February 9, 2010

In-state battle shaping up for speedy cornerback

Derrick Nix visited with Jermaine Whitehead one day in late January.

He had news and an invitation. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had seen Whitehead's junior film and wanted to meet him in person. However, inclement weather was expected in Oxford for the Rebels' first junior day.

So Whitehead, one of the top cornerbacks in the Class of 2011, had a decision to make.

The 6-foot, 183-pound cornerback from Greenwood (Amanda Elzy), Miss., elected to brave the elements and make the trip north to Oxford. He's glad he did.

"It went great," Whitehead said. "Coach Nutt offered me a scholarship. I had a great time. They seemed enthusiastic about meeting me. I kind of want to make that my home.

"They're so enthusiastic. They're real big about education. That's really what I'm there for. I never thought I'd be able to play in college. My education is real important. They said it's going to be a family thing. That's what I like about sports."

The Ole Miss scholarship offer, Whitehead said, "caught me all the way off-guard. I had talked to Caoch Nix the week before. He wanted me to come to junior day. He said Coach Nutt really wanted to meet me. It was raining that day."

Whitehead said the Rebels are recruiting him as a cornerback, though Nutt told him he had watched his offensive film and liked him with the ball in his hands. Whitehead said he was willing to play on either side at the next level, though he believes his future is likely on defense.

"He said that's what he likes to hear," Whitehead said.

Nutt will have his hands full, however, winning Whitehead's signature. Whitehead plans to attend Mississippi State's junior day Saturday, and the Bulldogs have offered a scholarship as well.

"They're about even," Whitehead said of the Egg Bowl rivals. "The only reason State is up there is my family went there. That's where they want me to go, but I'll make the decision in the end."

Whitehead, who said he's also interested in Kentucky, said he plans to make a decision by August or September at the latest. He's already on track to qualify with a 3.78 core grade-point average and a 22 on the ACT. He's been clocked as fast as 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"Really, I'm fast," Whitehead said. "I like to hit and I'm not going to give up. The only thing I'll say bad about me is I hate short routes. I give up those routes. You can run stops on me all day but you won't get me deep. I'm very fast. I like to be physical. I come up and I'm physical."

As a junior, Whitehead had 36 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries while rolling up more than 1,700 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns as a quarterback. Whitehead recorded seven interceptions as a sophomore.

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