Florida State Seminoles: Everett Dawkins

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

Position/Class: DT/Jr.

Timmy Jernigan
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsNow that he'll officially be a starter, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan will be expected to step forward as a leader.
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.
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. 20 Eddie Goldman

Position/Class: DT/Sophomore

What he's done: Goldman arrived on campus last year with as much hype as anyone from Florida State's highly-touted recruiting class, but he found himself in the midst of a numbers crunch at defensive tackle. Goldman made waves right away, with teammates praising his speed and footwork, but with a number of established veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, playing time was scarce. Still, Goldman managed to avoid a redshirt and appeared in 10 games, making eight tackles, including one for a loss.

Where he's at: With the departures of Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins, the path to a starting job is now much clearer for Goldman, but that doesn't mean he's won the spot. Veterans Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister are the heirs apparent at defensive tackle, likely meaning Goldman will enter fall camp running with the No. 2s. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Jernigan played that role for two seasons, yet he's still projected as a first-round pick in the next NFL draft. Goldman may have even more upside, and his status as a second-stringer is even less definitive.

What's to come: Goldman will be one of the more intriguing players to watch during fall camp. McAllister missed all of spring practice, and while both players are likely to see significant reps -- FSU is renowned for rotating its D linemen -- Goldman has a real shot at stealing the starting job. Either way, his future is immensely bright. Those raving reviews about his quick first step and powerful strength are now supplemented by a far better understanding of the playbook. And as new DC Jeremy Pruitt works in some of the 3-4 technique his defenses ran at Alabama, Goldman looks like an ideal fit. He may not blossom into a star in 2013, but he looks to take a big step in that direction.
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. 22 Demonte McAllister

Position/Class: DT/Redshirt senior

What he's done: Through four seasons at Florida State, McAllister has largely floated beneath the radar while building a still impressive list of credentials. Despite never serving as a starter on the defensive line, McAllister has appeared in 38 games in his career, compiled 54 tackles, including 12 for a loss, along with 6.5 sacks. His 2012 campaign was his best, as he earned the most playing time of his career and finished with 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks, tops among FSU's interior linemen.

Where he's at: McAllister missed all of spring practice with a shoulder injury, but that hasn't changed his status atop the team's depth chart at defensive tackle. The departure of senior tackles Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins, along with three veterans at defensive end, means there's a significant void in experience on FSU's defensive line, which makes McAllister a valuable commodity. Of course, tackle is also one of the deepest positions on the Seminoles' roster, meaning McAllister will be pushed for playing time from rising stars like Eddie Goldman and a returning veteran in Jacobbi McDaniel.

What's to come: As good as Florida State's defense was in 2012, few players took as big a leap forward as McAllister. His role grew as the season progressed, and he responded with a sterling overall performance. The only question now is whether he can maintain that trajectory as his role grows again, but Florida State has the luxury of depth at the position. That means no one member of the group should have to shoulder too much of the burden. McAllister's best asset may be his maturity, which will be crucial on a defensive line that will see a lot of action by freshmen and sophomores. Still, if McAllister can improve on last season's numbers -- stats that were only exceeded by highly-touted Timmy Jernigan among FSU's interior linemen -- he could find a lot more attention from NFL scouts by season's end.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- By any significant measure, the difference between Timmy Jernigan's role as a reserve the past two seasons and the starting job that awaits him in 2013 shouldn't be a major overhaul.

Jernigan was already on the field for a majority of snaps throughout most games, and his impact on the defensive line already included more tackles than any other FSU interior lineman in 2012. Still, there's something about hearing his name announced before each game and knowing he's officially secured the job of starter on a unit that's been among the best in the nation in recent years that Jernigan relishes.

"I've been waiting a long time," he said. "So I'm really excited about it."

