ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #8, Timmy Jernigan

Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is #8 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is #8 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 8, Timmy Jernigan, DT/Florida State (Last Season: NR)

Due to the tremendous amount of depth on Florida State’s defense, Timmy Jernigan wasn’t even a starter last season. And yet, even playing inconsistent minutes, the now-junior still managed an impressive 45 tackles — including eight TFLs and 1.5 sacks. Where Jernigan’s strength lies is a mix between his lower center of gravity (6’2″ isn’t short by any means, but compared to many of FSU’s other linemen, it’s shorter) and his massive 294-pound weight. Even in his limited playing time last year, he managed to literally throw that weight around, overpowering his blockers while giving the team a fresh set of legs off the bench. Now as the team’s starting defensive tackle, can he consistently produce at the same level, though?

That may actually depend on some of his cohorts. With all of last year’s starters gone, that protection automatically vanishes, plus there’s the concern for what happens without elite pass-rushers like Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, both now in the NFL. Of course, Mario Edwards is no slouch, and for what it’s worth, I see him as a potential breakout star this season. But now that he’s the biggest name of all on the line, that turns Jernigan into the focus of every gameplan. It’s an honor, obviously, and the type of hype most players dream of. However, it’s also a burden, and if there’s anything that could possibly slow Jernigan down this year, that’s likely it.

Continue reading

ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Florida State Seminoles

Can Florida State Repeat as ACC Champs, Or Will They Take a Small Step Back?

Can Florida State Repeat as ACC Champs, Or Will They Take a Small Step Back Under Jameis Winston?

Team: Florida State Seminoles

2012 W-L: 12-2 (7-1)

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (31-10; fourth season)

Returning Starters: 10 (6 Offense, 4 Defense)

Is Florida State “back?” Depends on your definition. After a bit of a tailspin (by their standards) toward the end of the Bobby Bowden era, the Seminoles have since rebounded pretty well under Jimbo Fisher, winning a division title in two of the last three years and a conference championship last season (their first since 2005). SB Nation’s Bill Connelly has a lot more to say about the progression since Fisher’s hire, and rather than simply repeat him, it’s probably much easier to just head there for the full scope of improvement. Based on recruiting rankings and the glut of talent on this roster, I’d say Florida State is “back” in the sense they’re a top-15 program. But we’ll see if they can return to the national title conversation.

For the large majority of the 2012 season, the ‘Noles offense was an absolute force. And while they lose plenty — including quarterback EJ Manuel, halfback Chris Thompson and wide receiver Rodney Smith — there’s still plenty left over for another superb effort. Jameis Winston appears to be the real deal as the new starting passer, and he’ll have a very experienced, big offensive line in front of him to help with the transition. Bryan Stork and Tre’ Jackson in particular are two of the best linemen in the conference, and will play key roles in protecting Winston, who also has plenty of mobility. There’s much talk about the impact of tackle Menelik Watson’s departure to the pros (as there should be), but so long as everyone stays healthy, I don’t see a ton of drop-off. With the little depth they have across the offensive line, however, it’s something to watch out for.

At the skill positions, last year’s top target Rashad Greene is back, and prepared to take on a larger role in the passing game — but there’s a long, talented depth chart of pass-catchers behind him as well. No matter Winston’s ability to throw though, it’s likely Fisher will be calling for a run-heavy offensive attack, which he also has ample personnel for. Neither Devonta Freeman or James Wilder Jr. started the 2012 season atop the depth chart, but both managed over 100 carries apiece for a combined 1,295 yards and 19 scores. Last year, injuries limited every FSU running backs’ carries. In 2013, so long as they can stay healthy, there’s a good chance both of the ‘Noles featured rushers top the 1,000-yard mark.

