Cornelius “C.J.” Jennings is just trying to take it all in right now.
The Orlando Jones High athlete believes his talent will eventually carry him to the next level. He has college football in his sights and with each scholarship offer, the picture is becoming more clear.
It’s just been developing more slowly than he had originally figured.
Jennings earned his first Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer Wednesday from UNC-Charlotte. You’ll have to forgive him if he wasn’t quite sure where the 49ers stood in the grand scheme of college football’s every-evolving landscape.
He does know, however, that Charlotte, which unveils its football program for the first time this fall, will be playing at the FBS level in 2015, in Conference USA, and that means the big time.
“I feel good about it. It’s great,” said Jennings, the speedy, versatile athlete who plays a myriad of positions at Jones and is being looked at as either a college cornerback or safety. “It shows all of the hard work is finally paying off. It’s pretty nice, actually.”
Jennings’ first offer came last month from Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) member Illinois State, so with each extended opportunity, Jennings is getting closer to his expectations about where he can play at the next level.
Charlotte’s linebackers coach Drew Dayton certainly thinks Jennings is ready for the next level. The Orlando-area recruiter for the 49ers offered Jennings and lauded praise on him for his various skills.
“He said he likes my versatility and how I can move from corner to safety. He also said he likes my speed and loves the way I attack the ball out of my breaks and he likes my footwork,” Jennings said. “He said I’m a competitor and he loves my aggressive style of play, and being physical at the line of scrimmage with the receivers.”
Jennings, who is ranked No. 27 in the Sentinel's 2014 Central Florida Super60, knows he has the skillset. He’s earned several camp awards as the top defensive back over the past few years, but college attention has been slow to develop for the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Jennings.
“I knew the offers were going to come, but at first I was frustrated because I was going to these camps and balling out and winning MVP and stuff,” Jennings said, “but then I just figured it was a matter of time.”
He’s been patient and has a good feeling about a few other schools he’s been talking to. He’s been in communication with Bowling Green, Wake Forest, South Alabama, Florida, Northwestern, Syracuse, Michigan, Iowa State, Georgia Tech and FAU.
“I feel like some big offers are getting closer to coming,” he said. “Bowling Green, Wake and South Alabama are probably the three schools showing the most interest in me right now. I hope they’re going to offer me. I feel like they are the way they have been talking to me.
“If any of those three schools offer then I’ll be feeling great. That’s what I’m looking forward to right now.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.