Jernigan's enthusiasm isn't entirely inflated either. Sure, his playing time isn't likely to shift dramatically, and he's already proven he's capable of handling a sizable role on the defense. But what's truly different for the junior defensive tackle in 2013 isn't about reps or tackles but about his place in the hierarchy of the defense.

For the past two seasons, FSU's line has been the foundation of its defensive scheme. The unit has helped the Seminoles finish in the top three in the nation stopping the run in both 2011 and 2012, and last month, it sent five players on to the NFL, including all of last year's starters.

That, of course, means a massive overhaul for the unit, but thanks to Jernigan's presence -- along with potential breakout stars like Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman -- the expectations haven't dipped much. And that's a burden Jernigan hadn't been asked to carry before.

"I feel like it's my D-line now," Jernigan said. "I'm trying to be a leader."

[+] EnlargeTimmy Jernigan
AP Photo/Phil SearsAs a sophomore, Timmy Jernigan led all FSU defensive tackles in tackles last season.
When it comes to production, there's little reason to question Jernigan's ability to handle a bigger share of the spotlight. As a reserve the past two seasons, he's racked up 76 tackles, including 14 for a loss, and four sacks. Despite playing behind Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins -- both in NFL camps now -- Jernigan established himself as a star, and he's already currying attention as a potential first-round selection in next year's draft.

That attention is nice, he admits, but his bigger role in 2013 isn't about burnishing his resume for the next level.

"It inspired me to work even harder toward what I want," Jernigan said. "I'm not really worried about the NFL or anything like that because there's so much more I feel like I have to do here in Tallahassee. I'll worry about that when it's time."

What Jernigan needs to do this season isn't simply a repeat of past performance either.

Jimbo Fisher has been quick to shrug off concerns about the massive changes on the defensive line, noting that Jernigan and Demonte McAllister were already FSU's most productive tackles, but it's hard to ignore the notion that life gets more difficult without established talent surrounding them.

That means Jernigan has to pick up the slack as the centerpiece of the line and help bring along the younger talent alongside him.

Before an ankle injury sidelined him midway through the spring, Jernigan was taking reps alongside a bevy of potential partners on the line, from veterans like Jacobbi McDaniel and Giorgio Newberry to youngsters like Edwards and Goldman. The rotations, he expects, will continue well into the fall, but he admits it's hard not to be impressed by the potential of some of the young guns.

"I like what they're doing because they're asking questions, they're very humble," Jernigan said. "They understand we have all the talent in the world up front but the biggest thing is we've got to get everything going. Those guys are going to be just fine. It's just a matter of understanding what you're doing. Not understanding slows you down, but those guys are going to be just fine."

Of course, Jernigan is dealing with a bit of a learning curve, too. While his position group was spared in the overhaul of FSU's coaching staff this offseason, the new, aggressive schemes being implemented by defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt have added some wrinkles to what had been a relatively straightforward approach.

But like the move from reserve to starter, Jernigan sees the changes as an opportunity to impress.

"That's what I like," Jernigan said. "I like to get off the ball and attack blockers rather than absorb them. It's going to be a positive. I'm very excited about it."

Looking back at the 2013 draft class 

April, 29, 2013
Florida State registered a nation-leading 11 NFL draft picks over the extended weekend. NoleNation takes a look back at how they were scouted coming out of high school.

QB EJ Manuel
Selected by: Buffalo Bills, No. 16 overall
You look at the Florida State roster, and you look at the Florida State coaching staff, and the automatic assumption is this could be a rebuilding year for the Noles.

Jimbo Fisher does not see it that way. Not one bit. As spring practice opens today, Fisher needs to find new starters at some key positions, including quarterback, defensive end and linebacker. But he sees players who have had valuable playing experience ready to step right into starting roles, not wet-behind-the-ears freshmen in over their heads.