Continue reading

ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Defensive Line

Senior James Gayle Leads the Hokies' Top-Ranked Defensive Line in 2013

Senior Defensive End James Gayle Leads the Hokies’ Top-Ranked Defensive Line in 2013

A little over 40 days from the start of the 2013 college football season! And it is indeed that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off until August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the defensive lines (check out previous rankings of ACC quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers/tight ends, offensive line). For several teams that have been churning out elite defenders for years, this is simply another group of stud performers. For others, this is a sign of some serous rebuilding. The ACC has plenty of stars on the defensive line this season, but there’s also plenty of question marks too. We’ll get to both. though as you’d expect, the questions increase as we head further down the list.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual end or tackle is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of defensive linemen is (though it certainly does help). Also note: Louisville (as has been the case since November) is included here, despite playing in the American this season. Additionally, since these are completely subjective rankings, the difference between one number to the following one is almost entirely negligible. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Defensive Line

1. Virginia Tech Hokies: Looking for experience? The Hokies have plenty, as they bring back all four starters from last season and are chock full of juniors and seniors on the depth chart. As a whole, Tech’s defense recorded 35 sacks last season (16th in the FBS), most of which is attributable to this group. With another year of playing together under their belt, the unit — led by senior defensive end James Gayle — could be in for a monster season as the motor that drives Virginia Tech’s success.

2. Clemson Tigers: You might be surprised to see Clemson here, but that only means you haven’t been paying attention. The young Tigers that watched the 2012 Orange Bowl debacle are all grown up and have become a pretty frightening foursome (34 sacks last year; 20th in the FBS). Yes, they did lose Malliciah Goodman and his seven sacks, but considering who’s replacing him at defensive end (Vic Beasley), there’s very little to worry about in terms of a drop-off in production. Expect Brent Venables’ men to be even more aggressive getting after the passer this season.

3. Florida State Seminoles: FSU replaces every starter from last year’s potent pass-rush, but all is not lost in Tallahassee. Last year’s deep group received plenty of reps as the line was ravaged by injury, so this still ends up being a pretty veteran defensive line. Tackles Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister will anchor them from the tackle positions, but they’ll also rely on Mario Edwards to take a leap as a sophomore and become the threat he was projected to be as a recruit.

Continue reading

ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Florida State Seminoles

Former Alabama Secondary Coach Jeremy Pruitt Inherits Just Four Returning Starters for FSU's Defense

Former Alabama Secondary Coach Jeremy Pruitt Inherits Just Four Returning Starters for FSU’s Defense

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Florida State Seminoles

Spring Practice Start Date: March 20

Spring Game Date: April 13

Florida State was effectively “back” in 2012, but with the spoils of success comes a lot of change heading into 2013. Seven assistants left for greener pastures during the offseason, and the team only returns 10 starters. So this spring is just as much about getting to know all the new faces around the program, as it is establishing an early depth chart for next season.

Offensively, the top priority is replacing departed senior QB EJ Manuel, who’s held down the position for three-plus seasons. While there’s certainly some expected drop-off without Manuel, the team has a big decision to make: established backup who will likely jump right in to run the offense, or promote a less established player who may need more time to take the reins. In one corner, you have the former, Clint Trickett, who will be a junior next season. In the other, the ‘Noles can choose from rising sophomore Jacob Coker and star 2012 QB recruit Jameis Winston. All have their respective merits, but without a settled option at offensive coordinator right now, it’ll be hard to truly get a read on what the assistants are looking for. One would assume head coach Jimbo Fisher will be aiming not to rock the boat, adapting his coaching hire and system to the best quarterback available on the roster. But an all-out quarterback competition looks to be in the offing, and it may not even be settled until well into August.

Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Florida State Seminoles

The Road to a National Championship Starts in Spring for E.J. Manuel and Florida State

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Florida State Seminoles

At 9-4, the Seminoles’ 2011 season was mostly considered a failure. That just goes to show how high expectations really were down in Tallahassee last year. Starting their season as a top-10 team, their precipitous drop and subsequent rally mostly cancel each other out to be lukewarm. Hope and title dreams return in 2012 though, especially after hauling in what many have called the top recruiting class in the country. Most importantly, they’ll bring back a healthy E.J. Manuel, who could very well stick around the Heisman race for an extended period of time should FSU climb the polls. Any extended stay in the country’s top tier will be directly attributable to the rising-senior quarterback, and undisputed team leader.  But not without a running game. As much as Manuel struggled for consistency last season, the running game fared far worse. On very limited carries, Devonta Freeman had just two 100-yard games, and the team failed to top 1,500 yards on the ground for their entire season. Freeman will likely get a chance to at increased carries this spring, but a rejuvenated Chris Thompson and incoming freshman Mario Pender will be lurking. Continue reading

