Freshmen Edwards/Darby Making Impact

It's no secret to anyone who has been around the game of football, that the physical demand and toll taken on the body over the course of a full season can leave many players gasping at the end of the season. The more quality depth a team has can go a long way towards preserving the starters and allowing them to have that much more in the tank at the end of the season.

With that said, you just don't see a lot of true freshman go into major Division-1A programs and have a significant impact right away. There are just too many adjustments to be made, and new things going on inside an 18-year-old's head for them to concentrate strictly on football.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is well aware of all that, after all he did play college football, and that's why since he has taken over, FSU has seen a significant increase in the amount of playing time freshman have seen.

First and foremost on that list is true-freshman cornerback Ronald Darby as he has seen more than his fare-share of playing time since he arrived in Tallahassee in late July.

Part of that is due to the limited numbers at the position, but a large part of it is also due to his blazing speed and natural instincts on the football field.

Since the first time he stepped foot on the practice fields for the start of fall camp, Darby impressed not only his coaches, but his teammates as well. Anytime coach Fisher has been asked of Darby's play from the start of camp to now, he's had a grin from ear to ear.

His biggest game of the season, and first real test, came when FSU hosted conference-rival Clemson in a primetime showdown. At times Darby was matched up with some of the best receivers in the country in DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, and he passed with flying colors.

Darby registered three solo tackles and two pass break-ups in a big win over the Tigers' and has continued that success.

Safety Lamarcus Joyner has never been the kind of player to dance around any question he's asked and always gives his honest opinion. In the case of Ronald Darby, he sees greatness.

"He's going to be a great player," Joyner said. "He's really going to be a special one, and I don't say that about many people, but Ronal Darby is something special. We call him ‘shutdown.' He's a great practice player. Reminds me of myself in that aspect; go hard in practice and it shows on the playing field."

Another true freshman that has looks to have a very promising future on the defense is linebacker Reggie Northrup.

Northrup was committed to Miami for a lengthy period of time before he chose to take a visit to the FSU campus and eventually commit to the Seminoles'.

With the instincts Northrup has put on display in six games this year that have many people wondering why he isn't in the rotation more, fans should be happy that he chose Tallahassee because he would definitely be starting for the Canes'. In Saturday's win over Boston College, Northrup was second on the team in tackles despite only seeing the field in the fourth quarter.

Fisher can attest to those natural instincts Northrup possesses and says they can't be taught; they just have to come natural.

"Linebackers, to me, are a little like running backs," he said. "With linebackers you give them there keys and they either go make tackles or they don't. Those guys just have to feel it; there's an instinct in there. He reads and pulls that trigger and does a really nice job. I just think he's an instinctive player."

Additionally, true freshman Mario Edwards Jr. has seen his number of snaps go up recently. At the start of the season Edwards was a little overweight and had three guys in front of him who all had potential to be All-Americans giving him little opportunity to see the field.

Many people thought that he would redshirt this year and have four years of eligibility left going into next season.

But after preseason All-American Brandon Jenkins went down in the first game of the season with a Lisfranc injury that would sideline him for the season, a position of strength for the Seminoles' suddenly looked rather thin.

That quickly got Edwards more snaps in practice and eventually on the field against Savannah State.

But after not liking what they saw from Edwards in that game, coaches told him he needed to lose some weight. Edwards did just that; every day after practice when the team is heading in to the locker rooms, Edwards can be found running sprints on the far field.

In just a few short weeks you can already tell a big difference in the way he is moving around on the field, which is why he saw his first action since that Savannah State game on Saturday. Fisher was very pleased with what he saw and even ventured to say that if he keeps it up there is a chance that the defensive ends could become a three-man rotation.

"He's ready," Fisher said. "His weight's down, he's been playing really well in practice, been more physical against the run. We have to keep those reps up and keep developing him. You know how those bodies start to break down over a season and we have to get that rotation going more." It's no secret that Fisher and his staff have recruited as well as anyone in the country the last three years, which can be a good thing and, possibly, a bad thing depending on the character of the kids.

Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops obviously has to love the young talent he has to work with on that side of the ball, but it's their attitude that will take them to the next level; something that Stoops has taken note of.

"I've been very, very impressed with our freshman's ability," Stoops said. "But I've been equally impressed with their work ethic and attitude. They have a great attitude."


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