Jennings makes a decision

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Butch Jones continues to drill holes and pour concrete in assembling the figurative fence around the state to get top-level in-state talent heading to Tennessee.

On Monday morning, the Volunteers made another addition to the pipeline to Rocky Top as Jauan Jennings verbally declared for the Orange & White in a small ceremony at Blackman (Tenn.) High School.

"Obviously just an unbelievable athlete," Blackman coach Philip Shadowens told InsideTennessee. "Don't ever want to come out of the game really. Big-time athlete, big-time player.

"Just a great competitor. Going to be a great player. Obviously he has a bright future. We're lucky to have him back for another year."

The Scout four-star safety prospect chose the Volunteers over other finalists Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State and Ohio State. The dual-threat visited Knoxville on Friday before returning home to Rutherford County to make his decision.

Jennings makes the 10th verbal commitment for Tennessee's 2015 signing class and the third prospect to declare this calendar year.

Last fall, Jennings threw for 1,465 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran for 815 yards and eight more touchdowns.

Projected to roam the Tennessee defensive backfield as the No. 15-rated safety in the nation and No. 219 prospect in the Scout 300, Jennings brings a cerebral aspect to the position as he's also the Blaze quarterback.

"Jauan's a kid to where when his feet are right, he's unbelievable, and I'm talking about from a throw-game standpoint," Shadowens said. "Obviously he's a dynamic runner. When his feet are righ tin the throw game, he's a special thrower, too. That's what he's making advances on. It was his first year he's ever started a quarterback in high-school football — ever played at quarterback in high-school football technically. Unbelievable strides from Day 1. We're just going to continue to work on his feet and mechanics of playing the quarterback position, and he'll be special.

"He understands that he's got plenty of things to work on mechanically and fundamentally there, and we have a really good quarterback coach here that helps with that. He's made so much progress from Day 1. He understands he's still got a lot of things to clean up mechanically, and he'll continue to work through the offseason. He has a passion to be great at everything he does. He'll continue to do that."

In his junior season, Jennings played on both sides of the football to help get Blackman to the 2013 TSSAA Class 6A state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Maryville 28-16.

"That's the next step that we're trying to build at Blackman," Shadowens said. "It's step-by-step, so to speak, and we've made strides throughout the five years. That's the furthest one we've made thus far. We've hit the quarterfinals and a bunch of second rounds. And, now, we've taken a step to the semifinals. That's not where we want to be. That's not our goal. Our goal is to end up in Cookeville. We've got a great group coming back."

In that semifinal, future Tennessee teammate and Maryville defensive end Dylan Jackson intercepted Jennings on a tunnel screen throw.

In the quarterfinal round, the Vol State's fifth-rated junior led the Blaze past Murfreesboro rival and District 7-AAA champion Oakland 16-3. That loss for the Patriots ended the season of another future Vols teammate in offensive lineman Jack Jones. In the second round, Blackman eliminated Ravenwood, which is led offensively by the Volunteer State's top junior wide receiver, Van Jefferson.

Other than Jackson and Jones, Jennings joins Hendersonville's Riley Lovingood, Coalfield's Zach Stewart and Lenoir City's Jaylond Woods as in-state products planning to play for the Big Orange.


Discuss Jennings' future with InsideTennessee analysts and subscribers by clicking here.


Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the Scout team July 2011.
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