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Avery Jernigan is Quickly Becoming a Household Name

By Barry Every
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Though just a sophomore Jernigan has already garnered offers from South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Blackshear (Ga.) Pierce County took a massive hit prior to the 2017 football season with the loss of Head Coach Sean Pender to Brunswick (Ga.). Pender had led the Bears to six straight playoff appearances, something that had never been done in school history.

The Bears also lost record setting signal caller Stetson Bennett, IV to graduation.

Not all was lost as Blackshear (Ga.) Pierce County was able to lure one of the most successful high school coaches in all of South Georgia over that least three seasons, Jason Strickland. In that time period Strickland led Fitzgerald (Ga.) to an amazing (38-6) record which included back-to-back trips to the GHSA-AA State Championship Game.

One player Strickland was able to rely on this past season was 6-foot-4, 275-pound sophomore offensive lineman Avery Jernigan. Jernigan paved the way at left offensive tackle guiding the Bears to a (5-6) record and a second round appearance in the GHSA-AAA playoffs. His main responsibility last season was protecting the backside of first year starting quarterback Jermaine Brewton, who was only a freshman.

“This guy loves football and is about as honest of a kid as you’ll ever find,” Strickland said. “He wants to do well and help everyone around him, whether at practice, the weight room or in the locker room. He is the type of kid that will help us reach our goal of double digit wins.”

Though just a sophomore Jernigan has already garnered offers from South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He is also receiving strong interest from Georgia. One school Jernigan would like to hear more from is Clemson.

“I think he’ll project as a center at the next level,” Strickland said. “That is the position he will be playing for us this fall. He will be making all of our line calls; in order for us to be successful he’ll have to be our bell cow up front. When we got here Jernigan wasn’t very strong, but he has really killed himself in the weight room over the last year,” Strickland said. He doesn’t even look like the same kid from when we arrived.”

Last spring he did not attend a single college camp, but he did unofficially visit West Point. This spring he has already made two unofficial visits to Columbia and one to Athens. Jernigan has already booked camp dates with both schools for the month of June.

No college recruiter will ever question Jernigan’s commitment in the classroom. He currently boasts a 4.0 GPA with a 21 on the ACT, which was taken during his freshman year. Jernigan is rescheduled for the ACT in June and you can bet he’ll eventually reach a score that will allow him to be recruited by any school in the country.

“Though he has a great passion for the game of football, Jernigan understands football doesn’t last forever,” Strickland said. “So his attitude is to make the most of every opportunity while it last. He’ll end up being successful at anything he does and you can expect him to end up with a 1300-plus SAT and a 30 on the ACT.”

When not training for the upcoming football season, Jernigan takes part in basketball as well as dabbling in the shotput at Blackshear (Ga.) Pierce County. He currently has a bench max of 240-pounds and an impressive 275-pound power clean.
Coach Wicker, our new strength coach, has helped us make a compete 360 in the weight room,” Jernigan said. “If we hadn’t committed ourselves in the weight room last summer we would have been far worse that (5-6).”

Jernigan has already begun the transition from offensive tackle to center. He has been working on his snaps for the past month and his new skillset will be on display starting May, 7 through May, 17. Though the Bears will not be having a spring game they will be practicing during the spring evaluation period. College coaches will have the opportunity to see Jernigan up close and in person working on his new craft.

“The biggest thing is to not let the moment get ahold of you,” Jernigan said about the position change. “You have to keep your composure and continually work on repetition so the snap doesn’t even affect your mindset.”
Winning a Region Title is the main goal for both Coach Strickland and Jernigan. The past two seasons rival Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County has captured the #1-seed out of Region 2-AAA.

“The most important thing I can do for my team is take on a leadership role,” Jernigan said. “If I work hard, everybody else will work hard. We have to push each other to the max this offseason to reach our team goals on the football field, which is a ten-plus win season and bringing back the title to Blackshear, Georgia.”

With two years still left in this young man’s high school football career anything is possible. Jernigan already possesses the ideal size for a potential college center and the versatility to slide over to guard if needed. Combine his football prowess with his academic acumen and Avery Jernigan could become a household name in the recruiting world.