MONTREAL — It hasn’t taken long for Chris Jennings to make an impression on his head coach.
Thrust into the starting running back spot after injuries ended Brandon Whitaker’s season and temporarily took Victor Anderson out of the lineup, the bruising back has not only filled in admirably but will earn the start Sunday afternoon versus the Toronto Argonauts in the Alouettes’ Eastern Final at Olympic Stadium.
Starting the last three games for the Als, Jennings has accumulated a solid 206 yards on the ground off of 31 carries.
A 225-pounder, Jennings is a different type of back then his predecessors Whitaker and Anderson, often opting to run over people rather than around them. However, Marc Trestman says that his running style doesn’t change anything for the Alouettes as far as scheming goes.
“We do the same things with Chris that we did with Brandon and Victor but we have to do it with different people”, Trestman said. “It starts with protection and goes from there. We have seen a general ascending aspect to Chris play the last few weeks and we expect it to continue”.
Jennings was re-acquired by the Als back on September 19th after the severity of Whitaker’s injury was learned.
The native of Ashland, Ky., dressed on special teams for one game with the Als in 2008. He returned the following season, but was the victim of a backfield that already boasted Whitaker and then-starter Avon Cobourne. “It was a prayer answered,” said Jennings of being re-acquired by the Alouettes. “It was a good feeling, of course, and meant the world. It gave me wisdom, as far as the trials and tribulations you experience, chasing the dream. It made me wiser. I’m in a good place in my life right now.”
Jennings’ emergence has been a true indicator of the depth assembled on this year’s squad in Montreal. First losing your prized running back in Whitaker and then his backup Anderson (concussion) just as he was starting to pull together strong games of his own, and the Als have plugged in Jennings and seemingly not missed a beat.
“We have been fortunate”, Trestman contined. “We had Victor throughout training camp and he was able to assimilate the offence and Jim (Popp) did a great job of finding Chris again and bringing him back”.
Anderson said Wednesday after practice that he feels ready to go and can be placed into the lineup whenever needed and his coach echoed those statements. However, it is not likely that he will see time Sunday against the Argos.
So, Jennings seems to the man the Als are hoping helps carry them to yet another Grey Cup appearance in two weeks and his teammates are ready to run with him.
Veteran wide receiver Jamel Richardson refers to Jennings as “Young Ox” – an homage to frame and sheer strength.
“He is a big boy”, Richardson told CFL.ca with a grin. “He is strong, he is fast and now with a second opportunity he is taking advantage of it. I tell him all the time to lower that shoulder because they don’t want to hit you. That’s how he runs. He runs hard and with a lot of passion out there.”