April 5, 2010

Whitehead has new leader after weekend of visits

Jermaine Whitehead spent last Friday at Mississippi State.

A day later, the talented cornerback from Greenwood (Amanda Elzy), Miss., made his first trip to the Plains to see Auburn.

On Monday, Whitehead was back on the road, this time making his third trip to Oxford, Miss., since late January to see Ole Miss. Late Monday, after returning home, Whitehead said his recent travels have taught him something.

"The more I go out and look at other places, the more I think, 'I can do this at home. I can do all those things close to my house,'" Whitehead said. "That's a great thing for me and my family."

The 6-foot, 183-pound Whitehead has been one of the country's fastest-rising prospects. He's picked up offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, Memphis, Notre Dame, Southern Mississippi, Stanford and Tennessee. However, something has been drawing him back to Oxford in recent weeks, and as he watched the Rebels practice on Monday afternoon, he said he continued to feel an internal pull.

"It went great," Whitehead said. "The coaches were happy to see me and appreciative of me coming up there. They were glad I took the time to come up. I'm going to get back up there quite a bit.

"Every time I go, I feel a little more comfortable. If that's what it takes to feel like home and feel like family, I'll do that. I like the speed and the tempo of their practices. Everybody is into it. They get a lot of reps. I think the way they do things is something I like. I want to be around it as much as I can."

Whitehead said the Rebels are also offering an intriguing carrot. Ole Miss, Whitehead said, is one of the few schools that hasn't ruled out the opportunity to play some offense.

"In the back of my head, I still want the ball," Whitehead said, laughing. "(Mississippi) State really hasn't talked to me much about me playing offense. I guess they're confident in the guys that they have. I understand that. I just want to help the team and I think I can help on offense as well. Ole Miss has told me I'm great with my feet and hands and that I can move with the ball and without it. Lately, they're just telling me that want me to lock it down."

While stating that he's keeping an open mind and "may end up going to Notre Dame," Whitehead said several times on Monday night that his decision will likely "down to Ole Miss and Mississippi State."

Along those lines, Whitehead said he's been able to draw some contrasts between the two Magnolia State programs. Last week, he gave Mississippi State a slight edge. However, following the back-to-back visits, there's a new leader in the proverbial clubhouse.

"I kind of give Ole Miss the edge," Whitehead said. "State was fun, but Ole Miss was totally different. They both have their ups and they both have their downs. But those are two that I like. Both of them practice up-tempo, but State is like _ I can't really explain it _ not as upbeat as Ole Miss' practices. Ole Miss has a lot of energy and that's a great thing for me. Ole Miss looks and feels more up than state. Ole Miss feels like a big city and State feels like a small town, if that makes any sense."

Whitehead, who is also spending his spring on the baseball field for Amanda Elzy (he's hitting over .500 with four triples and six doubles already this season), said he has no more immediate travel plans between now and a trip to Starkville for the Bulldogs' spring game on April 17. As for a decision, Whitehead is in no hurry.

"I think it will go until God tells me where to go," Whitehead said. "I've been praying about it a lot and thinking about it a lot, but it's back and forth for me."

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