Florida State football kicks off on Labor day at Pitt. Tomahawk Nation previews the season up until that date by analyzing every player and other key issues facing the 2013 Seminoles.
No. 8 Timmy Jernigan | 6'2, 298 | Junior | Defensive Tackle
School Bio (Courtesy Seminoles.com):
One of the top defensive tackles in the country despite not being the full-time starter in 2012. Candidate for the Outland Trophy given to the nation's top interior lineman. Explosive player off the ball, who was a disruptive force in opposing backfields as evidenced pisting the most tackles amongst all FSU interior linemen in each of his first two seasons. Steps into one of the starting spots left vcated at defensive tackle and brings experience from 26 career games which has produced 76 career tackles and 14 tackles for loss.
Career to Date
Heralded as a five-star recruit out of Columbia High in Lake City, Fla., it didn't take long for Jernigan to make an impact on the field for Florida State. Possessing a rare combination of strength and quickness, Jernigan was the only freshman to appear in all 13 games for the Seminoles in 2011, recording 30 tackles, 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss on his way to landing on several freshman All-America lists
Jernigan didn't explode in his second season, but the fact that he maintained his high level of play and avoided a real sophomore slump in 2012 was good news for the 'Noles. Timmy once again played in all 13 games last year, racking up 46 stops, including 1.5 sacks and eight TFL. Although he was not designated as a starter, Jernigan played big snaps as FSU's No. 3 defensive tackle behind Everett Dawkins and Amp McCloud in the rotation.
He now enters 2013 having been a key cog in the middle of a defense that has ranked among the nation's best against the run for two consecutive seasons, showing enough during that time to land on Phil Steele's Preseason All-American listas a second-teamer.
Because Jernigan is already used to playing a majority of defensive snaps, the transition to full-time starter won't be too difficult. The main transition for Jernigan in 2013 will be adjusting to new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's aggressive scheme while anchoring a d-line that lost all four of last year's starters to the NFL (Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine, Brandon Jenkins and Dawkins were selected in the draft, while McCloud was signed as a free agent). Jernigan will be the cornerstone of a unit that features a lot of young, but largely unproven talent around him.
Jernigan missed the second half of spring ball after suffering an ankle injury, but he will return to line up alongside presumed starter Demonte McAllister in the fall. After sitting out all of 2012 due to a severe ankle injury, redshirt senior Jacobbi McDaniel will be back to provide additional support. Behind those three upperclassmen, the rotation is green, with Nile Lawrence-Stample (RS Sophomore) and Eddie Goldman (sophomore) being the top backups, and redshirt freshman Justin Shanks battling for snaps behind them.
Under former d-coordinator Mark Stoops, Jernigan lined up mainly at nose tackle. With his 298-pound frame and excellent quickness, Jernigan actually falls into the mold of a prototypical 3-technique (lined up with an outside shade on the offensive guard). The 3-tech is predicated more on speed and agility than it is raw strength, which fits Jernigan's skill set well and could set him up for maximum effectiveness. That's where he projects at the next level and it's where we could see him line up this season in the new defensive scheme.
No matter where he lines up, the 2013 season will be a big-time "money year" for Jernigan.
With his impending eligibility for the 2014 NFL Draft, a solid year in the middle could yield a high draft selection and, thus, a large payday for the young man. NFLDraftScout.com currently lists Jernigan as the No. 2 defensive tackle in the 2014 class and ranks him as a top-40 prospect overall. ESPN's Todd McShay also recently listed him as the No. 14 overall prospect in the class, so to say that he is on the radar of NFL scouts would be an understatement at this point. Early NFL draft lists are notoriously unreliable, but all things considered, it is better to be known.
If he can capitalize on his opportunity this season, Jernigan could be another in a long legacy of past Florida State defensive tackles to play in the NFL that includes the likes of Darnell Dockett, Brodrick Bunkley, Corey Simon and Ron Simmons. He would also continue the trend of 'Noles once again owning the draft since Jimbo Fisher took the reigns in Tallahassee three years ago; if selected, he would be the fifth FSU defensive lineman drafted under Fisher, and could potentially become the fifth first round selection out of Tally in that same span.
Despite the fact that the Seminoles must replace all four of their starters up front from a season ago, expectations are still high for the Florida State defense -- and Jernigan is a significant reason for that. Expect a big year from No. 8 in 2013, and you may have to watch him play on Sundays come 2014.
Oh, one more thing: No Timmy Jernigan story would be complete without the hip toss. You can go at Timmy after the whistle, but do so at your own risk.