Florida State's Timmy Jernigan, Christian Jones, Terrence Brooks on Auburn, BCS

Bud Elliott

We were able to ask FSU's defenders questions for 20 minutes on BCS Thursday.

This question is for Terrence: The Auburn running game gets most of the publicity. Do you feel like their passing game is underrated, and does their passing game concern you at all? TERRENCE BROOKS: Not at all. We respect their passing game just like their running game. We know they do some great things over there. They have a good quarterback that can throw it around. They've got a great receiver. But we also have a lot of confidence in our defense. We're ready for the match up, and that's what we want.

For Timmy and Christian: Coach Pruitt was up there and said, they run it, everyone knows they're going to run it. If that's the case, why has it worked?

TIMMY JERNIGAN: I feel like it really works simply – well, not simply, but the offensive line, I feel that I can they're great up front. Their center, he does a great job at his double teams and getting up to the second level, and the left tackle, Greg Robinson, when he comes down and washes down on the three technique, he almost wipes out the whole defensive line with him. There's a reason why he's rated so high. They're really good up front, and their quarterback, he's so fast, he has the ability to get to the edge of the defenses, work up to the second level, and the running back, you can't tackle him one on one. He's going to make the first guy miss. So we have to do a great job at gang tackling and getting him to the ground. I feel like that's the reason the offense works.

CHRISTIAN JONES: Yeah, their quarterback and running back, they're both guys, great athletes. I feel like when they run the ball, they've done a good job of finding ways and just getting up. We've seen tape, and it looks like a little hole, and Tre Mason just slips right through and takes off for 20. Throughout this week we've been emphasizing gap responsibilities, just doing our job. I think we're going to do a good job of doing that in the game because that's what we're going to focus on this week. They're just good at doing what they do. They're going to run the ball, and we've just got to stop it. Old school type mentality. We've just got to put on our big boy pants and execute what our coaches put in for us.

Christian and Timmy, both you guys were recruited by Auburn and by other SEC schools. What are your feelings when you hear people say that you can't play with the SEC given that you were recruited by all the SEC teams?

CHRISTIAN JONES: I mean, the SEC, they won like six National Championships in the last six years or something like that. There's always going to be talk about them being the best conference. But the way I see it, I see it as one team that's going out there and winning it. But hats go off to that conference. They've got a lot of teams in there that's big and physical, and they get after each other. But there's other good teams and other conferences, too. We get overshadowed because that's the conference that's been going to the big game. I feel like we've got a lot of SEC players and a lot of great athletes on our team, and I think we match up better – I think we match up against every SEC team in the conference or even better. I mean, that's what people are going to talk about, the SEC Conference, but we know there's other good teams out there, too.

TIMMY JERNIGAN: I really don't listen to it, to be honest. For a good example, look at Duke. Look at the way that they played Texas A & M. I feel like that's a prime example. I really don't pay too much attention to it. I just try to take it game by game and worry about whoever is in front of us. Timmy and Terrence, in addition to wanting to run the ball, Auburn really likes to pick up the tempo when things are going well. Timmy, how do you guys up front prepare for that tempo?

TERRENCE BROOKS: For our secondary, we just make sure that we're always running back to the ball. We make sure we get to every play. You never know when a tackle is going to be missed. Coach is always talking about peppering the ball carrier and that just means everybody getting to the ball and hitting. You never know when he's going to slip out of there. Just pretty much running in practice, getting your tempo up and just getting back to the ball, that's been the biggest thing for the practices we've been in. We've done a very good job of doing that.

TIMMY JERNIGAN: I feel like it's going to be real important for the guys up front, especially me. I've got to lead the guys up front. When you're going against a hurry up offense and big defensive linemen running after the ball, making plays from sideline to sideline, I think that can slow people down.

Timmy and Christian, have you guys done anything differently in practice to prepare for that pace that Auburn wants to run? Have you had two offensive units swapping in and out very quickly, any special preparations?

CHRISTIAN JONES: All we've done is pretty much just picked up the tempo in practice. We have our scout team run a play, and then immediately a coach will be get back to the ball, get back to the ball, and then have those guys. We just pick up the tempo because that's what they're going to do in the game and that's how they create a lot of big plays. If you look, a lot of the big plays come because their defense gets out there and playing a set when they're ready. It's real important for us once we tackle the ball carrier to get back out and line up. I think once we do that, we'll be able to execute on defense.

