There were only two Virginia Tech Football players entering this season who were set to run out of eligibility in 2023: WR Ali Jennings and TE Nick Gallo.
Unfortunately, Gallo suffered a season-ending injury before the opener while Ali Jennings shined against Old Dominion before suffering an injury early in the Purdue game that has caused him to missed every game since then.
Some had wondered if Jennings might be able to return before the end of the regular season, but Hokies head coach Brent Pry made it clear that he doesn't expect that to be the case.
Coach Pry says it's unlikely that WR Ali Jennings III returns in the regular season. #Hokies— Raza Umerani (@RazaUmerani) November 7, 2023
That seemingly puts Jennings in the same boat now as Gallo, one that has a big decision whether to turn pro after five years of college football or pursue a medical redshirt to return for one more year at Virginia Tech.
There are plenty of factors that could impact the decisions that Jennings and Gallo make in the coming weeks.
Let's start with the fact that injuries derailed their final seasons likely hurting their NFL Draft stock given the injury questions that'll be raised along with Jennings not getting to play a full Power 5 schedule. While Pro Day would provide an opportunity for Jennings and Gallo to show they are healthy and at full strength, these injuries definitely will be a factor in multiple ways on their draft stocks.
There's always a risk of having a disappointing season after injury that raises more questions than it answers. In some ways, the risk would be greater for Gallo because he does have that Power 5 background whereas Jennings doesn't have that Power 5 full-season production.
Jennings had his big two-touchdown debut against Old Dominion and could easily be an All-ACC WR this year if he was healthy. If Jennings returned and was able to do that next season, it would likely lock in his chances to be drafted in 2025.
Right now, Jennings and Gallo are unlikely to be drafted though Jennings likely would have a reasonable path to working his way back onto Day 3 through Pro Days and Senior Bowl events if healthy for those. A return next year would give both the chance to play their way into the 2025 NFL Draft given what Jennings has done at ODU and the classic, quality in-line TE that Gallo has proven to be during his VT career.
On the other side, there's only so long that you have to play football and at some point, it's time to make the jump and see what you can do at the next level. Even if it is a practice squad opportunity in the end, there are plenty who are ready to see of they can actually stick in the league or if it's time to move on with their careers.
That's more true nowadays given that both Jennings and Gallo have been in college for five years due to the free COVID years. We've seen plenty of players who may have had late round or UDFA NFL Draft stock who have decided that they are more than ready to pursue pro endeavors and leave the additional demands that being in college brings behind.
One other major factor that could help the Hokies with Jennings and Gallo (along with every school retain guys having COVID year drcisions) is NIL.
The fact is that most Power 5 programs including Tech could likely get players like Jennings and Gallo $100k+ in NIL for one more season. That's comparable to practice squad money and better than the bonuses that a UDFA gets along with not being too far off late round signing bonuses. Add in the upside to play yourself into the draft with a healthy, strong season and its easy to see where returning could be the beat financial decision.
There are certainly other factors for Ali Jennings and Nick Gallo to consider, but there's no doubt that a big decision to return or move on is looming with pros and cons in both directions.