a concussion and didn’t play the rest of the game. But according to head coach Jeremy Pruitt, the true freshman signal caller will be fine to play on Saturday when Tennessee takes on No. 1 Alabama.
The lesson in all this? Learn to slide.
“I guess he didn’t play baseball,” Jennings said with a chuckle. “It’s a physical sport. Brian is doing well getting back to the field. Can’t wait to have him back.”
Against Mississippi State, Maurer totaled 41 rushing yards on three carries, and he has 29 rushing yards total (because of sacks) and a rushing touchdown in his four appearances this season. That’s a long ways off from what Dobbs did, even as a freshman, totaling 189 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries in 2013.
Dobbs finished his Tennessee career as the most prolific running quarterback in school history, and his passing totals also have him littered throughout UT’s record books.
Jennings didn’t say Maurer is going to be the second coming of Dobbs, only that his play-making ability and his attitude towards going the extra mile remind of him of his former teammate. For a program that’s been devoid of a true difference-maker at the quarterback position since Dobbs graduated, seeing Maurer’s ability has fans hopeful, though.
If Maurer turns out to be anything like Dobbs in his Tennessee career, then UT could be in for a much brighter future. But for now, Jennings just wants his freshman quarterback to learn how to keep himself safe and actually on the field.