Player Perspective: Will Jernigan (Middlebury College)

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Middlebury College quarterback Will Jernigan has guided the Panthers to back-to-back wins this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Middlebury College junior quarterback Will Jernigan has enjoyed a successful start to the 2019 season.

Through two games, Jernigan has tossed four touchdowns, while rushing for an additional score in his team’s season-opening win against Williams College.

Last week, Jernigan helped the Panthers begin their campaign with back-to-back wins for the second time since 2017 by leading Middlebury to a 28-0 win against Bates College.

Jernigan and the Panthers set the tone early against the Bobcats by capping their first drive with a touchdown.

“We strung together some pretty big plays and I believe there may have some penalty yards included (on the first drive, too), but it was just everyone executing,” said Jernigan when discussing his team’s initial series against Bates last Saturday.

“The line was blocking well, I made the right reads, (our receivers ran) good routes and a great series of play calls set the tone for the rest of the game and gave us some confidence and rhythm. And we kept that going all four quarters.”

That confidence and rhythm will certainly be tested this Saturday, September 28th when Middlebury hosts Trinity College, which won its first game of the season last week against Bowdoin College.

Trinity has won the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) the last three seasons and hasn’t lost to Middlebury since 2014.

For Middlebury to be successful against Trinity, Jernigan says the team “must bring the same energy level to each practice” from the past few weeks.

Noontime Sports recently spoke with Jernigan about his progression as a quarterback from last season to now, as well as how run-pass options are becoming the new norm in college football.

Do you feel last year’s experience as a starter has helped you feel more comfortable running the offense/under center? 

“I would agree. When I came in, I played in eight games (as a freshman), but as a sophomore, I really started to get a handle of the offense before coming in this year with complete control. I knew where (I would) be throughout this season, (and we) returned a lot of guys that I am close with, so for me especially I am feeling a lot more confident with the system and the players who are around me.”

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Middlebury College’s Will Jernigan has recorded five touchdowns through two contests this season, including one on the ground. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

It is just two games, but your team is enjoying a successful start to the 2019 season. How do you feel the team is doing thus far and do you feel this year’s squad has what it takes to contend for a conference title? 

“We have the players this year and the collective confidence that has translated onto the field.

“This week against Trinity, we have a huge opportunity at home. It is ‘Fall Family Weekend,’ so everyone is chomping at the bit (to get ready for Saturday’s game).

“We haven’t played well against Trinity in the past, but we feel that this year we are (starting to) hit our stride and we’re chomping at the bit to get after it this week.”

How did Jared Lebowitz, who played quarterback when you were a freshman, help you enjoy a smooth transition from high school to college? 

“Having him as a senior (when I was a) freshman (was very helpful). He was able to explain things easier, I was able to watch him (from the sidelines and) we watched a lot of film together, too. We are good friends and he is excited about this season (thus far), and he definitely paved the way (for me to become a starter). He was a really smart quarterback that I was able to learn from.”

It appears as if the run-pass option offense is becoming the new norm in college football, including the NESCAC. What do you enjoy most about this style of offense? 

“That is a good observation. A lot of plays people think are run-pass options, but sometimes they are just a pass-option attached (to the play call).

“We have just started to install RPO’s in the past two years, so it is very cool to be a part of because it is kind of the next step in football in general, not just at the collegiate level (or Division III).

“It is pervasive in all facets of the game, so it is definitely cool to be a part of and it is really fun to run.”

Finally, did you run an RPO offense in high school? 

“No. I ran three different systems in my last three years of high school, which were triple-option, spread-option, and traditional spread. RPO’s were never a thing (we ran), but we would have some run fakes or tradition play-action styles.

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