Eufaula, Ala.--A verbal commitment to Troy University, Eufaula athlete Jerrell Jernigan has always been a standout player for the Tigers but helping the Tigers to a number two state ranking in Class 5A has continued to raise the bar for the speedy quarterback.
That culminated in his performance Friday night at Tallassee. Playing a region game on the road, Jernigan sliced the defense for a 98-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and later added a 57-yard scamper for a score. For the game Jernigan and the Tigers were as explosive as a team can possibly be as they moved to 8-0 on the year.
Facing a solid Tallassee team, Eufaula raced out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back on the way to a 56-14 victory. At the half Jernigan had helped to put his team up 42-0 and the last drive ended on a completion at Tallassee's four-yard line going for more. He says the half was as good as any he remembers this season.
"I could have thrown the ball a little better but it was probably the best half of the season for us," Jernigan says. "I think I had 194 yards in the first half. For the game I had 230 yards rushing on six carries and 78 yards passing."
Jernigan throws a pass under pressure against Tallassee.
Those added to already outstanding stats for the senior signal caller as he's become a human highlight reel on Friday nights. For the year Jernigan has 828 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and has added another 544 yards and six scores through the air for the Tigers. Those numbers have several schools beginning to take a closer look and that has Jernigan thinking as well.
"I have verbally committed to Troy," Jernigan says. "I really want to go to Auburn. I have talked to coach (James) Willis every now and then. I went to the game against LSU as well and I'm going to the one against Georgia. I really want to go to Auburn but I'll do whatever is best for me."
A visitor to Auburn's camp this summer, Jernigan was one of the top performers while working out with the wide receivers. Saying he's up to 5-11, 175, the speedy Jernigan ran the fastest time of any senior wide receiver in attendance with a 4.48 on his first 40-yard attempt an a 4.41 on his second try and reports his fastest time at 4.37. Jernigan says that the interest from Auburn has continued to rise with each passing week of the season.
"I talked to coach Willis tonight," Jernigan says on Sunday. "He just wanted my coach to send my transcript in on Monday and to send a film from Friday's game. It's very exciting to know they are still recruiting me."
Being recruited as an athlete that could play a number of positions, Jernigan says he's comfortable catching the ball on punts and as a receiver. Those are two very important things for a player that is very similar in stature and ability to Tyrone Prothro when he was roaming the field for Cleburne County High just a few years ago.
"I have never returned kicks but I practice it all the time," Jernigan says. "When I was little I was always the return man. In high school I played safety and receiver my 10th grade year until I got hurt. I came back my 11th grade year and I have been the quarterback ever since. I feel pretty comfortable catching the football."
Jernigan isn't the only standout for Eufaula's team this season as senior linebacker and recent Memphis commitment Terrence Thomas is also committed to Troy and is a very big reason why Eufaula's defense is one of the best in the state. Two other reasons are juniors Courtney Upshaw and Montero Hardy. A defensive end/linebacker, Upshaw is a 6-3, 230 beast for the Tigers while Hardy is a 6-0, 105 speed linebacker that makes plays all over the field. Jernigan says both are real good players that should be ones to watch next season.
Big junior Courtney Upshaw is a force at defensive end and also one of Eufaula's top receiving threats at tight end.
Before that though Eufaula is the odds on favorite to represent the South in Legion Field in the Class 5A title game. Jernigan says that's something the team has focused on since summer workouts and he feels like they're getting close to reaching their potential this season.
"I think we're getting there," Jernigan says. "Offensively we've got the best backfield in the state. Our backs are good, our defense is good but the one thing we've got to work on is our passing."