Jennings surprises at Atlanta Elite 11

Marietta (Ga.) signal-caller named MVP, earns ticket to Elite 11 finals

Updated: May 1, 2012, 4:01 PM ET
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN RecruitingNation

BUFORD, Ga. -- Nearly 100 signal-callers showed up at Buford High School on Friday night for the Atlanta Elite 11 regional. But only one earned an invitation to the prestigious Elite 11 finals in California this July.

"Eighty-six quarterbacks were here from 19 states and 21 with D-I scholarship offers," Elite 11 coach (and ESPN analyst) Trent Dilfer told the group. "Everyone here impressed the coaches. This group was even more impressive than the one in Dallas a few weeks ago. It's a bottom-line business, and there is only gonna be one from this group. The MVP of the Atlanta regional and the bid to the Elite 11 goes to Anthony Jennings."

Jennings, who came into the event with some big scholarship offers already, surprised many with his performance. But he didn't surprise himself.

"This was a great opportunity for me," said the junior from Marietta, Ga. "Not everyone gets an Elite 11 invitation. It's very appreciated. I have worked hard to get back here."

Jennings, 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds, played practically his entire junior season with a knee injury. He had surgery Feb. 1 but looked Friday like a kid who was completely healthy.

"The knee feels good," Jennings said. "I am close to 100 percent. It's been a painful rehab process, and I have worked really hard at it. My teammates have really helped me through it. To come here and win this is special. I am glad I had this opportunity to show everyone what I can do. I just tried to keep up the intensity and be coachable. I wanted to show what I can do, but I also wanted to learn. I wanted to be competitive. My goal was to get the invite, to win. I didn't come here to be second or third. This is a great feeling. I am not surprised because I know what I can do."

College football programs also know what he can do. Jennings said he currently holds 16 scholarship offers. West Virginia, Virginia Tech, USF, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Syracuse and North Carolina are just some of the teams that have offered him.

"I don't know what I am going to do," Jennings said. "I am pretty wide open right now with recruiting. I do not have a favorite. I hope coming off this that the scholarship offers will increase."

Jennings is rated a four-star recruit and the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the country by ESPN. He was joined in the Atlanta regional finals by Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County), Damian Williams (Metairie, La./Archbishop Rummel), Riley Ferguson (Matthews, N.C./Butler), Max Staver (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy), Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, Miss./Jackson Prep) and Tyler Cogswell (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage).

Each performed individually in front of the entire camp in a two-minute drill, throwing a variety of passes.

"That was crazy," Jennings said. "But a lot of fun."

Staver has outstanding camp

From start to finish, Staver was throwing the ball as well as anyone. He is a massive quarterback at 6-6 and 238 pounds, and has a big arm.

"From a consistency standpoint, I thought I really threw the ball well," Staver said. "It's not like every pass was there. I mean, I missed a couple, but for the most part I threw well. I thought my fundamentals were good, I was fluid with my drops and I competed well."

Staver said he has scholarship offers from Louisville, Mississippi State and Tennessee State. A host of teams are showing interest, and more offers are certainly on the way.

"Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Duke, Purdue, FSU, Arkansas, Stanford, Cincinnati, Vandy and Kentucky are some of the schools recruiting me," Staver said. "They all say they just want to see me throw. I feel really confident that more offers are coming."

Staver plans on staying busy with the recruiting process. He already has been to schools, some more than once.

"I have been to Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Tennessee and Purdue," Staver said. "Some of those schools I have been two and three times. I know this summer I want to see a bunch more. I plan on seeing at least nine places, like Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Duke, Purdue, LSU, Stanford, Cincinnati, Kentucky and maybe Oregon."

Georgia commit impressive

Ramsey, a University of Georgia commitment, was extremely sharp at the Atlanta Elite 11. It seemed as though he got better as the camp progressed.

"I did, no question," Ramsey said. "I felt comfortable out here today, and as the day went on, I felt better and better. I feel like am getting better and better than I was here last year."

Ramsey, 6-3 and 195 pounds, looked sharp, especially in the second half of the camp. He made all the throws, and showed a strong arm and good accuracy.

"The best thing about this event is what you learn," Ramsey said. "I can take it all back home. I just need to get out and go back to work."

Anthony Jennings
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSMarietta (Ga.) junior Anthony Jennings was named MVP of the Atlanta Elite 11 regional.

Ramsey is rated a four-star prospect and the No. 9 pocket passer in the nation by ESPN. He's also the No. 110 overall recruit in the ESPN 150.

Elite 11 alumni in attendance

Two Elite 11 alumni, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Clemson signal-caller Tajh Boyd, were in attendance. They spoke to the group, offering advice and wisdom. After all, they were in the same position a short time ago.

"What the kids here have to realize is that the coaches they have here are just awesome," Murray said. "You can take back what you learn. There is so much to take back. It's the little things that make you such a better quarterback. Then you also bond with the guys. You hang out with these guys. It's like a brotherhood. Even now I text and keep up with all the guys that I was at Elite 11 with. After games I am checking to see how they did. We all keep up with each other."

For Boyd, he does much of the same. And he looks back at his Elite 11 experience as a great one.

"Like what Aaron said, I keep up with everyone," Boyd said. "The whole thing for me was such a great pleasure, and it made me a better player. It really helps bolster your confidence. Just look at some of the past guys, and what they have done in college and in the pros. It's impressive."

Louisiana QB stands out

One of the quarterbacks who received extremely high praise, especially from Dilfer, was Williams, an unknown from the Bayou State. He's a stocky 6-1 and 215 pounds, built more like a running back than a quarterback. But at the Atlanta Elite 11, he showcased his big, accurate arm.

"Man, I came here to win," said Williams, who made the finals. "I think I impressed the coaches. Heck, I even impressed myself today. I think I really threw the ball well."

Williams says he has a scholarship offer from Kansas State, while teams such as Auburn, FSU, Mississippi State and Arizona State are showing interest.

Cogswell shines

Cogswell is becoming a veteran of the camp circuit. He was one of the better quarterbacks Sunday at the Miami Nike Football Training Camp and made it to the finals of the Atlanta Elite 11 regional Friday.

"I think I threw well at both but better today," Cogswell said. "It was a great opportunity for me, and I knew I had to step it up. The coaches here and the drills we worked out were just incredible. Coach Dilfer is just awesome. They all were. I loved it."

Cogswell has scholarship offers from Nebraska, FIU, Hawaii and Central Michigan.

Buchanan likes five

Buchan enjoyed a pretty good afternoon. And when he was on, he was on.

"I started off pretty well," Buchanan said. "But I know I could have thrown better. But I stepped up and learned a lot here. If there's one thing I learned, [it's] that you have to bring it on every throw and on every play."

Buchanan, 6-3 and 203 pounds, has become a hot prospect of late. Auburn and Arkansas offered over the past two weeks.

"I like a bunch of schools," Buchanan said. "Auburn, Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are the ones that stand out."

The Crimson Tide have not offered, but the others have. Buchanan plans on going to the Ole Miss spring game.

Lewis is one to watch

One of the most impressive quarterbacks at the Atlanta Elite 11 was Jaranta Lewis (Weston, Fla./Cypress Bay). He's a dual-threat signal-caller who says he learned a lot from the coaches.

"The big thing for me is that I am a guy with a good arm that can really move around a lot," Lewis said. "So I learned some stuff about just standing tall in the pocket. I need to have better pocket presence. I can run and I can throw, and I just need to work on the little things."

Lewis, 6-0 and 180 pounds, could be a guy recruiting fans will be hearing more from this season.