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Filling the Void

By Matthew Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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In order for Florida State to take the next step in its trek towards another national championship, Mario Edwards and Giorgio Newberry will need to live up to their respective expectations in a hurry.

Florida State’s recent return to national prominence has been a product of consistently improving performances from the Seminole defense.

It was a mere four seasons ago when the Florida State defense allowed a previously unimaginable 30 points per game, ranking 94th in the FBS in scoring defense.

Since that time, however, the defense has undergone a tremendous rebuilding project, once again placing the Seminoles as one of the premier defensive teams in all of college football. Improving in scoring defense each of the last three seasons, Florida State has pieced together a top 10 defense in each of the last two years.

One of the driving forces behind Florida State’s defensive resurgence has been the emphatic emergence of a multitude of defensive ends with exceptional pass rushing abilities.

The Seminoles’ athletic prowess at defensive end was best seen last season, as both of FSU’s starters on the edge – Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine – were honored as first-team All-ACC selections. Werner and Carradine, both of whom are projected to be taken in the first two rounds in the upcoming NFL Draft, each finished 2012 with double digit sacks for Mark Stoops’ attacking defensive scheme.

What is even more impressive is the fact that Carradine, despite finishing top 20 nationally in sacks, was not a starter at defensive end when the season began.

Brandon Jenkins, who also will be selected in the upcoming draft, was a two-time All-ACC selection before being sidelined with a season ending injury in the first game of the 2012 season.

With Carradine, Jenkins and Werner all preparing to move on to the highest level of football, the Seminoles will now turn to their next generation of star defensive end hopefuls in order to continue the program’s recent tradition of causing havoc in opposing backfields.

The name which naturally pops up most frequently when talking about Florida State’s defensive ends in 2013 is Mario Edwards.

Ranked by numerous scouting services at the No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2012, Edwards was forced into significant action late last season due to Carradine tearing his ACL in the Florida game. In total, Edwards saw action in 11 games last fall, registering 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

On the verge of commencing his first campaign as a full-time starter in Tallahassee, Edwards prepares with the knowledge that the pressure placed directly on his shoulders is immense. Attempting to replace 25 sacks worth of production would cause anxiety for any player, but the pressure only continues to mount when you are ultimately expected to end up being better than your predecessors.

The second starting position at defensive end will be open to slightly more competition, but the early frontrunner appears to be redshirt sophomore Giorgio Newberry.

Newberry, a former four-star recruit, has yet to record a sack at the collegiate level, although he did see action in 13 contests last season. He is commonly noted as an outstanding athlete who is still a bit raw with his football fundamentals.

Despite the obvious lack of experience, very few teams in the country will boast a defensive end tandem as athletic and talented as Florida State’s next season.

Newberry and Edwards are both clearly capable of becoming All-ACC players before their careers are finished, but the reality of the situation is that the Seminoles don’t have time to wait on their development.

Lack of talent will be no excuse if Florida State struggles to pressure opposing quarterbacks in 2013, but lack of experience is a legitimate concern as the Seminoles wind down spring practice.

The Seminoles have accomplished the goal of once again becoming relevant on the national scene.

In order for the Seminoles to take the next step in their trek towards another national championship, however, Edwards and Newberry will need to live up to their respective expectations in a hurry.

If that is to occur, the sky is the limit for the Florida State defense in 2013.

Matthew Osborne - With an extensive background in both writing and high school recruiting, Matt serves as the Editor and Director of Recruiting for Southern Pigskin. Once serving as the South Region Senior Scout for a national scouting service, Matt is very familiar with the top football prospects in the south. If it is a weekend in the fall, you can rest assured that Matt is on the road watching some of the top high school and college games in the region. To keep up with all of the latest recruiting news in the south, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborneSP. You can email him at matt@southernpigskin.com.