Pitt and head coach Paul Chryst had a difficult decision on their hands. With true freshman wide receiver Adonis Jennings missing a good portion of training camp due to injury, it was unclear if his redshirt would be held intact.
Jennings, though, was a four-star recruit with plenty of upside and, in the end, it made too much sense not to play him - particularly with a collection of unproven wide receivers complementing star Tyler Boyd. After sitting out the team's first four games, Jennings made his debut against Akron in Game. No. 5, burning his redshirt.
That decision appears to have been the wrong one.
To be fair, like most people, I thought at the beginning of the season that Jennings should play. However, as I wrote here, not having played in the first four games, I started to lean towards the redshirt being the better option. I said then that since he got on the field that Pitt needed to play him. They've done so, but not nearly enough.
Through ten games this year, Jennings has gotten precious little playing time and, as a result, has failed to make any type of meaningful impact. The freshman has a total of six catches for 55 yards and hasn't gotten into the end zone. While he's played only sporadically, Chryst has turned to other players such as senior Manasseh Garner, who's started opposite Boyd.
I don't have a problem with Jennings not starting. What has made little sense, however, is how few times he's gotten onto the field.
This isn't 100% on Chryst (though, the majority of it certainly is). The passing game has struggled as first-year starter Chad Voytik has taken some time to find his way in throwing the ball. Jennings may be getting more reps than we actually see - since the team is so run-heavy, there's a chance he's playing a lot more and just not getting noticed. But if it's a decoy Pitt wants out there to go through the motions while James Conner breaks off big run after big run, plenty of other players could have filled that role.
A poor argument could be made that Pitt didn't know they would be such a run-heavy team when they played Jennings. But that was clearly the direction they were going in and, certainly after four games, we all clearly saw that this was Conner's show. Even Tyler Boyd, an All-American candidate, struggled to make a big impact in several games this year.
For Chryst, it's a Catch 22 of sorts. If he doesn't play Jennings this year and redshirts him, just imagine all the questions that would be lobbed his way about why he's not playing. But after they made the decision to burn his redshirt, a little more thought could probably have been given to getting him more involved in the game plan. You can't simply throw him the ball to justify the decision, but it would be nice if he was a little more involved. Chryst has eaten up a year of the wide receiver that's expected to have the most talent after Boyd that they won't get back.
There's some value in that he got on the field this season and will be a little better prepared than playing him for the first time next season. But all in all, burning Jennings' redshirt for six catches to date in a lost season hardly seems worth it.
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