Such was the case for Ft. Meade this season as moving a star wide receiver to quarterback turned their strong team into a monster. At 6-0, 170 pounds, Jemalle Cornelius isn't going to scare anyone with his size, but when he starts moving he strikes fear into the hearts of everyone who has to contain him. That was the case this season as the super quick athlete led his team deep into the playoffs in his first season under center.
"We went 13-2 and we lost in the state championship to North Florida Christian 28-16," Cornelius notes. "I did alright myself. I ran for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown and had an interception on defense."
If ever one game can sum up an entire season, it was that one for Cornelius. Running the show in his team's spread offense, he threw for 2,016 yards and rushed for 565 yards while accounting for 35 total touchdowns. Playing wide receiver as a junior, he caught 53 passes for 1,002 yards and 12 touchdowns while also intercepting seven passes from his cornerback spot, the same number he had as a senior. "I didn't start at corner but three or four games, all the big games," Cornelius says."
"We expected to win," he notes of his team this season. "We knew we were going to have a good team and we felt real good about our offense since I had moved to quarterback. We knew we were going to have a good season. We worked real hard in the off-season so we were prepared. We started off slower than we wanted to but we picked it up. We always knew we were going to be there."
Because of his performances each of the last two seasons, the people that are there now are coaches lined up on his doorstep. Being recruited by schools from all over the country, Cornelius had his list wide open for a while but now says that it's down to just three lucky schools for his signature in February.
"I'll be at Auburn this weekend (Jan. 11)," he tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I'm going to Florida on the 18th and Georgia on the 25th. Those are the three that I have narrowed it down to and that's the three I'm going to look at."
When asked what Auburn had to offer, Cornelius was very candid in his opinion of the program. Knowing that the Tigers need receivers, he thinks it could be a good place for him to spend the next four or five years of his life.
"I went up this summer and I met Coach (Greg) Knox and I sat down and talked to Coach (Tommy) Tuberville," he says. "I enjoyed my time with them and I like the offense they run, a lot of four wide receiver stuff. I think my opportunity to play will be very high and I think they are on the rise. They had a pretty good season this year and I think they are going to be a big contender for the SEC Championship in the years to come…the fact that they like to throw it a lot and they need people to throw it to makes me feel wanted there."
Losing offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone following the season has been a concern of fans heading into the recruiting season but Cornelius notes that most players, including himself, choose a school more for what they have overall than just football. But, he thinks Auburn will hire someone who fits the bill for players looking for an explosive offense to join in the future.
"It's more about the school than coaches," he notes. "They threw the ball a lot but I think they'll probably bring somebody in that will throw it even more. That's exciting to me."
Cornelius camped at Florida State, Michigan and Notre Dame last summer and recorded a personal best 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash in Tallahassee. Also a standout baseball player, he batted .480 as a shortstop his junior season and expects to move to center field as a senior.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Looking at Florida and Georgia in addition to Auburn, Cornelius has had to deal with more than just Auburn concerning coaches leaving teams. With Steve Spurrier's sudden departure from Gainesville weighing on his mind as well, Cornelius says it came as a shock when he heard the news this week. "It kind of threw me because I wasn't expecting him to leave," he says of Spurrier's resignation at Florida. "It doesn't really affect me that much though." Planning to wait until after his Georgia visit before making a decision, he notes that he won't hesitate to pull the trigger when the feeling is right. "If I go somewhere and I can really, really tell that's where I want to be I'll probably go ahead and commit then."