By Dave Wagner
J.J. Jennings is a busy man.
In addition to classes, the Eastern New Mexico University freshman is running track for the Greyhounds. And he’s one of about 90 prospects scheduled to begin spring football drills today.
A 5-foot-8, 185-pound speedster, Jennings helped Everman High School win back-to-back Class 3A state football championships in Texas in 2001 and 2002, rushing for more than 1,500 yards in both seasons. But he suffered a knee injury during August two-a-days, forcing him to sit out his first season at Eastern.
“It was real hard to deal with,” Jennings said. “But it helped me get mentally stronger, and it made me more eager to play.
“I’ve been working really hard, and hopefully I can be a factor and help this team make (the NCAA Division II) playoffs.”
Veteran ENMU coach Bud Elliott said about 15 redshirts figure into the team’s plans next fall at a variety of positions.
“We’ve got some youngsters that we had redshirted, and we need to find out how they’re coming along,” said Elliott, entering his 11th season at Eastern. “Some of our older players don’t need as much scrimmage time.”
Eastern will practice for three weeks, skip a week for spring break and come back for one more week. Practices are scheduled for Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The Hounds have Sunday intrasquad scrimmages on tap at the end of the second and third weeks, Elliott said, with the annual Silver-and-Gray contest scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 4 at Greyhound Stadium.
Jennings said at Everman, a suburb of Fort Worth, his team ran the same option-style offense as ENMU.
“They’re going to play me at the slot position,” he said. “I should play behind (junior) Dwayne (Davis). I should get plenty of playing time this fall, if I don’t get hurt.”
His high school teammate, Michael Benton, is also a redshirt freshman at ENMU and is expected to compete for time at quarterback this fall. Steven Hinson, who will be a senior in the fall, is the returning starter.
Jennings said he’s confident the redshirts will give the Hounds a significant boost. ENMU has never made the playoffs since joining Division II, although it has come close several times.
“This year, we should have a good chance,” he said. “I think a lot of (the redshirts) are going to be a factor, both offensively and defensively.”