- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.
Next up: No. 2 Timmy Jernigan
What he's done: Throughout his first two seasons at Florida State, Jernigan has been a backup nominally, but a starter when it comes to production. Despite getting just two career starts officially -- both coming during Anthony McCloud's absence due to injury to start 2012 -- Jernigan led all Seminoles interior linemen in tackles in each of the last two years. He's established himself as one of the top defensive tackles in the country, and after racking up 76 career tackles -- including 14 for a loss -- and anchoring one of the nation's top run defenses the past two seasons, Jernigan is widely considered a potential first-round selection in the next NFL draft, should he decide to leave school early.
Where he's at: Again, semantics are the biggest issue for Jernigan this season. It's true that he now steps into a starting role as veterans McCloud and Everett Dawkins move on, but his playing time isn't likely to see a major surge. He was getting the bulk of the snaps in FSU's tackle rotation before, and while those numbers may increase a bit, the biggest difference is simply the title. Of course, with that title comes a bigger share of the leadership role, too, and that's where Jernigan figures to take the biggest step forward in 2013. He's now an established veteran, and one who will draw the attention of every offensive line coach he faces. Teams will be scheming around Jernigan, and while FSU still enjoys ample depth at the position, his ability to defeat blocks, stop the run and move the pocket remain keys to the success of the front four -- particularly with all the turnover at defensive end, where FSU lost three players to the draft.
What's to come: There are some questions surrounding Jernigan's ability to step into a bigger role in 2013, but those feel overstated. He came to FSU as one of the top recruits in the nation, and he's done nothing but produce ever since. Moreover, he's embraced the new title and vowed to become one of the top defenders in the conference -- and he may already have been -- while shouldering the burden of easing the transition for a defensive line that lost five players to the NFL from last year's team. Jernigan's numbers will probably never fully tell the story of how effective he is during games, but the success of the rushing defense and the sacks compiled by his teammates off the edge are a testament to the chaos he creates in the middle. If those numbers can be maintained in 2013 in spite of so much turnover on the line, Jernigan will rightfully be discussed as a top-10 NFL draft pick and one of the nation's elite linemen.
3dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon