Houston Nutt may need to send Texas coach Mack Brown a thank you note should the Rebels land the signature of Jermaine Whitehead.Last week, Whitehead, a standout cornerback at Greenwood’s Amanda Elzy, made recruiting headlines when he told Rivals.com that he needed to re-evaluate his commitment to Mississippi State following the departure of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to Austin, Texas, who he called “the glue” to his verbal pledge.
Whitehead’s hesitation appears to have given the Rebels a window to get back in with the four-star recruit.
On Friday, Amanda Elzy coach Eric House said that while Whitehead is still “fully committed” to the Bulldogs, he needs to make sure he’s comfortable with his decision.
Whitehead has heeded the advice of his coach and this past weekend took a visit to Miami (Fla.) and has visits set for MSU (Jan. 14) and Ole Miss (Jan. 21).
“He kind of owes it to himself to go around,” said House, a member of Water Valley’s 1990 state championship team, at halftime of the Blue Devils’ basketball game against Amanda Elzy. “You only have this kind of opportunity but once to go around and see some of these prestigious universities.”
While Auburn and Stanford have also shown interest, and Whitehead reportedly had fun in South Beach this past weekend, House expects Whitehead to remain in the Magnolia State when he signs his National Letter of Intent on Feb. 2.
“On February 2, it could go either way, but right now it looks like it’s going to be an in-state college,” he said.
In part because of the pressure from fans in his community, signing day couldn’t get here soon enough for Whitehead.
“At times he’s frustrated with people’s day-to-day pressure with who to go with from the community and all that. February 2 can’t get here fast enough. If Monday he walks in and says he wants it to end today I could believe it because it’s a lot of pressure on an 18-year-old kid,” House said. “It’s kind of strange when you go into stores like Walmart and you have half the store hollering ‘State’ and the other half ‘Ole Miss.’ You just don’t want to disappoint anybody and he’s just that type of kid.”
On the football field Whitehead is considered just the type of shutdown cornerback that could help remedy a porous Ole Miss secondary that surrendered an average of 246.3 passing yards per game a year ago.
“(What stands out about him) is his athletic ability. He just has a gear that a lot of people don’t have,” House said. “He’s a great leaper and an athletic person. I compare him to a guy, Fred Thomas, that played a few years ago for Ole Miss. He played 16 years in the league, Fred Thomas did, and he was a good DB.
“I think Whitehead has those types of characteristics, a tremendous jumper and leaper, and a great cover guy.”
Whitehead also has some room to grow.
“He can definitely bulk up a little bit more and that’s what I see,” House said. “Of course the mechanics on the college level are a little bit different, but he’s a fine athlete so I’m sure any coach can mold him.”
House said Whitehead can get it done on offense as well.
“Corner is definitely his position, but I would love to see someone use him a couple plays at receiver,” House said. “To give you an idea of how we used him, (against Lexington-McClain) this year he scored four different ways. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown, he threw a touchdown, he caught a pass for a touchdown and he ran an interception back for a touchdown, so that was exciting to watch.”
When weighing his options, House said Whitehead has three major criteria that he’s looking for in his school.
“The thing he talked about is looking to play right off and the chance to win a national championship,” House said. “We talk every day and the main thing we want to focus on is the educational part, that’s key to him because I feel like he’ll be at the top of his class. He’s coming from a family that values education, so that’s our main thing. In football, one play could be your last play, so we want to focus on the educational part.”
House said he expects Whitehead to be a full qualifier, as he will finish at the top of his class and reports a 23 on the ACT. (January 11, 2011, Page 7)