Just a little bit over a year ago the Florida State fanbase was reveling over a top 3 recruiting class that included the nation's top prospect, DE Mario Edwards Jr.
Edwards, a 6-4 280-pound monster of a defensive lineman was the most sought after recruit in the country during the 2011-2012 recruiting cycle. He fielded offers from the top programs in the nation but opted to follow his father's footsteps to Florida State where he would hopefully become a star for the Seminoles.
Then August rolled around.
Mario Edwards came to Tallahassee looking for significant playing time in his first year, possibly even to start. Instead after just a few weeks of Fall camp he was told to prepare to redshirt.
"It hit me," admitted Edwards. "But then I couldn't blame anyone but myself, I put myself behind the eight-ball coming in overweight and I wasn't able to produce like I needed to because I was 315."
The redshirt didn't stick.
Midway through Florida State's season opener starting defensive end Brandon Jenkins was lost for the year with Lisfranc fracture and shortly after Jimbo Fisher called Edwards into his office to discuss the team's depth.
"I was a little upset I got redshirted and Jimbo told me just be patient, your time will come," said Edwards. "Once Brandon got hurt Jimbo called me into his office and said alright, bud, this is what you've been asking for and now you've got it."
Edwards went on to play in 11 games over his freshman campaign, starting in the ACC Championship Game and the Orange Bowl and notching 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
But heading into next season, the Seminoles need Edwards to continue his growth both on the field and from a maturity standpoint.
"Mario is finding out that with what I'm asking him to do is taxing and we have to get him into better shape in my opinion and I know it and everyone knows that and he's going to fight through it," said new Florida State defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri at the outset of Spring practice.
"He's going to be good. He's got a lot of talent."
So far this Spring Edwards has been getting after it.
"He's working a lot harder. He's dropped like ten pounds," said teammate, DT Tim Jernigan. "What's really going to trigger him is the coaching he gets. He isn't going to let him come up short of what he can be."
Sunseri is a hard-nosed, old school coach who is going to bring a blue-collar approach to Edwards and his game. And according to Mario, that's exactly what the sophomore DE needs.
"If he's on you and yelling at you it's because you know he cares about you and he's trying to coach you for the player you could be and not the player that you are," added Edwards.
So far the early returns on Edwards have been solid this Spring. He's challenging for a starting position and is making progress on the field and in the film-room. Most notably he feels better right now than he has at any point in his time at Florida State.
"Being with coach Vic [Viloria] and doing all the cardio and all the extra little things like that have helped my body get slim," said Edwards. "I feel a lot stronger and quicker, my ball get-off is a lot better than it was last year because of my weight going down."
Edwards is currently around 290 pounds, though Florida State's coaching staff would like to see his playing weight at 280-285 by the start of next season. Provided Edwards continues to work hard over the summer that likely won't be an issue.
And if his weight stays down, Edwards could be poised for a breakout year.
For starters the Florida State defense, despite accounts to the contrary, is changing quite a bit under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. That means less reads and more attacking. That's something that suits Edwards just fine.
"It's better suited for the whole defense, the whole defensive line," said Edwards. "It's more of an attack style, like where all of us came from. We all came from attack-style defenses out of high school so it's basically more comfortable for us."
Also, despite some of the emotional rollercoaster that came with sitting behind Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine during his freshman year, Edwards also had the opportunity to learn from three of the top defensive ends in the nation, including two that could potentially be first round draft picks later this month.
"At the time I wasn't thinking about that," admitted Edwards. "But then I started thinking, 'these are the top people in the nation.' I mean I was the top of the nation in high school, this is the top of the nation in college. So I just took it as learn from them and then use it from next year.
"Bjoern was definitely more of a technician, it was his technique and his ball get-off. Tank was just an animal. He wouldn't stop. So I learned just to [not] stop, continue to work on my technique and get off the ball."
Edwards sees himself as a cross between the two potential first-rounders, with Carradine's strength and Werner's quickness off the snap.
"I just think with work and definitely keeping my weight down that I could be one of the names like they were," said Edwards.
We'll start finding out next year...
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