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Thursday, February 14, 2013
State of the Noles: Defensive Tackle

By David M. Hale & Corey Dowlar

Timmy Jernigan
Timmy Jernigan should be one of the ACC's elite defenders in 2013.

When it comes to recruiting, coaches need to be thinking long-term. It's not just about which holes must be filled immediately, but rather where the needs might be in two or three more years.

With that in mind, NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, a position that will see plenty of turnover in 2013: Defensive tackle.

Current scholarship DTs (8): Jacobbi McDaniel (RSr.), Eddie Goldman (So.), Demonte McAllister (RSr.), Justin Shanks (RFr.), Nile Lawrence-Stample (RSo.), Derrick Mitchell (RSo.), Timmy Jernigan (Jr.), Keith Bryant (Fr.)

Potential early departures: Jernigan already established himself as an NFL prospect in his first two seasons at FSU without holding down the nominal role of starter. He steps into the spotlight in 2013, and he seems like the most likely candidate on the roster to forego his senior season. Down the road, Goldman could blossom into a top-tier prospect as well.

Predicted starters (Hale's picks/Dowlar's picks)
2013: Jernigan, McAllister/Jernigan, McAllister
2014: Goldman, Shanks/Jernigan, Goldman
2015: Goldman, Shanks/Goldman, Shanks

Why they'll start: Jernigan's status is etched in stone, with the only question being how productive he might become in his first season as a full-time starter. Florida State will continue to rotate at tackle, so it may not mean a vast increase in snaps for the talented junior in 2013, but it should vault Jernigan squarely into the discussion as one of the ACC's elite defenders.

If Jernigan's 2013 season goes according to plan, however, it could also be his last in Tallahassee, but that doesn't mean the Seminoles don't have plenty of talent waiting in the wings.

McAllister has a breakthrough season in 2012 (33 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and appears to have the upper hand on the other starting job this spring, but Goldman is clearly the future at defensive tackle. He was a five-star recruit who saw limited action as a freshman (8 tackles, 1 TFL), but his upside is immense. A role similar to what Jernigan has done the past two seasons seems the most likely outcome for 2013, but Goldman's future is bright.

Shanks (6-2, 340) is massive, Bryant arrives with plenty of upside, and Mitchell and Lawrence-Stample offer some unrealized potential, meaning there's plenty of depth at tackle both now and down the road.

All that depth may put McDaniel at something of a disadvantage in his final campaign with FSU. He's got an NFL skill set, but thanks to a gruesome injury in 2011, it's been nearly two years since he played in a game.

Who might FSU add: The Seminoles added a big piece to the defensive tackle puzzle with Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic) for 2013. He fits the consistent mold of top-flight players that have been brought in at the position over the last three years and could contribute very early on in his career.

Looking to the future, Florida State has probably the top defensive tackle in the state for 2014 committed in Demarcus Christmas (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee). He's been named to the ESPN Watch List and will probably have offers from everybody when it is all said and done. They are also after prospects like Kendall Baker (Atlanta/Marist School), Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) and Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker).

Long-term grade: A. There may not be a position on the roster more stacked now and better prepared for the future than defensive tackle. Jernigan is already a top-flight prospect. Goldman and Shanks could be, too, in another two seasons. Bryant brings potential and Christmas could be a crown jewel in the Class of 2014. FSU has to be thrilled about the potential for greatness at defensive tackle moving forward.