Can he? Or, can’t he?
Jauan Jennings’ desire to stay at quarterback on the next level supersedes even his limitless potential as a safety. Does he have what it takes to stay on the offensive side of the ball at the game's most important position?
Under Blackman (Tenn.) High School coach Philip Shadowens and his assistants, the signal-caller set to play at Tennessee says he’s made significant strides as a passer.
“I’ve gotten a whole lot better with that,” said Jennings, who completed 61.4-percent of his passes this fall. “It just comes with just growing and just maturing. (Blackman assistant) coach (Daniel) Childs has helped me with my feet and when my feet are on, the ball is more accurate. When my feet are just wrong, the ball is going in the dirt. That’s something I’ve learned. That’s something that we’ve just been working on constantly day-in and day-out. I truly think we got that fixed. Now, it’s just a matter of time when I get up to Tennessee and able to show the world what I’m able to do.”
The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder passed on a potential state title run in basketball his final semester with the Blaze to concentrate on refining his skills at quarterback.
“For the part of giving up the sport of basketball, it wasn’t tough at all,” said Jennings, who was the 2013-14 TSSAA Class AAA state basketball tournament most valuable player as a junior. “I want to say losing those relationships but not being able to go on and building those relationships with my teammates and my coach, that definitely took one to the heart. But, I mean they understand. They understand what I wanted to do in my future, and they’re going along with it just as everybody else is. I’m just thankful they’re able to see what I want to do. I couldn’t be more thankful for people like them.”
Now that the right-hander is comfortable with the steps he’s taken on his mechanics below the waist, he wants to improve that much more from the neck-up.
“I want to get better at reading defenses,” Jennings said. “Right now, I’ve kind of gotten a basis of my feet and my mechanics. I just want to get used to being able to dissect defenses because college defenses get just as good at disguising as the offense does. It’s just a matter of getting up there and learning the offense and learning the terminology and just watching film over and over and over. That just kind of comes with it because once you go to college it’s not just a sport anymore, it’s a job. I can’t wait, I can’t wait.”
The two-year starter as Blackman’s quarterback finished 2014 with 1,746 yards on 105-of-171 passing with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions.
It’s Jennings’ aggressiveness and athleticism that have him rated by Scout as a four-star safety prospect. Those skills led to 684 rushing yards and 15 scores on just 98 attempts.
Jennings beat out four-star wide receiver Van Jefferson to win the Tennessee Titans TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Football Back of the Year, calling the honor a “painkiller” after falling short of the top goal of winning a state championship.
“It’s just a humbling experience,” Jennings said. “I thank no one else other than God the way He’s been able to provide for me these few years I’ve been here on this earth.”
In 2013, Jennings completed passes for 1,465 yards with 14 touchdowns to go with 815 rushing yards and eight TDs.
Jennings, who gave his verbal commitment to play at Tennessee back on April 7, is taking a load of courses at Blackman and online in an attempt to get to Rocky Top sooner.
Classes at Tennessee for its Spring 2015 Semester get underway on Jan. 7.
Jauan Jennings (Photo by Chad Simmons)