Recruiters flocking to Jauan Jennings
As a sophomore at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Jauan Jennings was so good at free safety, major college coaches started descending on the Volunteer State and soon were extending scholarship offers. Jennings was flattered, but not necessarily satisfied. In the back of his mind, he wanted to be somewhere else.
QB always the dream for Jennings.
While skilled at safety, Jennings wanted to be at quarterback. “I love the responsibility that comes with playing quarterback,” he said. “Having the football in my hands at all times and making big plays is something I’ve always liked to do. And I like knowing that I can’t let my team down.”
No problem there. With Jennings under center this season, Blackman has roared out to a 8-0 start and is ranked third in Class 6A. In addition to playing safety as a sophomore, Jennings started four games at quarterback with Blackman’s JV team before getting some playing time at QB with the varsity.
“It was a great experience for me,” Jennings said. “Playing quarterback as a sophomore, it helped me learn a lot about running the offense and leading the team. It helped me get ready for this season.”
And what a season it has been. Jennings, an NFA product, passed for almost 800 yards and threw 11 touchdowns while leading the Blaze to a 7-0 start. A dual threat, the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder also rushed for 463 yards and 7 TDs for playoff-bound Blackman.
With Jennings at the controls, Blackman is averaging 41 points per game. “It’s been a pretty phenomenal experience,” said Daniel Childs, the Blaze’s passing game coordinator and quarterback coach. “I got here in January, so I’ve been with Jauan through the spring and now into the season. I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a kid that works harder than him. I think he’s proven to be what you want at the QB position. I think he has the skill set, no doubt, but most importantly he’s truly the leader of the football team. Our kids really respond to him. He’s just a hard-working kid and everything he’s earned has simply come through just being the good kid he is and how hard he works.”
College recruiters are obviously impressed with Jennings’ work ethic, as well as his skill at quarterback. Tennessee and Vanderbilt extended early scholarship offers, but both schools initially wanted Jennings to play safety. As he’s sparked the Blaze’s offense with his passing and running ability, Jennings has attracted interest from big-time schools around the nation.
Ohio State offered Jennings a scholarship to play quarterback in late August, and Florida State, Auburn, Nebraska, Northwestern, Mississippi and Mississippi State are the latest schools to extend offers. Duke, New Mexico State and Middle Tennessee State made earlier offers. All of the attention can be distracting, but Jennings has kept his focus on helping Blackman win football games.
“I’m just going to take it slow and enjoy my high school days and the time I have with my team,” said Jennings, who is also a standout basketball player. “Just try to enjoy my last two years of high school. All of the schools I’m hearing from, it’s been great. But I can’t start looking too far ahead. I just thank God for everything he’s done. After that, I really just focus on my high school team right now. I’m focusing on winning the state championship this year.”
Childs is impressed with the way Jennings is handling the recruiting process. “I think his parents have done a phenomenal job raising him,” the coach said. “I think he’s one of the more humble kids I’ve dealt with … at times I tell him, ‘Hey, it’s OK to smile a little bit.’ I think as coaches, we almost get more excited for him. He’s done an unbelievable job handling all the college attention. Ohio State offered on a Tuesday and we played on Friday and he didn’t tell anybody until after the game. I don’t know if I could do that as a 16-year-old. That’s incredible and I think it speaks volumes as to who he is as a person.”
Before he heads to college, Jennings wants to continue developing as a quarterback. “I think my attitude, I just have a will to win and I want to win,” Jennings said. “Whatever goals I set, I think I can accomplish them. As a quarterback, I have to get better finishing off fakes and basically staying consistent the whole game. I have to start out the game better than I have been and carry it the whole way through.”
Childs is convinced Jennings is going to be as successful at the collegiate level as he is at Blackman. “He’s a pure athlete,” Childs said. “He’s got a cannon for an arm. Soon after I got here, I knew this kid could be as good as anybody as I’ve been around. He just needed to refine his throwing and get his mechanics down. He’s still extremely raw, but without a doubt he’s a true dual threat. He can run the football extremely well and he can also throw the ball.
It’s all about consistency and working on his mechanics. His feet have gotten so much better. He’ll get better with experience, and the only way you can get experience is by playing and challenging himself in practice every day. Our motto is move the chains. He can go the distance at any time, but he just has to learn to let the game come to him and not try to take it over each and every play.”