Jaylan Jennings has high expectations for his senior football season.
After intercepting two passes last year, the Meridian High School safety is looking to significantly improve that number, and win a championship.
“I want to get a pick every game,” he said. “(And) win state for sure. I want that ring before I leave.”
For Jennings, that goal starts with his team’s summer morning workouts. The Wildcats spend time outside conditioning as well as in the weight room under the tutelage of first-year head coach John Douglass. Douglass was hired in June after previous coach Martez Edwards was terminated after an inappropriate photo of him appeared on social media. Edwards was hired in January to replace Calvin Hampton, who stepped down in November after three seasons.
Douglass, the former head coach of Northeast Lauderdale, said he understands that his new team has been through a lot of turmoil over the last eight months and wants to make his role clear to them.
“The biggest thing that I want them to understand is that me and the rest of these coaches are here for them,” Douglass said. “This is their football team, and we’re just the guys that are fortunate enough to coach.”
He added that it’s the responsibility of him and his staff to teach players the fundamentals of their positions to prepare them for competition. He is hoping they understand that.
“If I was a player, and I knew my coach had my best interest at heart and was going to do everything he could to put me in the best position to win, that would go a long way,” he said.
Numbers-wise, participation in summer workouts has been below expectations, Douglass said. When preseason officially kicks off next week, he plans for that to change.
“We haven’t quite had the numbers that we wanted, but we knew it was going to be difficult,” he said. “Good news is that school starts next week, so we expect to get everybody back. We’re going to make a really big push this week to be sure we talk to everybody and make sure everyone knows practice starts Monday.”
While Douglass said the players who have been absent will be at a little bit of a disadvantage come Monday, those who have been there have put in a strong effort and learned a lot. Jennings, being one of them, is somebody the Wildcats can be assured of.
“He’s going to work hard, and he’s going to try to do things the right way,” Douglass said. “That’s something that we don’t have to worry about with him.”
Technique is something Jennings said he has been focused on improving this summer. When it’s late in a game, it’ll serve as his best friend.
“It’s the most important thing,” Jennings said. “In the fourth quarter, when you’re tired, it’s all you can rely on.”
Meridian opens its season Aug. 23 at Northeast Lauderdale.