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FSU Seminoles, Mario Edwards Jr. expect another big year

TALLAHASSEE — The question, more interrogation than inquiry, was hurled at Jimbo Fisher from an upper row of FSU's theater-style meeting room during the Seminoles' recent media day.

The paraphrased version: Mario Edwards Jr. had only 31/2 sacks last year, and people have been kind of waiting for him to stockpile all those sack numbers and, well …

Fisher stopped the reporter right there. The same ears FSU's coach had lent the questioner suddenly were pinned back, in defense of his top defender.

"Sacks don't equate to greatness; you better go watch that film," Fisher said. "You watch when the (NFL) draft comes around where he's at. That guy's one heck of a football player."

Another minute or so would elapse before Fisher relinquished the floor. Belaboring his point, he went on to insist Edwards —son of the former 'Noles cornerback of the same name — possesses every tool except gaudy numbers. While sack totals may deceive, video — viral or otherwise — typically does not.

Cue up last year's BCS title game and watch Edwards burst up the middle into Auburn's backfield, momentarily snag quarterback Nick Marshall with his left hand, keep pursuit after Marshall escapes and drag Marshall down just as he lets go of the ball for a 10-yard loss and intentional-grounding whistle.

"A lot of people look at me and expect me to be kind of slow or stiff," Edwards said. "Then when they actually watch film and they see you out there playing, they're actually kind of shocked about it."

The shock value increases on YouTube. It's there where you can find a 31/2-year-old video of Edwards, then a 6-foot-4, 254-pound junior at Denton (Texas) Ryan High, doing a standing backflip in the center of a locker room.

"(Edwards) didn't get sacks, but we had the lowest scoring defense in the country last year (12.1 ppg), even less than the two years before when we had (40) sacks," Fisher said.

"So my point is, the style of defense, what a guy's asked to do and how he's asked to do things … and that guy can rush the passer, he can play inside, he can play outside, he can play on a big tackle, he can go around you. That guy's as athletic and as dominant as any of the ends we've had."

If sack totals were the end-all in a 21st-century defensive scheme, perhaps 'Noles coaches would have reason to grouse. But in an era of zone reads, spreads and jet sweeps, setting the edge against the outside run is paramount. For that, Edwards' blend of size, sleekness and strength is ideally suited for the reigning national champions.

He's listed on FSU's roster at 6-3, 294, but even he acknowledges he plays closer to 300. It is believed no other starting defensive end in the Atlantic Coast Conference will weigh as much.

"He's a beast," FSU quarterback (and fellow Class of 2012 signee) Jameis Winston said.

"He can play anything," said Fisher, who watched Edwards earn third-team All-ACC honors (28 tackles, 9 1/2 for loss) as a sophomore last fall. "He can play a (defensive) tackle, he can play a (defensive) end, he can play a four-technique. … The guy's 305 pounds and can stand there and do standing backflips in front of you in full pads."

For the 'Noles' purposes, they'll take agility over acrobatics. While putting his hand in the dirt at various spots up front, Edwards also will drop into coverage, a huge perk for a team mildly green at linebacker.

"To me, that's just showing how versatile I can really be at 297, 300 pounds," he said.

Beast? Freak of nature? Fisher has another word for it: Prototype. In the current climate of offenses, the 'Noles' fifth-year coach believes size still matters on the other side.

"People are running the football and spreading you and you think you've got to go with all these nickel and dime guys," Fisher said.

"How 'bout getting a 6-3 or 6-4 linebacker or 6-7 end that can play a tackle or squeeze a guy down but then can go play in space and lift and grab guys. I think that's where it's going."

Information from the Orlando Sentinel was used in this report.

Coach: Jimbo Fisher (45-10, fifth season)

2013 record: 14-0, 8-0 ACC (BCS champion)

Conference/division: ACC/Atlantic

Conference titles: 1992-2000, 2002-03, 2005, 2012-13

National titles: 1993, 1999, 2013

Radio: 820-AM (Tampa), 1080-AM (Tampa), 1340-AM (Clearwater), 1350-AM (Dade City), 1400-AM (Zephyrhills)

Website: Seminoles.com

Area players: Christian Green, R-Sr., WR, Tampa Catholic; Ryan Green, So., RB, St. Petersburg Catholic; Jeremy Kerr, R-Fr., TE, St. Petersburg; Corey Martinez, Fr., OL, Tampa Catholic; Keith Weeks, R-So., OL, Newsome

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FSU Seminoles, Mario Edwards Jr. expect another big year 08/26/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 9:52pm]
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