Timmy Jernigan is the 57th player profiled in this series of the players likely to impact Florida State's season. There are five days until FSU football. The list is not in any specific order.
6'2, 298 | Sophomore | Nose Guard
Background (via school bio)
Five-star defensive lineman, who was ranked No. 4 at defensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com...recorded 14 sacks as a senior at Columbia...listed as a four-star prospect ranked as the No. 2 defensive tackle by Rivals.com...ranked No. 29 in the Final Rivals 100...recorded 77 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and one interception and also ran for four touchdowns on offense as a senior in 2010...2011 U.S. Army All-American...All-USA First-Team defense by USA Today...rated a four-star prospect, No. 2 defensive lineman and No. 17 overall player on the ESPNU 150...No. 6 on the Gainesville Sun's Florida Top 50 Seniors...named to the 2010 All-First Coast First Team Defense by the Florida Times-Union...member of the Times-Union's Super 75 where he was rated as the No. 1 defensive tackle...No. 8 on the SuperPrep Florida 110 and No. 35 on the SuperPrep Elite 50...No. 5 on Bill Buchalter's 2011 Florida Top 100 for the Orlando Sentinel...No. 9 on Mobile Press-Register Super Southeast 120...No. 41 on Tom Lemming's MaxPreps.com 2011 Top 100...registered 131 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries and was a 3A All-State selection as a junior and a sophomore...selected the Seminoles over LSU, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida...born September 24, 1992.
Part of the reason I elected not to debut this list in any specific order is to allow myself a chance to save players about whom I had questions for last. Jernigan is one of those players.
You might find that surprising considering Jernigan was one of the most sensational true freshmen in the country, and at a position where freshmen rarely shine.
The issue with Jernigan wasn't work, but rather eligibility and injury. He needed to perform well in summer school, and with a strong second summer session, he did just that and made the grades, much to the delight of Seminole Nation. And after missing spring with a knee issue, Jernigan returned to his old self in practice this fall.
Jernigan was not a starter for Florida State in 2011, but did play quite a bit. Here was D.K.N on Jernigan entering spring (before the knee injury caused him to miss the rest):
The 2011 National Signing Day disappointment over Tony Steward's signing with Clemson turned to jubilation just a couple hours later when Jernigan signed with the Noles. Few true freshman defensive linemen--particularly interior linemen--make significant contributions, but Timmy made it clear from day one the coaches would be forced to put him on the field. He was slowly worked into the rotation at first, taking about 15% of the team's snaps at nose tackle in the first three games and became part of the regular platoon by game four. After Jacobbi McDaniel went down with a season ending injury his snap count went up and he finished the season logging 39% of all meaningful snaps.
His freakish combination of natural strength and quickness made him effective, and often disruptive, in both run support and pass rush. He tends to play with a lot of emotion, which led to some freshman moments last year. He usually had his way against the weaker OL's FSU faced. But his mistakes seemed to be most often born out of frustration when challenged by quality OL, most notably against Miami and Virginia. Which is okay....for a freshman. Controlling that emotion and learning to play with more discipline, particularly after a play is over, will be important in his continuing development. Under Odell Haggins' guidance I don't expect it to be a problem. We also noted he had difficulty, at times, handling double team blocks as a pair of quality OL could put him on skates. This is something that can be easily corrected with improved technique, though. There is no limit to how good Jernigan can be at this level and he could very well be a top ten NFL draft pick.
Jernigan was the top defensive tackle in tackles, tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He even won ACC defensive lineman of the week after embarrassing N.C. State. For his excellent freshman season, he earned the Devaughn Darling Award, given to the top defensive newcomer.
Jernigan probably would start at either nose or 3-technique, for 115 of the 124 schools nationally. But Florida State is not one of those 115. That's because senior Amp McCloud is quite good at what he does.
Avoiding The Sophomore Slump
To be perfectly honest, if Jernigan turns in the same level of performance that he gave in 2011, avoiding a sophomore slump, it should be considered a success. Those expecting a major jump for him in 2012 could be disappointed. Avoiding a backslide for a player who was that good as a freshman is a big deal, particularly when he's slated to play even more meaningful snaps.
One area singled out for improvement is his play against double teams, particularly against some of the better linemen. One of our staff members knows a whole lot about line play, however, and I pulled this from a recent email exchange discussing whether Jernigan is suited to play nose guard.
Does he need to control them or just need to demand them? Jernigan cuts off backside scoop blocks [from the guard], which forces centers to stay attached longer. I think he's great at nose guard.
It's a really good point, because if the center has to stay engaged longer, he cannot climb to the second level to block the backer, who then runs unblocked to make the tackle.
With greater experience and time in the system, Jernigan should be able to avoid being dominated by double teams. But remember, demanding a double team is itself already a victory for the defense.
Clemson Of Special Importance
The Clemson game will be very important for Jernigan for a number of reasons. The run game from guard to guard is an extremely vital part of the Tigers' offense. Controlling that gives the opponent a big advantage. Of course, between the guards is the center, over whom Jernigan lines up. And Clemson's center is a good one in Dalton Freeman, the preseason choice for All-Conference.
But not only is Jernigan important against Clemson because of scheme and opposing personnel, but also because starting nose guard Amp McCloud is currently dealing with a strained pectoral muscle. Florida State does expect to have him back in plenty of time for the game (he should be back by September 8, with the Clemson game coming on September 22). But what if things don't go according to plan? What if McCloud aggravates the injury? What if he isn't 100-percent? That only increases Jernigan's importance.
And yet another reason exists to increase Jernigan's importance against Clemson: pace. Clemson runs one of the fastest-paced offenses in the country. And while these "pace" offenses don't often travel well, experiencing difficulty in running with the same speed, they still get a good number of plays off. McCloud, even if healthy, is not a player who should be out on the field for long stretches at a time. A pace offense can make it difficult to substitute. That could put Florida State in the situation where it has a gassed McCloud stuck on the field against the Tigers. For that reason, Jernigan will be needed to keep McCloud fresh, and to start some series in which Clemson is backed up in its territory, as a longer potential drive could obviously result in more potential plays, and having McCloud stuck on the field for a long drive isn't an ideal strategy.
Jernigan should have a nice year for Florida State in 2012, and in 2013, he'll be expected to take over the starting role, have a monster money year, and be gone to the NFL.