Florida State Football Recruiting: Mario Edwards Signs, Predictions for 2012

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIFebruary 1, 2012

Florida State Football Recruiting: Mario Edwards Signs, Predictions for 2012

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    There is plenty to be excited about if you are a Florida State Seminoles fan right now with a top-10 recruiting class coming to Tallahassee in 2012, which features one of the nation's top recruits in 5-star defensive tackle Mario Edwards (Denton, TX).

    The Ryan High School star is the nation's top defensive tackle and the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2012 class.  

    The recruiting experts of Rivals.com also expect both 5-star defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (Washington, District of Columbia) and 4-star cornerback Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, MD) to sign with the Seminoles as well.

    Goldman, who is the nation's No. 2 ranked defensive tackle and No. 7 overall prospect, will announce his decision at 10:05 a.m. eastern time. Darby will not announce until 2:30 p.m on Wednesday afternoon.

    In addition to the Seminoles likely top-10, and potentially top-five class if either Darby or Goldman pledge to Florida State later today, they will be bringing back 17 starters from a team that went 9-4 and defeated Notre Dame 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2011.

    With all the hype surrounding the program right now it is a great time to make some bold predictions for the 2012 season.

Preseason Top 10 Ranking

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    Florida State started the 2011 season ranked No. 6 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll and No. 5 in the preseason USA Today Coaches poll, but quickly fell out of the top 15 after three straight losses to Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest.

    The Seminoles then closed the season winning seven of their final eight games to finish the season at the back end of the top 25.

    With all of the talent they have returning at the skill positions and the elite level prospects they are bringing in like 5-stars Mario Edwards and Dante Fowler Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL) on the defensive line and highly coveted dual-threat quarterback Jameis Winston (Hueytown, AL) expected to be a Seminole on Wednesday afternoon as well.

    All of this should lead to another preseason top-10 ranking in both polls once again and will be one of the favorites to win the Atlantic Coastal Conference entering the 2012 season.

Freshmen Will Compete for Starting Jobs

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    With 17 starters returning there is not a whole lot of room for young players to step in and play early, but it will be hard to keep the talented prospects Florida State is bringing in off the field in 2012.

    Brandon Jenkins was a second-team All-ACC performer at defensive end in 2011, but he could see true freshmen Mario Edwards lining up next to him at times next season and be bookended by another incoming freshman in Dante Fowler Jr.

    Starting quarterback E.J. Manuel battled a couple of injuries last season, but still recorded 2,666 passing yards and 18 touchdowns through the air. These are solid numbers, but given how great of a talent 5-star quarterback Jameis Winston is,  it will make for an intriguing battle in training camp.

    The job will be Manuel's to lose, however do not be surprised if you hear about Winston pushing the veteran this summer.

    Incoming freshman wideout Marvin Bracy will also get a chance to see the field due to the Seminoles' lack of a game-breaking receiver. 

E.J. Manuel Will Have Breakout Season

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    As mentioned in the previous slide, E.J. Manuel will be pushed by incoming freshman Jameis Winston in training camp, but the senior will win the starting job and the competition will only elevate his game heading into the 2012 season.

    Manuel was slowed down by injuries he suffered in the Oklahoma game for much of the 2011 season, so if he can stay healthy look for him to put up some big numbers with all of the talent returning around him. 

    He may not have the type of season that will get him to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, but Manuel will throw for around 3,000 yards and probably run for another 250 yards.

Top 10 Passing Defense

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    Florida State returns three of their four starters in the secondary, which was the No. 20 ranked passing defense in 2011. The Seminoles should be able to break into the top 10 this year with an improved pass rush and a more experienced secondary.

    The only thing that may prevent them from being ranked that high in pass defense would be if their defensive front completely shuts down opposing running games and teams are forced to throw the ball a ton in order to move the ball against the Seminoles.

ACC Champions

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    Florida State's 35-30 loss to Clemson during their three-game skid last season kept them out of the ACC Championship game and the Tigers-Seminoles matchup will once again decide who will be playing for the conference championship once again.

    Clemson's defense looked awful against a speedy West Virginia squad in the Orange Bowl and will likely face a healthy E.J. Manuel at quarterback instead of the young backup Clint Trickett as they did in 2011.

    On the other side of the conference, Virginia Tech loses a lot of talent on their offensive line and at their skill positions with David Wilson heading to the NFL Draft. Miami (FL) is still struggling and Virginia and Georgia Tech still need to prove they can take the next step and be annual contenders.

    Everything sets up well for Florida State in ACC play this year and I expect them to beat either Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech in the conference title game.

Meet USC in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game

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    Many will be quick to dismiss Florida State from the National Championship conversation after underachieving in 2011 and their tough out of conference games against Florida and West Virginia, but there is no reason to believe the Seminoles cannot make the title game at the end of the season if some things go their way.

    The talent is there and if their incoming freshmen perform up to standards this will be one of the deepest defensive teams in the country. 

    There are a lot of other top teams returning substantial amounts of talent in 2012 such as USC, LSU and Alabama, however the SEC will beat each other up and neither of those teams will make the championship game without winning their conference again this season.

    If Florida State beats Clemson, West Virginia and avoids a major letdown there is no reason the Seminoles can't play for a national championship. There will be no underachieving for Jimbo Fisher and Florida State this season.