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DT Jernigan to NFL teams: Suh me

Updated: March 24, 2014 6:52AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Few teams understand the mayhem and pain Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can cause better than the Bears.

Suh’s infamous highlight reel includes a violent forearm shiver to quarterback Jay Cutler’s back and a WWE-worthy ribs-bruising slam of Cutler.

Suh definitely has earned his nasty reputation, and Florida State defensive tackle — and possible Bears draft target — Timmy Jernigan wants to emulate him.

“I love Ndamukong Suh,” Jernigan said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I love the way he plays the game, his mind-set, the mentality, the nastiness he plays with. The guy’s lethal. You can tell that with the way he plays. That’s the way you have to play this position, especially on that level. If you don’t play the game with an attitude, you really won’t make it too long playing inside.”

This will be a defensive-driven draft for the Bears, who have needs at every level after an inept, injury-plagued 2013 season. At No. 14, the Bears could be in position to select the highest-rated defensive tackle, cornerback or safety on their board.

And Jernigan, a 6-11/2, 300-pounder who will be 21 as a rookie, definitely should be on the Bears’ radar. Several analysts and a slew of mock drafts have linked Jernigan to the Bears. He expects to interview with them at the combine.

Even if the Bears re-sign Henry Melton (which they say they want to do), Jernigan could boost a defense that had the fewest sacks in the league and allowed an NFL-worst 161.4 rushing yards per game.

“I really don’t follow too many mock drafts,” Jernigan said. “I’m just staying true to the process, man, just keeping my head down and grinding it out.”

The Bears will employ a base 4-3, one-gap defense. But it will evolve as free agency and the draft alter the roster.

Multiple looks are expected, especially with general manager Phil Emery strongly emphasizing versatile players.

Jernigan, a nose tackle in Florida State’s 3-4 defense, believes he can handle every technique, whether it’s five-technique (outside shoulder of the offensive tackle) or zero-technique (over the center) in a 3-4 scheme or the three-technique (outside shoulder of the guard) in a 4-3.

Jernigan said he’s not one of those big 340-, 350-pound guys in three-man fronts who have to come out on passing downs. His versatility should keep him on the field.

“I can play a three-technique, and when it’s a pass situation and you want to go to a three-man front, you can put me on the nose guard right on the zero,” he said. “I can get pressure from the middle. I feel like that’s where my game changes from everyone else.”

Jernigan’s stellar performance against Auburn in the BCS title game helped his draft status but also raised concerns about his conditioning when he sat out plays in the fourth quarter and appeared exhausted. He said he had a slight fever and took medication before the game.

Either way, Jernigan already has another reputation. Teammates have described him as an animal on the field, which works well for a player trying to be like Suh.

“That’s a great description,” Jernigan said. “That’s the way I play, man. That’s how I like to attack the field.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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