Jernigan, Tupelo Offense Set To Emerge As One Of State's Best
Jordan Jernigan began his high school career with a bang. Similar to a baseball player hitting a homerun in his first career at-bat, the talented freshman took the opening kickoff of the 2015 season to the endzone. A star was born for the blue and gold of Tupelo.
As a sophomore Jernigan matured both physically and mentally, giving him the look of a go-to receiver. Now, with his junior season just weeks away, defensive coordinators are worried about how they are going to stop him.
Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State acknowledged his talents by unofficially offering him this offseason. Before worrying about where he’ll play in the SEC, he’s just looking to continue a tradition of great pass catchers to play for the Golden Wave.
“My role is to be a leader to upcoming players. I have to step up and show confidence in the team,” Jernigan told SES Mississippi. “I really do think we have a chance of winning state this year.”
Taking a step and winning a ring would be a logical step for Trent Hammond’s team. After all, a pair of juniors - quarterback Stephon McGlaun and tailback Jaquerrious Williams - return in the backfield this fall.
Williams was named the 2016 PrimeTime award winner. And according to Tupelo high sports information director Braden Bishop recently on the Over The Top podcast, McGlaun’s already impressive size has only become more of an asset for him this offseason. Pair with that he will have a talented group of receivers to throw to, namely Jernigan, this season and it’s looking like the Wave offense will be dangerous.
Two other factors are in play here, too. For one, you can’t forget about how talented the defensive unit is, with a trio of leaders like Jett Johnson, Peter Gray and Tay Standifer. The other factor involves the return of a familiar face, John Keith, who has returned to the Flood Zone to lead the Wave offense.
How can you go wrong with Keith handling the offense and Hammond guiding the defense?
The spring served as a prelude to what Tupelo is capable of this season. It was also a time to adjust to some of the newness around the program.
“It was pretty good,” Jernigan said of the spring. “We learned some new plays and got used to some of the new players we are getting. The team is gonna be pretty good this year.”
Two qualities that Jernigan feels led the in-state SEC programs to offer him a scholarship are his respectfulness and speed. He is constantly displaying the high character, so that’s not easy to miss.
However, neither will his skill this season. Last fall he was a steady option for McGlaun on the outside. He routinely outran and out-jumped defenders to make plays. But this season he feels the offense will go to the air more, and that means more chances to go make plays. And more opportunity to show that outstanding speed, just as he has this spring and summer.
Before the Wave can make a deeper run than they did in the playoffs last November, an improved South Panola bunch. The toughest defender that Jernigan says he has faced thus far in his prep career? South Panola two-way player and former Fortius Project STRONGER award winner D’Jordan Strong. That again should prove to be a fun matchup to see this season.
**Photo courtesy of Markietha Swinney