National Signing Day 2012: ACC Team Recruiting Rankings

With Players Like Mario Edwards, Florida State's Recruiting Class May Be the ACC's (and the Nation's) Best

We previously covered the top-ranked players successfully recruited by ACC schools on National Signing Day. Now, we take a closer look at each team’s haul and how it stacks up against their conferencemates, while also highlighting each school’s top recruit. Once again, we’ll be using ESPN’s rankings for consistency’s sake. Please don’t take that as us putting too much stock in these (or any) numbers, however.

1. Florida State Seminoles (19 commitments; 10 in ESPNU Top 150): Florida State cleaned house, going blow-for-blow with the SEC‘s top programs and ultimately landing either the nation’s best, or second-best recruiting class. With a focus on team speed, the Seminoles bolstered themselves on both sides of the ball with a frighteningly good batch of players — some of whom will jump right in to contribute. Top Recruit: Mario Edwards, DE (No. 1 overall, Grade: 90)

2. Miami Hurricanes (33 commitments, 6 in ESPNU top 150): It would appear that off-the-field issues matter very little to this incoming class, which is great for the Hurricanes. In spite of the threat of a multiple-year postseason ban, the ‘Canes lured in an enormous class, mostly based on tradition and their locale. If nothing else, it’s a PR victory for coach Al Golden and his staff. Top Recruit: Tracy Howard, CB (No. 18 overall, Grade: 83)

3. Clemson Tigers (20 commitments, 6 in ESPNU top 150): Either Clemson’s recruits didn’t tune in to their Orange Bowl thrashing last month, or they did, and see it as an opportunity. While offense was surely a big part of this class, the Tigers grabbed plenty of help on defense, too, with the hopes of improving an effort that appeared subpar more often than not (see 70-33 bowl beatdown). Top Recruit: Travis Blanks, S (No. 15 overall, Grade: 84)

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (30 commitments, 1 in ESPNU top 150): As always, Frank Beamer stressed going after athletes who could play football first of all, and then worry about plugging them into his system (especially on the defensive side of the ball). While lacking a huge star, it’s a deep class of quality guys (there’s an enormous concentration of players rated at a grade of 78) that will play where they’re needed. Top Recruit: Joel Caleb, ATH (No. 83, Grade: 81)

5. Virginia Cavaliers (26 commitments, 1 in ESPNU top 150): The Cavaliers 2012 class is all over the map — covering all positions, and most of the eastern seaboard. After a surprisingly successful season, it appears word spread quickly, and the result was a shockingly good group coming in, keeping the program on its apparent upswing. Top Recruit: Eli Harold, DE (No. 124 overall, Grade: 80) Continue reading

National Signing Day 2012: Top 15 ACC Recruits

Top-Ranked Recruit, DE Mario Edwards, Chose Florida State on National Signing Day

National Signing Day was an eventful one for the ACC, which took home several of the country’s top recruits, and placed three teams in the top 10 of ESPN’s class rankings. We’ll start our recap of the day by first looking at the top players to commit to ACC schools. For consistency’s sake, we’re going off ESPN/Scout’s rankings.

Top 15 ACC Recruits

1. Mario Edwards, DE/Florida State (No. 1 overall, Grade: 90)

2. Eddie Goldman, DT/Florida State (No. 10 overall, Grade: 85)

3. Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State (No. 14 overall, Grade: 84)

4. Travis Blanks, S/Clemson (No. 15 overall, Grade: 84)

5. Tracy Howard, CB/Miami (FL) (No. 18 overall, Grade: 83)

6. Rushell Shell, RB/Pittsburgh (No. 26 overall, Grade: 83)

7. Randy Johnson, ATH/Miami (FL) (No. 35 overall, Grade: 82)

8. Ronald Darby, CB/Florida State (No. 38 overall, Grade: 82)

9. Angelo Jean-Louis, WR/Miami (FL) (No. 41 overall, Grade: 82)

10. Mario Pender, RB/Florida State (No. 72 overall, Grade; 81) Continue reading