- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- He was the most prized recruit in all the nation in 2012, a player every major program desperately wanted. And, well, Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., readily acknowledges he let the hype get to his head.
That would be the biggest reason he arrived on campus last summer weighing 315 pounds -- 30 pounds more than his ideal weight in high school. Edwards Jr. was nowhere near being ready to play right out of the gate because he was so out of shape. He knew it. So when coach Jimbo Fisher decided to redshirt him, Edwards had no room to complain.
The world would have to wait to see why coaches so badly wanted him on their team.
It turns out, though, that we did not have to wait long. Losing Brandon Jenkins forced coaches to pull his redshirt almost immediately. Another injury late in the season to Tank Carradine made Edwards' journey all the more improbable.
Incredibly enough, Edwards ended up starting the two biggest games of the season after believing he would not play at all in 2012.
"It was definitely a blessing," Edwards Jr. told ESPN.com. "I thought I was going to redshirt so I wasn’t really in the playbook like I needed to be but as the season progressed and injuries came, I had a chance to start. Jimbo told me to just be patient. So being patient really paid off."
Edwards played in 11 games, but made his first start in the ACC championship game against Georgia Tech after Carradine tore his ACL.
No pressure or anything.
Edwards admits he was nervous before the game. But he spoke to his father, Mario Edwards Sr., and Carradine and they just told him, "You’ve done it in practice just translate it over. I calmed down and did what I needed to do."
What he did was post seven tackles in a performance that gave the nation a glimpse at what they are going to see in 2013, when Edwards becomes a full-time starter. His weight, though, continues to vex him. Edwards ballooned up to 315 before he arrived in Tallahassee because he just ate what he wanted.
"I let the hype get to my head and enjoyed all the recruiting visits and did not really focus on coming here to play," Edwards Jr. said. "They recruited me to come here and play. My mind wasn’t where it needed to be."
What got his mind where it needed to be?
"Coming here and seeing that everybody was just as big if not bigger, fast if not faster and just knowing that if I want to play I have to go out here and work. It’s not going to be given," Edwards Jr. said.
By the time he started against Georgia Tech, he was down to 282 pounds. Chips and fast food were off his menu. Smaller portions, protein and veggies were on the menu. But the toughest part for Edwards Jr. is staying disciplined. He is up to 288 and working hard to get back down to 280, where coaches want him this season.
"Even though it’s OK to have a cheat day if you want to eat some things you like to eat, you’ve got to understand it’s a business and they want you here at this weight and in order for you to play and produce like they want you to and they need you to, you have to be at that weight," he said.
His two biggest critiques? "Keeping my weight down and using my hands more when it comes to getting off blocks and pass-rushing."
Two major areas to work on as the spotlight turns squarely on him this season.