To him, there is no dropoff between the talent on his 2012 ACC winning team, and the talent on his 2013 team.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsThere will be a competition for FSU"s starting quarterback, but Clint Trickett has more game experience than the others.
"I ask people this: Lawrence Dawsey is arguably one of the best receivers in Florida State history," Fisher said during his pre-spring news conference earlier this week. "How many years did he start here? He started one year. How about Odell (Haggins)? He was a linebacker that got moved. Nowadays he’d be, 'Oh, he wasn’t what we said he was, you moved him.'

"Just because you don’t start a game doesn’t mean you’re not starter material. Do you understand what I’m saying? We’re establishing ourselves as a program again and guys still played as much ball as anybody else."

Fisher gave a host of examples. Every starter on the defensive line is gone -- ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, and tackles Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. But the players expected to move into the starting lineup played extensively last season. Mario Edwards Jr. and Giorgio Newberry will start with the first-team at end; Timmy Jernigan, perhaps the best interior lineman last year, moves up to start at one tackle spot.

Vince Williams and Nick Moody are gone at linebacker. Into the middle steps Telvin Smith, who has extensive game experience and should have no problems moving up.

Then of course, there is the quarterback spot, a position that folks across the ACC will be paying attention to as the competition begins. Clint Trickett starts out No. 1 on the depth chart, and here again is where playing time has helped him. Trickett has played in 16 games with two starts behind EJ Manuel the last two seasons.

The other three players competing for the starting job -- Jacob Coker, Sean Maguire and Jameis Winston -- have either limited or no game experience. That does not take them out of the mix by any stretch. Fisher already said the position is wide open, and he has no timetable to make a decision. But having game experience is certainly not going to hurt him as the Noles try to find their leader on offense.

"From a talent standpoint, I think we’re still a very talented football team and we have guys with a lot of experience still playing," Fisher said. "We look at returning starters sometimes, it’s a very misleading factor about depth of a team and how much guys have played behind them. I’m excited about these young guys. Even though they’re new starters, they've still played like starters."

As for the coaching changes, six new assistants will be on the field this spring, including new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. But Fisher downplayed those changes as well, saying nothing would change about philosophy or with the schemes the Noles run.

"We're going to do things the Florida State way, the way we've been doing," Fisher said.

That means plugging new guys into the starting lineup and believing there will be few hiccups along the way.
From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for 2013.

With that in mind, we're going to go position-by-position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.

Previously: Cornerback, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Next up: Defensive Tackles

[+] EnlargeMike Gillislee, Demonte McAllister, Christian Jones, Timmy Jernigan
Kevin Liles/US PresswireDemonte McAllister (97) took a step forward in his junior season.
2012 recap: Florida State's defensive line was as hyped as any unit in the country entering the season, and the veteran group did little to disappoint, despite a heavy dose of injuries. While the ends took top billing, it was once again the run stuffers up the middle that set the tone. Seniors Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud turned in their usual quiet-but-productive seasons, while Timmy Jernigan proved his freshman campaign was no fluke, blossoming into one of the most dominant interior linemen in the country as a sophomore. Demonte McAllister took a step forward as a junior and Eddie Goldman, the highly touted freshman, played sparingly but effectively. Overall, the tackles helped Florida State finish third in rush defense nationally, the second straight year it finished in the top 3.

Departures: Stalwarts Dawkins and McCloud were never the most hyped guys on FSU's defense, but for the past two seasons, they were often the foundation of a unit that dominated opposing run games. Both departed at year's end as seniors, part of a massive overhaul on the D line that will see the Seminoles replace all four of their starters. Still, there's a wealth of talent -- as many as six potential impact players -- at the tackle position that should make for a relatively smooth transition.

Arrivals: Four-star commitment DeMarcus Walker (Sandalwood/Jacksonville, Fla.) is among FSU's most prized recruits from the class of 2013, while the Seminoles will also add a top recruit from the 2009 class when senior Jacobbi McDaniel finally returns from an ankle injury that kept him out for much of the past two seasons. Redshirt freshman Justin Shanks (6-2, 340) should be an intriguing addition to the lineup as well.

