Under Pressure: DE Mario Edwards Jr.

May, 23, 2013
5/23/13
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Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 FSU players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.

No. 2: DE Mario Edwards Jr.

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards Jr.
Bob Donnan/US PresswireMario Edwards Jr. was going to redshirt in 2012, but those plans were scuttled when Brandon Jenkins was injured.
2012 performance: The past year was a roller coaster for Edwards. He arrived at Florida State as the most touted recruit in the country, a 300-pound behemoth expecting to make an instant impact at defensive end. Of course, FSU already had its share of talent at the position -- including three 2013 NFL draft picks -- and when the season began, Edwards was slated to redshirt. That didn't last long, though. Brandon Jenkins' injury opened up some playing time, and slowly but surely, Edwards dropped some weight and began to make an impact. When Cornellius Carradine's season ended with an ACL injury, Edwards emerged as the starter in the Seminoles' last two games, finishing the year with 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Pressure point: The mere fact that Edwards was poised to redshirt to open 2012 underscores just how much depth FSU had at the position. This year, however, it's a much different story. Jenkins, Carradine and Bjoern Werner are all gone, and Edwards is the cornerstone of the Seminoles' pass rush. He certainly has the talent to make an instant impact, but last year he showed signs of a lack of maturity and an excess of weight. That's not necessarily an ideal scenario for a player whom Florida State will rely upon to key the pass rush.

If he succeeds: The Seminoles are in good position to move forward even without a bevy of veteran defensive linemen, with Edwards leading the charge. While Werner, Jenkins and Carradine all were exceptional players with bright NFL futures, Edwards' ceiling might be higher than any of them. Add the new defensive scheme from coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and there's a distinct possibility that Edwards doesn't just fill a void in 2013, but blossoms into one of the most fearsome defenders in the country.

If he fails: The truth is, there isn't much room for failure for Edwards in 2013. Florida State needs him to take the next step and become a productive pass rusher as much as it needs any player to perform. There simply isn't any significant established depth at defensive end, and several others -- Giorgio Newberry, Chris Casher -- remain works in progress. Even with Pruitt looking for ways to bring pressure from elsewhere, the line remains an essential keystone to FSU's defensive success, and if Edwards can't build on his late surge in 2012, there may not be a realistic Plan B.

Projection: Edwards showed enough in his late-season stint as starter last year that there's ample room for enthusiasm. Yes, he still needs to drop a few pounds, and yes, he still has a lot to prove. But Edwards' natural ability is so immense that he should find some measure of success regardless of how much he develops from here. That, of course, doesn't mean Jimbo Fisher will be satisfied with a solid performance. Edwards could be special, and while he might not reach elite status in 2013, the FSU coaches will be pushing him hard to get there.

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