James Jennette (Hazelwood West/Hazelwood, Mo.) has been a starter on varsity since the end of his freshman year, ransacking the state’s high school competition the last two seasons, but he’s just now begun to emerge on Division I recruiting radars. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound hybrid defensive end has seen his interest level increase significantly during the spring evaluation period, and he now holds offers from Kansas State, Maryland, Ball State and Wyoming, while Kentucky, Purdue and others are keeping close tabs.
“I’m honored and blessed to receive the offers I have,” Jennette said. “It was a combination of going to some camps, my coaches putting my name out there, sending out film and staying in contact with [recruiters]. So it’s really starting to pick up now, and I’m just honored to get the interest I have.”
His head coach, Carl Reed, said his budding defensive end should have his pick of schools by the time his recruiting profile is fully realized. While Jennette might be slightly undersized, his athleticism and quickness are clearly evident.
“I think everyone in the country should recruit James,” Reed said. “He will be a very elite player.”
Maybe so, but in the meantime, Jennette is concerned with the offers he does have in toe. His most recent verbal was from Maryland, assistant Darnell Perkins stopping by Hazelwood West May 12 to speak to head coach Carl Reed.
“Coach Perkins came down, but I really didn’t get a chance to talk to him. But he was talking to my coach, and was just telling him how they wanted to offer me,” Jennette said. “They like how I attack, how I play the run, how I pass rush well, how I tackle and how I can play special teams too. They think I’d be a very good fit in their defense.”
Jennette said the Big Ten verbal did intrigue him, but he’s still learning about the Terps’ program. He said he plans to call Perkins in short order to begin delving deeper into UMD before setting up a summer visit date.
“I’d like to get up there this summer just to find out what [Maryland] is about and see if it’s a place I could see myself at,” Jennette said. “I know they did OK last year in the Big Ten, but besides that I really don’t know a lot yet. I haven’t really talked to [Perkins] yet, so I’ll be doing that and I’ll find out more.”
The Hazelwood product said while many programs envision him as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, the Terps see him growing into a down lineman. Jennette said he played primarily defensive end last year, and the Terps think he can continue lining up with his hand in the dirt provided he adds bulk and muscle.
Besides UMD, Jennette has his eye on nearby Kansas State, which he’s visited before.
“K-State is kind of standing out for me. I like it a lot there, and when I visited I liked the coaches and the campus,” Jennette said. “But I’m keeping an open mind and I’m giving everyone a chance to recruit me. I’m open to anyone who is interested in me.”
Jennette has also taken in Kentucky, Missouri and Purdue, visiting each for junior days last winter. He has yet to take any spring trips, though he’ll likely hit K-State, UMD and more in the weeks/months ahead. He’s also planning to camp at Mizzou and other programs that show interest.
“I’m going over all the visits and camp dates with my coach, and we’ll decide on that soon,” Jennette said. “I know I’m going to a camp at Mizzou June 4 with my team, but that’s all for now.”
The edge rusher said the main factors he’ll be looking at when he takes these prospective visits are how well he fits into the system, his chance to contribute early during his career, and how well he gets along with the coaches and players.
Location, however, isn’t of primary concern.
“No, not really,” Jennette said when asked if playing close to home was a priority. “I just want to find the school that’s best for me personally, whether that’s near home or farther away.”
Jennette wants to have his school chosen by August so he can focus on his senior season. He is coming off a junior campaign where he recorded 11 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, a safety and a return touchdown.
“I believe I have a fast first step, I rush the passer well, I get around the edge well, I hold the edge well, I tackle well and I get off blocks well,” he said. “What I need to work on is staying low, using my hands even more and just having better technique.”
Terps After Emerging Missouri DE/OLB Jennette
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