RECRUITING UPDATE: Timmy Jernigan
Florida DT wowing opponents, scouts with strength, speed
Columbia High School football coach Craig Howard knows a college-ready player when he sees one.
After all, the last big-time prospect Howard coached turned out to be a pretty big deal to the Southeastern Conference: former Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
But Howard’s latest gem isn’t so bad, either - All-American defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.
And much like Tebow, Howard said the standout defensive tackle is ready to make a major impact at the college level.
“He’s an NFL player. There’s no other way to say it. Timmy is a future NFL player,” Howard said. “You can tell when they are at an early age if they have the capability to go to the highest level of football, and we see him as a future NFL player. He’s going to make an impact as a freshman in college if he’s given the opportunity to.”
Standing 6-feet-2-inches and weighing 285 pounds, Jernigan plays defensive tackle for Columbia.
But anyone who has ever watched a highlight tape of Jernigan can easily see that the interior lineman plays his position almost like a linebacker would.
“He’s a big, strong physical player who plays with great passion,” Howard said. “He’s our nose tackle, but he could just as easily be our linebacker, because he’ll go sideline to sideline. He has tremendous pursuit and he takes great angles to the ball carrier. … But it all starts with that passion. What makes Timmy who he is, is his ability to play so hard all of the time.”
When he’s not wowing offensive linemen with his fierce ability to get to the football, Jernigan is also Columbia’s starting halfback.
That combination of both strength and quickness gives colleges options with Jernigan, according to Howard.
Most web sites rank Jernigan as one of, if not the, top defensive tackle in the country.
But he might not necessarily be on the inside of a defense in college.
“It’s going to come down to what the college coaches want, but he can play defensive end,” Howard said. “In college, he’ll be strong enough to play inside, but quick enough to play outside at defensive end. He has the ability to do both. It’s just up to what the coaches want to see.”
Even with the high acclaim, Howard said there are a few things he’d like to see Jernigan improve before he makes it to the next level.
“The speed at that next level, that’s always a big factor to adjust to, because it is always going to pick up,” Howard said. “Tim’s going to have to work on his skills to be prepared for that. He’s also going to have to get stronger and get a little bigger. He’s put on 50 pounds since he’s been in high school, but he still has room to get bigger.”
Jernigan has not made a collegiate decision, but Howard said the standout has narrowed down his collegiate choices after fielding “more than 60 committable offers.”
“He’s certainly got a solid list of schools to choose from,” Howard said. “But the schools he seems to be most interested in are narrowed down to in the state of Florida, he likes Florida and Florida State. In the SEC, he likes LSU and Alabama. In the Big 10, there’s Michigan. Then there are other schools like Tennessee and USC and other big schools who are still recruiting him hard and aren’t giving up on him. But as of right now, I don’t know that there’s a so-called favorite among that bunch I just said.”
The biggest factor the coach said would play into Jernigan’s decision is playing time.
With a college-ready frame and skill set, Howard said Jernigan is going to likely attend the school that can provide him a chance to play early.
That could bode well for LSU, as both the Tigers’ starting defensive tackles - Drake Nevis and Lazarius Levingston are seniors.
“In the end, he’s looking for a team that has great tradition,” Howard said. “But playing time early will also play a role for him. No one wants to sit on the bench for five years. Timmy wants to get a chance to get on the field as a freshman or a sophomore if he can.”