TIMMY JERNIGAN: I mean, he hit it right on the head. Another thing I feel like really helps us is our scout team quarterback Franklin. He's so fast, it's hard just chasing him every day at practice. I think he gives us a great look getting ready for Nick Marshall. He's very fast, man.

I know it took a few weeks to kind of get used to Coach Pruitt's system and there were some changes, especially for Christian, you kind of changed positions. How did things come together? What kind of changed, clicked after a few games in terms of maximizing what you can do with his system?

CHRISTIAN JONES: Well, the first few games I think we were just trying to get a feel for it, trying to understand what our role was going to be in the defense, and I think early on we had really good players on the team, and I felt guys were just wanting to go out there, make plays, and I think we didn't really understand the full concept of the defense and what our job was. But I think after the Boston College game, that was a real turnover for our defense. Even though we won the game, I know as a defensive unit we were real disappointed. Kind of felt like a loss a little bit because we know we gave up more than we should have. I remember we came in on Sunday and we had guys like Timmy and Telvin, we got in the huddle, we're better than what we showed last game. We've got to pay attention and focus more on the details. Like always we wanted to go back to those games that we lost last year when we lost to NC State, when we lost to Florida. We were close to having that feeling a little bit in that Boston College game, and we felt horrible after those games we lost because we knew we were a better team and we knew we should have won those games. I think we made up our mind then and there that we were going to lock in, focus in and execute our defense, and I think after that game we did a good job of responding to the leaders and our coaches on the team, and we just took off from there.

TIMMY JERNIGAN: I think Coach Pruitt just does a great job making us believe in him. He's a great motivator. He's a great teacher. I look forward to going into meetings every day and just figuring out what I can learn from the guy and what else he has in store for us to learn. You know, it's a blessing that he came here and it's a blessing just to play with him. At first it was a little bit rocky for us, and like Christian said, the leadership kind of rose to the top, and that's when I feel like we started to kind of mold together. It didn't take us long to figure out that our offense was going to score points, and in order for us to win games, it was really on us. At the end of the day, I'm just glad to have Coach Pruitt here.

TERRENCE BROOKS: I think they both hit it right on the head. Coach Pruitt is a great coach. He doesn't change up for anyone on and off the field, and definitely in spring ball it was definitely hard getting into the groove of things just coming from Coach Stoops' defense to this one. We thought it was very complicated. It was definitely some tension there at first. But as we started seeing how many plays we were making in practice and how much he loved the game and how much better we were getting at understanding the game, I think we all really bought into it. Boston College game was definitely a game that we didn't feel good about. We felt like that was us getting exposed right there. We never want to show a weakness. For the most part we just really play for each other. We go out there, we love being around each other in meetings, doing things like that, any time that we get to spend with each other, we love it. I feel like that's why we've been doing so well this year with Coach Pruitt.

Timmy, you touched a little bit on how effective Franklin has been simulating Nick Marshall. Can you go a little bit more in depth about the looks they're giving, and who's playing Tre Mason in trying to give you those looks?

TIMMY JERNIGAN: I mean, we have just guys rotating in and out at practice. You know, of course they can't run every play, but when we were back in Tallahassee, Pender came back, he did a great job simulating the running game. Chasing him was very tough. Franklin, man, he's just – he does a great job at just hiding the ball, getting the ball off, giving the DBs different looks. He just does a real good job at just simulating the offense.

Timmy, last year you were confident in saying that you guys were going to be in this position playing for a National Championship after you guys won the Orange Bowl. What made you so confident at that time?

TIMMY JERNIGAN: Because every year that I've been at Florida State, we've gradually gotten better. We win a couple more games every single year, and I knew there was something special about this next team coming up. The leadership that I knew was going to be in place, I knew it was my turn to step up and be a leader. Guys just bought in over the summer, over the spring, to the workouts, to the meetings. Guys are spending time together off the field. You never really see one of us by ourselves. You're always going to see a group of at least four or more. You see defensive linemen hanging out with receivers. You don't really see that on other teams, and I knew that something special was about to happen.

Christian and Timmy, you guys have won each game by at least 14. Auburn 6 0 in one possession games. What role, if any, do you think luck played in Auburn's season?

