26 October 2011
One of the major storylines leading up to the 2011 season was the improvement of depth and talent on the interior defensive line for Florida State. What may not have been anticipated is the high level of play that the Seminoles would get out of two of the younger members of their defensive line. RS Freshman Cameron Erving and true freshman Tim Jernigan are establishing themselves as staples on the interior and they're doing so with very talented and effective upperclassmen playing in their segment. It is truly a remarkable and invaluable asset to have on your side when two underclassmen play at or above the level of your starters whenever they are given the opportunity to see the field. Let's furhter discuss the continued development of both these budding superstars and what it means for the future of the Florida State defense.
First, we take a look at Cameron Erving, the redshirt freshman out of Moultrie, Georgia who was widely considered a "sleeper" coming out of high school. Initially, many suspected that he would not have a significant impact until his third or possibly fourth year on campus. Bucking those projections, Cam Erving has become one of Florida State's most disruptive defensive tackles, in a unit that is performing at a very high level overall. Erving is 6'5, 310 lbs of explosiveness and violence in the trenches. His long arms and surprising athleticism, along with an increased understanding of the game and how to use his huge frame for leverage is leading to more playing time and productivity. As he continues to gain experience and strength, things will only get better for Erving. Through seven games in 2011, Cam Erving has accounted for two tackles for loss and one sack for a 10 yard loss to go along with a QB hurry. Where his value has been most appreciated is maintaining gap integrity on running downs and collapsing the pocket on passing downs. It's that technical understanding and ability that truly has an impact on the way the entire defense plays. He is limiting the amount of space a back has to work with in the running game as well as hindering the ability of a quarterback to step up into the pocket and make a balanced throw.
Timmy Jernigan is a bit of a different animal from Erving, first and foremost when you regard the type of prospect he was coming out of high school. Heavily recruited by every major school in the southeast as well as several nationally and considered by some as the #1 or #2 defensive tackle in the entire country, Jernigan was expected to come in and be an impact player. What is most remarkable about him is how soon he proved to be that player. At defensive tackle, it is simply uncommon for an 18 year old true freshman to make this type of impact and be this effective from day one. At 6'3, 300 lbs. he is built in a very solid and compact manner that does not include hardly any bad weight that's visible. Jernigan is physically advanced for his age and technically and athletically gifted in a way that no other defensive tackle on the Seminole roster can claim. The way he works with his hands, even as a freshman, can be classified as elite. His early impact is a welcome addition to the Florida State defense, who lacked depth down the stretch of the 2010 season. Jernigan represents a fourth and fifth option in a defensive tackle that will meet or exceed the level of play of the players in front of him and that type of benefit is extremely rare. Thus far, Jernigan has three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks to go along with three QB hurries on the year. The unfortunate injury to junior Jacobbi McDaniel will likely lead to an increased workload for the true freshman phenom throughout the duration of the season.
One dynamic that Cam Erving and Timmy Jernigan represent perfectly is just how inexact the science of recruiting is and how some of the most anticipated studs on the national scene turn out to be exactly as good as advertised and some of the "sleepers" do in fact turn out to be shockingly good. For Jernigan to come in and essentially surpass several players within his first couple weeks of being on campus and Erving to unseat older, more highly recruited and experienced players to be one of the top two players at his position is a testament to the Florida State coaching staff and their ability to recognize quality talent, even when the rest of the country has not quite caught on. The beauty of these two monsters is that both are likely to be staples in the middle of an extremely talented front four for at least the next couple of years following 2011. I would advise FSU fans to take a good look at #'s 8 and 98 the next time they take the field. Watch them work, as they are sure to embarrass the man in front of them repeatedly throughout the afternoon. Appreciate what you are seeing because it has been a long time since the Seminoles have bred this type dominant attack up front. Fortunately, if the Seminoles stay healthy and continue to recruit the position at this level, the play here may not drop off for a while either.
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