January 4, 2011

4-star Jernigan has 4 finalists, 3 visits

SAN ANTONIO --- For several years, Timmy Jernigan has been longing for the opportunity to compete in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

A four-star defensive tackle from Lake City, Fla., Jernigan will realize that childhood dream on Saturday here at the AlamoDome in San Antonio. Shortly thereafter, he'll begin finalizing another goal --- picking his college choice.

"It's been a good experience. I'm having a lot of fun out here. I feel like I did a great job out there (Monday); today I didn't really do any contact stuff," Jernigan said from Gustafson Stadium, where the East squad is practicing this week. "They said I had a displaced rib, and they're going to put it back in place when we get back to the hotel. But it's been a blast man. I'm just enjoying it.

"I've really been looking forward to this since I was in middle school. I can remember growing up watching this game, and I was like, 'One day I just want to have a chance to go against the best guys in the country.' And you know, I feel like the only way to do it is to get to this game. So I've really been looking forward to it. I didn't want to necessarily over-prepare for it or wear myself down, but I did what I usually do. I'm a hard worker by nature, so I've been running and doing a lot of working out at the school."

Despite having some scary travel moments when his plane from Jacksonville, Fla., was quickly rerouted back to the airport after take-off, Jernigan has made a quick impression since he arrived.

"This guy is so explosive as a defensive lineman, so strong. I think his future is out of sight wherever he goes. He's what I call a true interior defensive lineman, a three technique. Disruptive, going to be in the backfield and penetrate," East coach Lance Pogue said. "Just so physically strong, run-stopper type of guy. Whoever gets him, boy, it's a premium. Everybody has to have tough, defensive linemen. He fits the mold."

The talented 6-foot-2, 290-pounder has narrowed his list of college candidates to four, and he's got three visits schedule before signing day on Feb. 2. Does Tennessee make the cut?

"LSU, Alabama, Florida. I'm still talking to Tennessee. They're probably the only school outside of the three that I've been talking to, Tennessee," said Jernigan, who pointed to the recruiting efforts of both tight ends/special teams coach Eric Russell and defensive line coach Chuck Smith as why the Vols remain a factor. "I know I'm going to get to Tennessee and come check out the campus and everything before I make my decision.

"I think it's next weekend. Yeah, I think I'm going to make it."

While Jernigan is confident he'll receive top-notch coaching at any of his finalists, he does point to the ever-intense Smith, who's recruited him consistently, as helping open his eyes to Tennessee.

"I like coach Smith. He's a fiery dude. I hear from coach Smith all the time," said Jernigan. "I probably talk to him more than any other coach I talk to. Coach Smith and coach Odell Haggins from Florida State. I talk to those two guys more than anybody.

"I want to be coached by a great defensive line coach, which I think either way I'm going to bump into a great defensive line coach. If he wasn't a good one, then he wouldn't be at the schools I'm considering. I want to be around good people, more than anything, and good people where I feel like I'm at home. Those are the two things that are really important to me."

Though Jernigan is looking for good coaching to continue his development at the next level, Pogue thinks he could battle to get into the two-deep rotations of plenty of colleges right now.

"He's well put together. He's got great ... you can just tell that he's got great lower-body and great upper-body strength, which is sometimes rare for a high school kid," Pogue said. "I think he can compete for playing time and possibly start early on because he's already physically there. He doesn't need an extra year, redshirt, time in the weight room, anything. His strength will immediately compare to the college guys wherever he goes."

A four-star defensive tackle who was an All-State performer at Lakeland's Columbia High School, Jernigan has said he doesn't expect to make a decision until signing day.

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