CHRISTIAN JONES: I don't really believe in luck that much. I mean, Auburn, what I get out of the Auburn wins that they have this season is they're a team, they play all four quarters. That's the way I see it. People look at it, man, the Alabama game or the Georgia game, the games they should have lost. But that's a prime example of why it's so important to play four quarters of football. That's something our coaches stressed at us since I've been at Florida State. They tell us not to worry about the scoreboard and just go out there and play football. I think Auburn does a great job of doing that. They don't lose any confidence when they get down or when the clock is ticking. They keep playing and they capitalize on those teams when they think it's over, and a big play happens. That's why it's so important for us to stay locked in and to finish every play, because you never know what's going to happen. TIMMY JERNIGAN: He hit it right on the head. Those guys fight for four quarters strong. A lot of people may view it as luck, but that's the perfect saying. They play all four quarters. The Georgia game, that was crazy. That was an insane catch. And the Alabama game was definitely a crazy finish. I didn't see that one coming.

CHRISTIAN JONES: We still remember that game. We was coming back from Gainesville, against Florida, and I think it was like five minutes left, we were like, I guess we'll be playing 'Bama in the championship game. We get back home, oh, Auburn wins. What happened? You've got to be locked in all throughout the game, and you've got to stay focused. You never know what's going to be the last play.

TERRENCE BROOKS: Just like they said, that team is relentless. They all go out there and keep playing the whole game. That's another thing that Coach Pruitt also harps on is just finishing the play, finish every play with a purpose. He even teaches us just how to knock the ball down, how to get interceptions so those things won't happen. Just with that catch they had against Georgia, he's always telling us, all of the DBs get your hands on top of the ball, that way you're going to intercept it or knock it down. When you don't do those things that's what happens. He also does a great job of – most coaches will tell you not to do certain things but they won't give you examples why. He definitely tells us not to do this and he's going to show you why what's happening. He definitely gives us a bunch of scenarios of how they've lost games in the past or lost championship games for that matter, but we just can't be doing that type of stuff.

Terrence, this is for you: You guys have been phenomenal at creating turnovers this season. I think you've doubled your interception total from last year and you had a really good defense. Is it scheme? What are you doing so differently that's allowed you to force so many more turnovers than you did last year?

TERRENCE BROOKS: I would say probably just our practice habits. Coach Pruitt definitely holds a standard out there how we're supposed to practice, the way we go about our drills and just how to make plays. That's just us buying into the defense. We had a great game plan up there every week to get us prepared to have success, and as long as we're buying into that and doing what we're told, we should have it.

As a team you really haven't been behind at all. What happens if you guys, let's say, happen to be down double digits? How do you think you'll react?

TIMMY JERNIGAN: We're going to fight, no matter what we're going to fight, and that's the way that we practice. We compete so hard against each other in practice, and we've been down before. We were down Boston College. I mean, they were up big on us. We could have easily gave up and turned the season in then. But guys are going to fight. That's just the way that we are. That's our mindset. We're fighters.

CHRISTIAN JONES: And I feel like the older guys on the team, especially for us, for example, we've been in games in the past that we had to fight to win. We understand that we know what it takes to have to push through and to finish strong. Even if we get down, I don't think the leadership on the team is going to let us stay down. We're always going to compete. We're always going to fight, and that's – our coaches are not going to let us – we talk about Coach Pruitt, he holds us to a standard, and we really buy into what he says. The guy, he knows what he's talking about, he knows what he's doing. So we know it's important for us to just go out there and execute what they have down for us. If we get down, we're just going to fight and push through. We know we've got a good enough offense. The offense is going to come in and contribute, too.

Timmy, for your role in this game against this offense, does the coaching staff want you to get in the backfield more, be disruptive, or is it better for you to kind of sit in the middle and clog things up?

TIMMY JERNIGAN: We're doing a lot of different things. It all depends on the play calling and the scheme that they have in store. I understand that I'm going to have to play a huge role in order for us to win this game and be dominant on defense. I mean, that's been my role this entire year. When you run this scheme, you've got to be dominant in the middle, and when you have a dominant nose guard it's going to make everything else go smoothly. I know it's going to be important for me to come out and have a good game and just play within the scheme and do whatever I can to help the team win. But it's going to be huge for all of us, the front 11. We've got to be very disciplined, very into details and knowing what we're doing and how to do it. It's going to be big for us.

What's the most difficult part about defending Auburn?

TERRENCE BROOKS: Just do your job. I mean, they do some great things over there. I mean, obviously what they're doing has been working. I don't think we say this out of cockiness, but we don't need to worry about that. We need to worry about our game plan and our execution. As long as we do that, we should be fine.

Transcription courtesy of the BCS.

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