Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan had an impressive true freshman season.
But on Saturday, it appeared that his sophomore year could be in serious jeopardy.
The 6-3, 301-pounder suffered a knee injury during Saturday's spring practice that made Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's stomach jump into his throat.
However, after further examination, the damage turned out to be mild and Jernigan will miss only four to six weeks with a partial tear of his MCL and a slight tear to his meniscus.
"He'll miss the rest of spring, but he's fine," Fisher said following Monday's workout. "It was relieving. After I saw it on film, I didn't feel as bad."
Feeling a sense of relief after seeing his players suffer injuries isn't something Fisher has become accustomed to lately. Last season, several players missed extensive amounts of time recovering from various ailments. Defensive tackle was one of the positions hit the hardest, particuarly when then-junior Jacobbi McDaniel dislocated his ankle against Duke, which effectively ended his 2011.
"We found out last year that injuries are a part of football," said Fisher. "If you start to worry about those things, then that's when they happen."
This season, defensive tackle figures to be one of the deepest spot on the squad. Talented incoming freshmen Eddie Goldman and Justin Shanks join returning starters Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud -- plus a handful of others -- but a healthy Jernigan will be key to sustaining pressure on the quarterback and plugging up running lanes this upcoming season.
The Lake City product totaled 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his 13 games this past season. He entered last year as one of the prized recruits of the 2011 recruiting class.
Missing spring practice isn't going to help anyone. The more experience one can get in the offseason, the better he could end up playing when it matters.
Nonetheless, Jernigan appeared to be more than ready to step in and fill an even more significant role on this year's defensive line.
Fisher is pleased the injury isn't as bad as it could have been and that Jernigan -- coming off a Freshman All-American campaign -- should be ready for fall practice when the time arrives.
"Somebody fell [on him] from behind," Fisher explained. "The guy fell on the back of it, and he gave with it very good. After watching it, I can see why we were lucky."
An MCL injury is much different than the more feared ACL. A tear of the ACL can carry a recovery time of up to a year, while an MCL tear requires a much shorter period of recovery. Speculation of how severe the injury was began to surface on Sunday, when Jernigan himself posted a picture of his knee using social media.
The injured Jernigan now joins other injured defensive linemen on the sideline for the rest of spring drills. The aforementioned McDaniel is still out of action, as is Darious Cummings, and standout pass rusher Bjoern Werner will miss all of spring practice while he rehabs his right shoulder.
"We don't want anybody to get hurt, but thank God it wasn't as bad," said Fisher. "That's just what happens sometimes."
Subbing for Jernigan, junior Demonte McAllister was getting his fair share of snaps with the starting unit throughout Monday's session.
Matt Ritter is a football and basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com, as well as a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
Jernigan done for spring due to MCL
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