LAKE CITY, FLA. (AP) - Columbia High coach Craig Howard knows a thing or two about handling top prospects, especially ones named Tim.
Five years after mentoring Tim Tebow at Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach, Howard has another of the nation’s top recruits. Tim Jernigan, a 6-foot-2, 275-pounder considered one of the best defensive tackles in the country, is on The Associated Press South Region 25 list of top recruits.
He is considering Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Michigan.
It’s clear why so many top programs would be interested in him, too. Jernigan recorded 131 tackles, 12 sacks, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles last year for the Tigers. Two of his fumble recoveries went for touchdowns.
“I sure wouldn’t mind (having) more Tims like those two,” Howard said.
Florida, the closest college to Jernigan, offered him a scholarship when he was in the ninth grade. Howard said Gators coach Urban Meyer told him he would have signed Jernigan to a letter of intent as a high school sophomore.
“He is that good,” Howard said.
Tebow was one of the most sought-after recruits in recent years, with Southeastern Conference heavyweights Alabama and Florida vying for his signature. Tebow picked the Gators, then left a lasting mark on the program.
He won the 2007 Heisman Trophy, helped Florida claim two national championships and became an iconic figure for his accomplishments on and off the field.
Jernigan hasn’t been quite as hyped. But Howard believes he has a good chance to follow Tebow to the NFL.
“Just keep him on track and keep him motivated,” Howard said. “If he reaches his full potential, he’ll end up playing in the NFL.”
Jernigan doesn’t care to look that far ahead right now. He’s focused on picking the right college.
He feels like each of the remaining five has something to offer. Alabama is the defending national champion. Florida is the hometown team and current front-runner.
Florida State has NFL pedigree, especially on defense. LSU boasts former first-round draft pick Glenn Dorsey, someone Jernigan models his game after. Michigan is the dark horse.
Jernigan doesn’t expect a decision soon, but once he makes an announcement, that’s it.
“I’m so loyal that once I say I’m going somewhere, that’s where I’m going to go,” Jernigan said.
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