Impressive playmaker Jauan Jennings announced his commitment to Tennessee Monday morning, spurning offers from multiple national championship contenders in the process:
Jennings, a 4-star prospect, chose the Volunteers from a cluster of top options during a ceremony at Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). He narrowed his decision down to six finalists, featuring Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Northwestern and Mississippi State.
The final 10 days of his recruitment included campus visits to Auburn and Tennessee. Alabama made things interesting by extending an offer in late January, days after 5-star Crimson Tide quarterback pledge Ricky Town flipped his commitment to USC.
The 6'2.5", 186-pound junior received various offers throughout the course of his nationwide recruitment. Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Penn State and Ole Miss are among several squads that fell short of his finalists list.
Jennings' outstanding junior season provided plenty of proof that he belongs among the country's premier playmakers. He shined as a passer and a runner while leading Blackman to a state championship.
Jennings threw for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013. He gained an additional 815 yards and 10 scores on the ground.
It was his first season as a starting quarterback, leaving many to wonder about his untapped potential at the position. Still raw as a passer and learning the nuances of how to operate in the pocket, Jennings is largely viewed as an "athlete."
He is the nation's No. 13 athlete in 247Sports' composite rankings, which also list him as the No. 4 prospect in Tennessee.
His efforts at the high school level feature strong play on defense, and he could eventually end up at safety in college. Not every team was willing to promise Jennings an opportunity at quarterback.
Even if he arrived on campus as a passer, it won't eliminate the chance of a positional switch to the defensive secondary or wide receiver. His athleticism and skill set will earn Jennings a spot somewhere on the field, but he envisions himself lining up behind center.
"A lot of coaches don’t feel I can play quarterback. A lot of fans don’t feel I can play quarterback," Jennings told ESPN reporter Greg Ostendorf. "I want to say, ‘I told you so.’”
Last month, he told AL.com reporter Wesley Sinor that each of his six finalists were targeting him at quarterback. Tennessee, a team that opted not to pick up a passer in the 2014 class, provides a solid fit.
His commitment gives the Volunteers 10 players in the 2015 class, more than any other SEC program. Head coach Butch Jones lands a versatile in-state prospect who could ultimately excel elsewhere on the field in Knoxville.
Meanwhile, Tennessee opponents Auburn and Alabama are forced to move forward with Jennings out of the picture. Both teams have sights set on the same quarterback target.
Gibson was impressed by his stop in Knoxville last month and already announced he'll spend an official visit at Tennessee later this year.
Auburn already holds a commitment from 4-star Georgia quarterback Tyler Queen, but a dual-threat athlete like Gibson is certainly a stronger fit for the Tigers based on the team's recent offensive track record.
Alabama is still searching for a passer in this class. The Tide were dropped by Town nearly three months ago but have yet to find his replacement.
Saban has seen New Mexico quarterback Zach Gentry become a coveted recruit, and perhaps the Tide will push harder in his recruitment. He holds an offer from Alabama but visited Tennessee last month.
Brandon Wimbush, a dual-threat quarterback from New Jersey, draws comparisons to Jennings. Alabama has yet to extend an offer so Saban would enter the race late, as Penn State, Ohio State and Miami are already in the mix.
The Vols keep a crucial in-state target close by and leave foes searching elsewhere.
If Tennessee continues to top conference rivals for key recruits, the Volunteers will begin beating SEC foes on the field with more consistency in the near future.