ORLANDO - As the UCF linebacker depth chart turns. That’s what it seems like, as former UAB linebacker Kris Moll backed off his commitment to UCF and now there’s a different linebacker coming to play for the Knights, one that has more eligibility and a higher upside.
Branden Jennings is going to play for the Knights. Listed at 6’3”, 235-pounds by the Maryland Athletics Department website, Jennings is certainly the traditional inside linebacker in terms of size. Now, where and when does he play for UCF?
The talented Jacksonville, Fla. product signed with the Terrapins, yes, but he also already utilized his one-time transfer to Kansas State before again entering the Transfer Portal and deciding on UCF. Based on the rules, he is not immediately eligible to play because a player only receives one opportunity to be immediately eligible after a transfer.
Regardless of initial thoughts and/or reports, the NCAA is a fickle organization. Whether or not Jennings is ruled eligible this fall is probably best left for one’s own eyes to see him on the Bounce House turf. He can petition the NCAA. Even after a ruling, the NCAA says many things, and then often does another. With that, a few points and thoughts about Jennings once he does play for UCF.
First off, he could be the long-term replacement for Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste. Their sizes are similar and there’s definitely a similar feel to their games. Looking to 2022 (or 2023 if that’s when he plays), Jennings should be in contention for the starting middle linebacker position.
Jennings likes to be a physical presence in the middle of the field against running teams, similar to Jean-Baptiste. Seeing Jennings high school film brought that notion, and his three starts at Maryland continues that notion. 17 solo and six assisted tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble all go to Jennings’ credit while with Maryland, including three starts. There’s also the possibility to use his skills in another fashion.
Does Jennings play on the edge a little bit? Perhaps as a third down pass rusher and/or player that’s consistently a part of the UCF blitz packages? With a frame that’s 235-pounds, Jennings certainly has that potential. Many college linebackers play multiple roles nowadays, and that’s something to think about with Jennings. It could happen. Finally, he’s the first piece to the linebacker dilemma, assuming he’s eligible to play this year.
If Jennings is not eligible, however, the Knights still need at least a couple of linebackers from the Transfer Portal and/or a current player on the roster to move to linebacker. This is a depth chart bereft of numbers due to a key player leaving UCF (Tatum Bethune - Florida State) and graduation (Bryson Armstrong). Also, when the current UCF staff arrived in Orlando, there was not a lot of linebacker depth to begin with. That’s the reason this is still the position group that’s the biggest conundrum for 2022.