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Noles snapshot 2013: DeMarcus Walker 

January, 22, 2013
To gear up for signing day, and beyond, NoleNation takes a look at each Seminoles commitment in the Class of 2013.

Vitals: Defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker, Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood, 6-foot-4, 280 pounds

Committed: Jan. 8, 2013

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Five assistant coaches and three juniors all left Florida State for greener pastures in the past six weeks, and a bevy of senior talent from the 2012 ACC champions departs as well. While the spring always brings hope for players to work their way up the depth chart, this year will offer a wealth of opportunities for some younger Seminoles to impress new coaches and win some vacant jobs.

That's good news for a handful of once promising talent on the Florida State roster, but it's hardly a guarantee that much will change. While last week, we looked at five rising stars for FSU, these six players have a much steeper hill to climb after seeing their stars dim during 2012.

Mario Pender (RFr./RB)

Background: Highly regarded on the recruiting trail, Pender's freshman season at Florida State never got started. A groin injury over the summer lingered into fall camp, and it was quickly determined he'd need season-ending surgery to repair it. He never ran a rep during practice but is expected to be ready to go this spring.

Possible 2013 status: On the one hand, Pender can still step in to a relatively uncertain running back situation and find a niche. James Wilder Jr.'s continued legal problems are a cause for concern, and Devonta Freeman was inconsistent down the stretch after Chris Thompson's injury. On the other hand, Florida State could be adding more talent with this year's recruiting class, and thanks to the injury, Pender won't be dramatically ahead of them in terms of preparation.

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FSU's emerging stars for 2013

January, 10, 2013
In the months before spring football begins, there will no doubt be plenty of talk about all the talent Florida State lost -- from senior leaders like Lonnie Pryor and Everett Dawkins to talented juniors like Xavier Rhodes and Bjoern Werner.

[+] EnlargeDemonte McAllister
Kim Klement/US PresswireFSU's Demonte McAllister is emerging into a force.
Those discussions will inevitably be countered by enthusiasm about the future, too. Freshman Ronald Darby had an exceptional year in 2012 and is poised to blossom into a star. Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. got a crack at the starting role in the final two games of the season and delivered strong performances. Karlos Williams' star has been on the rise for two full seasons now, and he appears ready for a breakthrough. And, of course, the questions of who will take over at quarterback will be ubiquitous.

But as the sun sets on 2012 and the preparations for 2013 begin, here are five more players who didn't exactly earn raves last season but could prove to be significant contributors for Florida State in the season to come.

Kelvin Benjamin (So./WR)

Background: It's somewhat odd that, after more than a year of continuous hype, Benjamin appears to be flying a bit below the radar now. Chalk it up to a rather disappointing finish to 2012. After racking up 25 touches for 476 yards and four TDs in his first nine games, Benjamin mustered just seven catches for 52 yards and no scores over the final five.

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FSU 10: End of Season edition 

January, 3, 2013
The 2012 season has drawn to a close, and the final judgement of this Florida State team and so many of its core players will be based largely on the expectations thrust upon them way back in August.

On the one hand, Florida State won 12 games, an ACC title, a BCS bowl. On the other hand, it was never really close to competing for a national title -- as so many had predicted -- and the losses to NC State and Florida were both aggravating for various reasons.

[+] EnlargeBjoern Werner
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsBjoern Werner produced in every way possible, on the stat sheet and off, to guide the Seminoles.
The same is true for a number of the star performers. To put together our final FSU power rankings for the year, weighing expectations against performance is a must. So, with that in mind, here's how our final rankings for the season shook out. (Previous rankings in parentheses.)

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Discover Orange Bowl preview 

December, 28, 2012

Florida State (11-2, 7-1) vs. Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0)

Where: Miami

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The Big Board: Rebuilding the D 

December, 17, 2012
Florida State hasn't made it official, and Jimbo Fisher has remained coy on the subject, but it certainly appears the Seminoles will have a new defensive coordinator soon, with all signs pointing to Fisher hiring Alabama defensive backs coach Jeremy Pruitt.

