TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State nose guard Timmy Jernigan isn't always double-teamed. Opponents, on occasion, take the risk leaving the 6-foot-2, 296-pounder matched up against a single interior lineman.
Those instances rarely end well for the offense and only serve as an insult.
"I feel like it's almost disrespectful if you don't double team me every play," Jernigan said. "I feel like that's saying something if you feel like you don't have to double team me."
The struggling Florida Gators (4-7) get to make that decision this week when the second-ranked Seminoles (11-0) head to The Swamp. Florida State has dealt with the ongoing sexual assault investigation of quarterback Jameis Winston for three weeks now and hasn't shown any signs of being distracted.
The defense has held opponents to a combined 20 points in the last three games with Jernigan dominating the line of scrimmage. The Seminoles are now two wins away from a likely berth in the BCS championship game.
Jernigan is the focal point of the Seminoles' hybrid 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Lamarcus Joyner and the secondary may lead the nation in interceptions, but Jernigan demands extra blockers and plugs gaps to allow linebackers and blitzers to run free.
"You have to dictate, if they single-block you, you're going to really disrupt things," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "When you have those guys on defense, especially that can control that middle, it makes everyone around you so much better. He makes two other guys great because he takes the double-team and the stuff you have to do to block him and account for him."
The Gators thought the Jernigan could be special, too. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin recruited the highly-ranked defensive tackle out of Lake City, Fla., less than an hour away from Gainesville. Jernigan, his mom and friends were all Gators fans.
Florida would love to run the ball on the Seminoles now that it's down to its third quarterback in Skyler Mornhinweg. That starts with moving Jernigan as Florida State allows just 3.1 yards per rush.
"He pops on the tape," Durkin said. "I've been able to see him here and there and watch him. He's a talented guy, like we thought he was coming out of high school. He's got some great ability. He's got the whole package.
"He's what you're looking for in a defensive tackle. I know he's a disruptive guy and I'm sure he has a decision to make at the end of the year, too."
Florida coach Will Muschamp said: "Great initial quickness, stride, can hold the point, can give pass rush, a guy that can be very disruptive inside. You've got to be able to account for him."
The soft-spoken Jernigan is coming off the best game of his career with a team-high six tackles, including 4 ½ for loss and a career 2 ½ sacks against Idaho. The highlight came when he made a tackle in the backfield by driving an offensive lineman into the ball-carrier.
Jernigan now has 43 tackles, including 10 ½ for loss and 4 ½ sacks on a starting unit that rarely plays deep into games due to lopsided scores.
As imposing as Jernigan is on the field, he's just about the opposite off of it. Media members have to lean in just to hear him on a weekly basis.
"We try to piss Tim off sometimes," Florida State running back Karlos Williams said. "... I say 'Tim they talking 'bout your momma, bro. They talking 'bout you, Tim. ... Tim's just like, doesn't even blink. And the first play, first down, 'Tackle for loss No. 8 Tim Jernigan, second-and-17.' 'Yes, Tim's pissed."
"We definitely try to egg him on a little bit. Try to get him mad. Because when that beast is released, it's a show man. It's just a show. I just love watching him play the game."
Jernigan admitted the football field brings out a different side of his personality.
"I'm a totally different person on the field, high energy," Jernigan said. "That's just the way I play the game, I feel like that's the way the game has to be played."
"It just happens. When you walk through that tunnel, if you're not ready to play, something is wrong."