Back Jalen Barnum: “Stinging Between the White Lines”

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Jalen Barnum: “Stinging Between the White Lines”

By Barry Every
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The 6-foot-2, 212-pound punisher recorded over 100 tackles as a junior.

“Barnum is an old school kid, like when I grew up, that is very mature and disciplined.”
~Wayne County Head Coach Ken Cribb

Coach Ken Cribb begins his third year steering the rudder of Jesup (Ga.) Wayne County Football. In his first two seasons he has led the Jackets to a (20-3/8-0) mark, which includes a pair of Region 2-AAAAA Titles.  Now he begins his quest for a three-peat, minus some key players from the class of 2019.

Gone is leading rusher MJ Fuller (Murray State) who ran for over 1,200 yards while hitting paydirt 13 times. Also gone is defensive stalwart Patrick Rogers (Mercer), who was a two-year starter at defensive end. The biggest blow in personnel though is the void left behind by Coach Cribb’s own flesh and blood. Ashby Cribb (Valdosta State) caught over 60 passes while scoring 16 touchdowns in his final season as a Jacket.

“We definitely lost some key players from last year’s team; overall though this current team matches up really well versus our opponents,” Cribb said. “I’d like to have more depth but I’ll always take quality over quantity. I feel we have a real solid foundation that can get the job done.”

Now the good news, the Jackets return starting inside linebacker Jalen Barnum. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound punisher recorded over 100 tackles as a junior. He will now be counted on to keep opponents off the scoreboard while Coach Cribb fine tunes his new offensive unit.

“Barnum is an old school kid, like when I grew up, that is very mature and disciplined,” Cribb said. “He is not the silly young kid you see in school nowadays; he shows everyone much respect and works hard to be a great athlete for us on the football field. He is simply the type of kid you want to coach.”

Barnum has already caught the attention of college recruiters as he currently holds scholarship offers from Chattanooga, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Liberty, Mercer, Navy and Wofford. He is also receiving heavy interest from Auburn, Citadel, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Kentucky, Southern Miss, Tennessee and Tennessee Tech.

“Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee have all come in and are showing keen interest in Barnum,” Cribb said. After they meet him they realize he is bigger than they originally thought and his size matches his ability on the field. He is always trying to get better and he is aggressive, strong and coachable.”

Barnum did not attend any camps last year but he does plan on hitting one of the Mercer Mega Camps next week. His only unofficial visit to date has been Wofford, where they offered on the spot. He does have a planned trip to Southern Miss but the exact date has not been set yet.

“I really feel he is going to be an outside linebacker at the next level,” Cribb said. “That being said he has the features to play at 6-foot-2, 230-pounds and he will probably be big enough to play inside. A lot of players don’t grasp certain techniques; this kid can read and then he’ll deliver. I haven’t talked to one coach that hasn’t liked him once they physically laid eyes on Barnum.”

Academically Barnum maintains a 2.75 core GPA. He plans on taking the SAT for the second time very soon with the hopes of hitting a higher than needed score.

Barnum participated on the track team for the first time this past season, taking part in the 4x100, 4x400, long jump and triple jump. He is no slouch in the weight room either with a 250-pound bench, 500-pound squat and an impressive 305-pound power clean.

“I need to improve my test score and top end speed and everything else is going to come along in recruiting,” Barnum said. “I really only ran track this year to get faster for football. I also plan on being a more vocal leader than last year; I’ve always led by example but now it’s time to speak up.”

What is it that separates Barnum from his linebacker peers statewide? More importantly what does he have to do to lead Wayne County to a third consecutive Region Title and a lengthy stay in the GHSA-AAAAA playoff bracket?

“We lack experience with a lot of young players on the team so I have to help these kids learn their jobs,” Barnum said. “I can make the checks and calls while being able to adjust to each situation. One thing people don’t know about me is how excited I get on the field. I hit hard and I’m a mean player.”

The Jackets have three very important non-region road games that will test their mettle. They will trip to Richmond Hill (Ga.) and Brunswick (Ga.) Glynn Academy, both GHSA-AAAAAA schools. Then there is a junket to border rival Baxley (Ga.) Appling County that everyone should mark on their calendar. But the big game will be the season finale versus Waycross (Ga.) Ware County; this matchup has determined the region winner the last three years.

Yellow Jackets are identified by their distinctive markings and the fact they band together in colonies. Barnum is the key stinger on the gridiron for this Jesup based band of Jackets. His goal will simply be to leave his distinctive markings planted on his unsuspecting foes.