The hire would come as a minor surprise, given Pruitt's lack of experience as a coordinator and the 3-4 base defense run at Alabama, but he's a rising star in the profession and a strong recruiter. That could loom large given the amount of turnover Florida State figures to endure on defense this offseason.

In addition to the coaching staff, which must replace Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot -- as well as linebackers coach Greg Hudson, who could move to an administrative position -- FSU will be looking to revamp the bulk of its defense.

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Werner rising on draft boards

December, 13, 2012
More than four months remain before the 2013 NFL draft, and everything from the senior bowl to the combine to individual workouts can shake things up significantly between today and the moment when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the stage to announce his first name in April.

Much of that mystery trickles down to Florida State, which at various times since this summer has had as many as five different players discussed as possible, probable or even definitive first-rounders.

Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesBjoern Werner is likely to be picked high in the first round if he declares for this April's NFL draft.
As it stands at the moment, however, the Seminoles might have just one: Bjoern Werner.

Never mind that Werner has yet to announce an official decision on whether he'll forego his senior season at Florida State. That seems a near inevitability after the loss of both his defensive coordinator and position coach, along with his firsthand witnessing of cautionary tales of fellow defensive ends destined for first-round status who later suffered season-ending injuries.

In his first mock draft, ESPN's Todd McShay doesn't simply list Werner as a first rounder, but goes so far as to project the FSU junior as the third overall pick.
[The Raiders] would face a tough call between Werner and LSU DE Barkevious Mingo, who has a better natural skill set as a pass-rusher and would give the Raiders a lighter, faster edge rusher. However, Werner is the more consistent player and has a better all-around game.

If McShay's projection proved accurate, it would be the earliest a Florida State player has been selected in the NFL draft since Arizona took Andre Wadsworth with the third overall pick in 1998. Even if Werner slides a few spots -- Mel Kiper Jr. has him eighth on his big board -- he'd still be just the third first-round pick out of FSU in the past five years, and the highest overall pick since Peter Warrick (fourth) and Corey Simon (sixth) were selected in 2000.

But what of the rest of the Seminoles' 2013 draft class? Here's a quick look at where the other potential pros might stand.

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Top 5 moments: Late collapse

December, 11, 2012
With 2012 winding to a close, we're counting down the five biggest moments of the past season for Florida State -- those plays that defined 2012. Coming in at No. 4: Bryan Underwood's game-winning touchdown that ended FSU's hopes for a national title.

Perfection ended for Florida State in the most painful way possible.

In early October, the Seminoles left for Raleigh, N.C., with a sterling 5-0 record, but their only road test had been a short trip to USF, where nearly half the stadium was packed with FSU fans. The trip to NC State would be different -- far more hostile. But few players were concerned.

[+] EnlargeBryan Underwood
Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images Bryan Underwood's game-winning TD reception with 16 seconds left was the last of countless tiny cuts FSU suffered against the Wolfpack.
Just a year earlier, the Wolfpack were routed by Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium, and just a week earlier, NC State's secondary was torched by Miami to the tune of 566 passing yards. With EJ Manuel under center and the Seminoles' explosive offense ready for a road show, even a somewhat sluggish first half, which left FSU with a 16-0 lead, did little to dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

But if the first 22 quarters of football in 2012 had been an emphatic confirmation of all the preseason expectations, the next two would erode months of good will, reignite a decade's worth of frustrations and, most importantly, add nothing to that 16-point lead that slowly disappeared amid an endless array of dinks and dunks by the NC State offense that ultimately led to Bryan Underwood's 2-yard touchdown reception that sent the Seminoles to their first loss of the season.

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These 2016 QBs Can Start From Day One
National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down the 2016 quarterbacks most likely to be both able and needed to start as true freshmen.