Mario Edwards Jr. has a new seat for team meetings: right up at the front. There's no more sitting behind three NFL prospects. This season, Edwards is front and center.
It's a fitting placement. Edwards is the leading candidate to fill the shoes left behind by those three draft picks.
He knows the burden placed on his shoulders. But Edwards says instead of pressure, he just feels ready to get on the field.
"I don't look at it like there's any pressure," Edwards said. "I've done everything that I could do possibly.
There's no more talk - just go out there and do it."
Edwards will finally get a chance to truly prove himself in 2013 - and in his mind, that chance can't come soon enough.
He arrived in Tallahassee as the consensus No. 1 recruit in his class, but his sky-high potential came saddled with extra pounds and an inflated opinion of himself.
Edwards said his weight climbed to between 315 and 320 pounds early in his freshman year, and initially he was slated to redshirt - a shot to his confidence out of the gate.
"You get to that level and you find out there's a lot of No. 1 guys out there," Head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "So you have to get back to work ethic and that's what happened. Reality hit him."
Edwards compared the transition to starting over. The realization that his high school accomplishments didn't count for much once he put on a college uniform wasn't an easy one, and Edwards said his freshman year was a crash course in work ethic.
"For year I soaked up just work," Edwards said. "How to work; how to do everything technical and right. Just try to be perfect."
So far, Edwards appears to have gotten the message. In the spring and offseason, Edwards changed his diet and remodeled his body.
"It's just moderation," Edwards said. "If you're going to eat fries, don't get a big plate. Try to train myself to eat a lot of salads, grilled this, grilled that."
His weight is now down to 278 pounds. He said he feels more explosive and faster. He talks about mentoring younger players on the team - despite being only a sophomore himself.
Teammates have also taken notice of the progress.
"He was never a lazy guy," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "But he's been stepping up and I'm proud of him for that,"
And now, with FSU planning to use a number of younger players at defensive end, Edwards said he's trying to make sure they don't make the same mistakes he did.
"Don't put yourself behind the eight ball," Edwards said. "My putting myself behind he eight ball was my weight.
So come in the right way, ready to contribute to the team."
That's doubly important now, as FSU doesn't have three players primed to go to the NFL anymore. The defensive line is packed with young players like Edwards, hoping to prove their potential. But Edwards said he's still confident.
"I feel like we're not going to losea step," Edwards said. "I don't think we're going to fall off at all. I think we have just as much talent if not more."
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