Virginia Tech signed four transfers in the first signing window with none being bigger than Old Dominion WR Ali Jennings, a four-star consensus transfer who is ranked as one of the top 10 overall transfers in America by On3.
Jennings had plenty of publicly known suitors with Mississippi State and Duke among the other numerous Power 5 programs involved who gained the most traction outside of the Hokies in his transfer recruitment.
In the end, the Hokies got their top WR target which may have been in large part due to the relationship that WRs coach Fontel Mines has built with Jennings over several years all the way back to Jennings' early high school days at Highland Springs HS when Mines at places like JMU and East Carolina.
Mines provided some insights on his relationship with Jennings and how he's gotten a front row seat to Jennings' growth as a player and person.
"He's someone that I've known for a long, long time. He's like family to me. I've kind of watched him grow from seven years old to now, had an opportunity to be with him at Old Dominion from a distance, I wasn't his position coach, and to see him kind of get his love for the game back after transferring in from West Virginia," Mines said.
So what does Jennings bring to the Hokies as a WR1? Well a whole lot in all aspects starting with what he can do on the field as is well known by most with Mines diving further into that.
"He offers consistency, he's confident, he's a leader. More than anything, I think he's going to push these guys on and off the field. He's going to make sure those guys are doing extra. He's going to challenge them when they need to be challenge. He's going to be another coach on the field, and he's been productive. You look at his last two seasons, pretty much thousand yard seasons (each year) over the last two years, that's production. We lost production so we need to replace it," Mines said.
The production and consistency that Jennings brings can't be understated as he averaged over 100 yards per game this past season with 54 catches for 959 yards and 9 touchdowns in only 9 games following a 2021 where he had 62 catches for 1,066 yards and 5 touchdowns in 13 games. He's also had 4+ catches in 15 of his past 16 games including 5+ catches in 8 of his last 11 games.
Jennings also played well against tough competition this season including against the Hokies with 5 catches for 122 yards including that big, late reception to set up the final ODU touchdown. He also had 8 catches for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns against East Carolina, 7 catches for 97 yards and a TD versus UVA, 8 catches for 129 yards and 1 TD against Liberty, and 6 catches for 87 yards and a TD against Coastal Carolina.
However, Jennings brings a whole lot more than just the immense proven production and talent that the Hokies were looking for in a WR1. He also is a guy that can not only fit in with Tech's other receivers, but also be a leader on and off the field raising the standard for that whole group and pushing his teammates as a second coach at the WR position.
"Competition breeds success. It's going to raise the standard in that room so guys are going to see what work looks like. Guys are going to see what success looks like and they're going to follow. I think he's going to do a great job of being a leader. I think he does not have an ego which is important to me. I have a good group of guys in that room. They all work for each other. They all play for each other. They all encourage each other. So it was important for me to bring people in that I felt confident with, that I knew who would gel and who would mix with guys in that room that are returning and I think he offers exactly that. He's a guy that's proven that he can play football at a high level. More than anything, he's a high character guy that I know exactly what I'm getting when I'm not looking," Mines said.
After losing Kaleb Smith to the transfer portal (and eventually Notre Dame), Virginia Tech needed a new WR1 and landed one of the best transfers in America in Ali Jennings who can be that WR1 in just about every way for the Hokies.