Aug 16, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Considered by some to be the nation's top high school player in the 2012 recruiting class, Mario Edwards, Jr. came to Florida State a season ago with the weight that only five-star recruiting rankings and his familiar last name could create.
The son of former FSU star defensive back, Mario Edwards, Sr., the younger Edwards had to go through a harsh reality when his collegiate career began 12 months ago. He had to go from heralded recruit to unheralded backup. With eventual NFL Draft picks Bjoern Werner, Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine all ahead of him on the depth chart, Edwards, Jr. had to quietly bide his time while also managing his body after coming to school over weight.
Now, with Werner, Jenkins and Carradine all at the next level, Edwards, Jr. is ready to take his rightful spot as their heir apparent -- and he's ready to do it with a slimmer and stronger frame.
Here's a Q&A with FSU's starting defensive end from his sit-down interview with the media Friday before practice:
Q: Do you feel a sense of pressure to carry the torch after losing so many guys at your position to the NFL?
Edwards: It's definitely a responsibility. Those guys left with god numbers so I don't want to be the end that's the drop-off. I want to come in and keep it just like it was with the ends real good at Florida State.
Q: Is the meeting room different now with those guys gone and so many young players pushing for playing time?
Edwards: In the meeting room it's definitely a lot different. I'm at the front taking notes because we have so many different things that we have to do with checks and know the formations and stuff like that. So it's like I'm in school right now learning everything and taking notes to know how to do it on the field."
Q: What did you learn from playing with those guys?
Edwards: For a year I definitely I just soaked up how to work. How to make everything technical [and] do everything right. Try to be perfect. You're never going to be perfect but try to do everything right. And just practice and how you play; they never came out and was sluggish or anything like that. Every practice was like a game so I just learned that from them.
Q: Did you know how to work at this level when you got to FSU?
Edwards: I knew how to work but coming here it showed me that there are different levels to it. I had to come in and just change my whole mindset. I was coming in kind of like, 'I'm No. 1, I'm No. 1 that,' thinking that it was going to be easy. So I had to figure out that it's a different level so I had to step my work ethic up and work even harder and do extra things."
Q: Is there any advice you can give the young guys that have come in and been added to the roster?
Edwards: I kind of tell them my story, like 'Don't put yourself behind the eight ball.' As far as me, putting myself behind the eight ball was my weight. If you're gonna come in, come in the right way ready to contribute to the team."
Q: How did you stay motivated last year when you weren't playing a whole lot?
Edwards: I kind of had to put my ego aside, I kind of had to put my pride aside and just wait. I knew that my time was coming. Instead of me complaining about not doing this and not doing that, I just looked at it as a positive and said, 'What can I learn from them that I can do next year whenever they're gone?' So I just did that and worked even harder to try to prepare for this year.
Q: You hate to see a teammate go down like Carradine did against Florida, but how much did it benefit you to play so much in the final few games?
Edwards: It was definitely good. I got a chance to see what it was like to be in a full game instead of getting 10-15 plays. So I was able to see how a full game operates. And I kind of got a chance to show a little bit what this year could be like but I am definitely not satisfied with what I did last year -- I'm trying to be better than that."
Q: Does your dad ever come and coach you up at practice?
Edwards: My dad, he tries to stay kind of away but if I'm doing something wrong he's going to come and let me know. He really kind of leaves the coaching to Coach Sal [Sunseri] and everything else.
Q: How did you change your eating habits to get in better shape?
Edwards: It's not so much the bad things you eat, you've just got have moderation with it. If I'm gonna eat fries, don't get a big plate of fries; get a little portion of it. No super sizing. And just try to train my body to eat a lot of salads and grilled this and grilled that and a lot of cardio.
Q: How do you feel now at your current weight?
Edwards: "I definitely feel a lot better. Coming in at 315-320, I was able to move but it's nothing like I can do now. A lot more explosive, a lot more quick-twitch muscle and everything. At 278 [pounds] now, I am able to drop back in coverage and stand up and do everything. Me being lighter helped me be more versatile."
Q: Do you like doing that new stuff your'e being asked to do in this new defense -- the dropping back into coverage?
Edwards: "Yeah, it's fun. Right now your'e still kind of learning so you've got to keep doing it to polish it. But once everything is good and we know it like the back of our hand, it's going to be real fun for the defense."
-After watching the tape of the team's first scrimmage, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Friday after practice that a host of players impressed him.
Specifically, Fisher mentioned Timmy Jernigan, Christian Jones, Jalen Ramsey, Dan Hicks, Edwards, Jr. Lamarcus Joyner E.J. Levenberry, Matthew Thomas, Ronald Darby, Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, Christian Green, Rashad Greene, Jesus Wilson, Isaiah Jones, Levonte Whitfield, Ryan Green and Nick O'Leary all made good plays or had good days at the Wednesday scrimmage.
-Cameron Erving once again was limited at practice but Fisher said that they are just resting FSU's starting left tackle. "he could go right now but I'm doing this to make sure he's healthy," Fisher said.
In his place, Jacob Fahrenkrug has been impressive at left tackle, Fisher said. In fact, Fisher added that he has like Fahrenkrug better at tackle than at his familiar guard and center position. True freshman Wilson Bell also generated some praise from Fisher. "He's going to be a really good player," FSU's coach said. "... He's coming on very nicely."
Answering your Twitter questions
I have liked what I've seen from Matthew Thomas so far. He seems to be doing well and you can definitely see why he was so highly regarded as a prospect coming out of high school in 2013. He's long, he's fast and he seems willing to do whatever it is the coaches ask of him. He is certainly a work in progress -- as every freshman is -- but Thomas has the benefit of learning from Christian Jones as he is backing him up at "Mike" linebacker.
Before he went down with a thigh bruise that has limited him in recent days, I continued to be impressed by P.J. Williams. He is expected to return healthy soon and I think there is a legitimate chance he earns a starting job at one of the cornerback positions for the opener. Guys like Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks and Karlos Williams always stand out but I have also liked what I've seen from Tyler Hunter, who is a guy that I think will be a big part of what FSU does defensively this season because of his versatility. Ronald Darby is also coming along and looking like his old self after missing all of spring with an injury.
Like Jimbo Fisher, I love me some Levonte Whitfield and Jesus Wilson. "Kermit" and "Bobo" as they are called are definitely going to be getting a lot of playing time this season -- and that's not just because Greg Dent, Willie Haulstead and Jarred Haggins are out of the equation. These guys are terrific football players and can have an impact. While Whitfield is the burner, Wilson is the prototypical slot guy that is going to create some real problems for defenses this year.
I do. The team knows that a slip-up on national television to start the year dashes their conference- and national-championship hopes right out of the gate. They know what's at stake and this coaching staff is collectively too good to not have them ready.
Like Thomas, Jalen Ramsey looks every bit the five-star prospect that he was billed to be. And despite the impressive depth at cornerback, the Tennessee native has pushed his way up the depth chart and is getting a lot of meaningful snaps. While he may not be a "starter" come opening night, Ramsey is going to be a factor in the rotation at cornerback for sure. He's got great size but moves like a smaller cornerback. I love what I have seen out of him so far.
Sean Maguire has got a great arm and is a talented prospect. Is there a big gap between him and Jameis Winston/Jacob Coker? Yes. But Maguire has all the tools to be a very good quarterback in the future. He is important to what the 'Noles are doing at quarterback and they need him because you are always one or two plays away from a backup being thrust to the top of the lineup.