It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Due to the tremendous amount of depth on Florida State’s defense, Timmy Jernigan wasn’t even a starter last season. And yet, even playing inconsistent minutes, the now-junior still managed an impressive 45 tackles — including eight TFLs and 1.5 sacks. Where Jernigan’s strength lies is a mix between his lower center of gravity (6’2″ isn’t short by any means, but compared to many of FSU’s other linemen, it’s shorter) and his massive 294-pound weight. Even in his limited playing time last year, he managed to literally throw that weight around, overpowering his blockers while giving the team a fresh set of legs off the bench. Now as the team’s starting defensive tackle, can he consistently produce at the same level, though?
That may actually depend on some of his cohorts. With all of last year’s starters gone, that protection automatically vanishes, plus there’s the concern for what happens without elite pass-rushers like Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, both now in the NFL. Of course, Mario Edwards is no slouch, and for what it’s worth, I see him as a potential breakout star this season. But now that he’s the biggest name of all on the line, that turns Jernigan into the focus of every gameplan. It’s an honor, obviously, and the type of hype most players dream of. However, it’s also a burden, and if there’s anything that could possibly slow Jernigan down this year, that’s likely it.
But don’t bank on it. The first thing everyone seems to note about Jernigan is his incredible confidence. We have him rated as the top defensive tackle (and defensive linemen) in the ACC, but he’d take it one step further: he believes himself to be the best defensive tackle in the entire country. For a first-time starter those are strong words, but it’s all part of what makes him such an exciting player, and how he gets so high on this list. And he’s not all “me-first” bluster either. As he told Jacksonville.com, it’s all about the team. When he sees a more aggressive style of defense, it’s all in the context of what it means for the team’s production and what he can do to help that. If that’s any indication, the supposed drop-off FSU was going to experience on D this season may end up just being a myth.