Gator coaches do 'a super job' visiting Jernigan, says Howard

Tim Jernigan
Tim Jernigan

Gainesville Sun Football Player of the Year Tim Jernigan of Columbia High School.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 5:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 5:13 p.m.

A day after Florida coach Will Muschamp had his first face-to-face visit with Tim Jernigan, his high school head coach was still beaming about the meeting.

"I thought it was great," Lake City Columbia coach Craig Howard said. "They came here early and stayed late. They set up a plan for Tim (at Florida).

"They did a super job. I know everyone at Columbia High was impressed by them."

Jernigan met with Muschamp, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and defensive line coach Bryant Young at CHS Thursday. The coaches then went for an in-home visit with Jernigan and his family, Howard said.

Howard didn't get to speak with Jernigan about his in-home with Florida's coaches because Jernigan left for his official visit to Florida State on Friday morning. The Seminoles are considered one of his top schools.

Once Jernigan returns from Tallahassee, Howard said he'll decide on his final visit. Right now, his options are Florida and Tennessee. Howard said Jernigan is leaning toward a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., because he's been to Florida a number of times. If Florida doesn't get the last official, Howard said Jernigan will unofficially visit UF sometime next week.

Jernigan will make his National Signing Day (Feb. 2) decision live on ESPN at CHS, but one team won't be involved. Howard said Jernigan eliminated Alabama from consideration and is down to FSU, LSU, Florida and Tennessee.

FSU could have a slight lead for Jernigan's services because of the bond he's created with defensive line coach Odell Haggins. He's recruited Jernigan longer than any other coach at any of the schools he's considering.

"Odell Haggins has been recruiting him since eighth grade," Howard said. "That's the only thing that's remained stable for him."

Jernigan's interest in LSU wavered a bit during coach Les Miles' talks with Michigan, but after he returned he had an in-home visit — along with defensive line coach Brick Haley — with Jernigan this week.

Tennessee may have arrived to the conversation late, but Howard said Jernigan has developed a strong relationship with defensive line coach Chuck Smith.

As for Florida, Howard said Jernigan is still getting a feel for Gators' new staff and had a hard time adjusting after Urban Meyer's resignation and defensive line coach Dan McCarney's departure for North Texas.

However, the NFL experience on Florida's defensive staff impressed Jernigan and his coach, leading Howard to refer to them as "studs."

"They're all brand new and they are putting together a heck of a staff," Howard said. "They did everything they could to recruit Tim.

"He's got everything he wants 35 miles away (in Gainesville)."

While Jernigan was happy with his sit-downs with Muschamp and his coaches, Howard said Jernigan is still very open. It's been a drag at times for the 6-foot-2, 275-pounder, but both he and Howard are glad the process is almost over.

"Going down to the wire with a big-time, uncommitted guy, you're going to get a lot of attention and you have to be prepared to deal with that," Howard said.

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