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Anfernee Jennings to be Crimson Tide’s most effective pass rusher in 2018

Stephen Lew - USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to projecting the best pass rusher for the Alabama football program next season, one cannot go wrong with listing any of the marquee names returning to the roster. 

Offensive linemen and quarterbacks shouldn’t feel safe upon being attacked by defensive ends Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs or outside linebackers Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis; however, the best of bunch is one that emerged during the 2017 College Football Playoff. 

A four-star recruit in the Crimson Tide’s 2015 signing class, Anfernee Jennings has grown into being the program’s most indispensable edge rusher. This became evident after the 2018 CFP national title game in January, as Terrell Lewis embraced his injured teammate on the field. 

Jennings, who was rolled out in a wheelchair, did not play versus Georgia because of a knee injury he sustained against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. The 6-foot-3, 262-pounder has an explosive first step and is very strong at the mesh point. He made a significant jump in production between his sophomore season and redshirt freshman year (2016) — totaling 41 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. 

While his tackles and tackles for loss placed him among team leaders, his outing at Mercedes-Benz Superdome single-handedly led Alabama to a win. Jennings harassed the Tigers’ offense and quarterback Kelly Bryant all game long, to a tune of five tackles (three for loss), one sack and forced two interceptions – including one from Mack Wilson that went for a touchdown. 

Anfernee Jennings || Alabama Junior Highlights || 2017

One thing to note on Jennings is that he got stronger near the end of the 2017 season. When he returned for
Alabama’s week four game against Vanderbilt after lower leg injury against Florida State, he inserted a pass rush the team was missing. Thirty-two of his 41 tackles (78 percent) came in the meat of the Tide’s schedule against Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. Jennings’ 2.5 tackles for loss versus the program’s in-state rival set a new career high, while his seven total stops in a matchup with the Aggies was a career high.

He returns with the second-most quarterback hurries and tackles for loss, but Jennings wants to create the best possible NFL Draft stock for himself. Hailing from Dadeville, Ala., his size, speed and disruptive moves compares to former Tide linebacker, Courtney Upshaw.  

Upshaw made a huge improvement between his sophomore (2009) and junior (2010) season, advancing from 15 to 52 tackles. He would also lead the team in tackles for loss with 14.5 and sacks with seven, as he guided Alabama to a BCS national title in the following year (2011). 

Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski has a ton of studs to work with, but Jennings’ drive makes him the most dangerous and one for all eyes to watch in the fall.  

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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