Rarely did any defense expose Marshall's inexperience. Florida State did a good job on him in the second half of the BCS National Championship, limiting him to 19 rushing yards and no touchdown passes, while converting a fourth-quarter pick into seven points.
And now, Marshall has gone through a winter and a spring practice with the Tigers. Before spring ball began, Marshall organized throwing drills with the receivers so they could continue getting familiar with each other. Their progress became self-evident in the spring game, when Marshall completed 13 of 22 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns in one half. Those are the kinds of numbers that make you the game's offensive MVP.
Uzomah said Marshall told the offense: " 'Whoever has the ball, no matter what, we have to sell out for them. I have the ball. I have the opportunity to make something happen. You guys have to trust me.' And we do. I think that's a pretty big difference -- his confidence in himself and our confidence in him."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- One eyeful of Florida State junior defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. explains why he once filled the spot atop the 2012 ESPN recruiting rankings. He is a large man -- 6-foot-3, 294 pounds -- who doesn't move large. His trunk looks like it could support an oak, yet he doesn't rumble when he walks. He has hands like steaks, the kind that if you finish it, you eat free.
For a season and a half, Edwards remained more potential star than star. And then, in the second half of the Seminoles' 2013 national championship season, something clicked. Edwards began to disrupt offenses like a cop making a raid.
He had a sack and forced a fumble in Florida State's 37-7 smackdown of in-state rival Florida, and then led all comers with three tackles for loss, including a 10-yard sack of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, in the BCS National Championship.
The difference, according to Edwards, is he figured out that potential and talent alone couldn't get the job done. He had to work at it.
"I started taking the playbook seriously," he said.
Defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri rode Edwards hard. Sunseri kept telling Edwards that he had to learn not only his job but also those of the players around him.
"It's hard work, but it paid off in the end," Edwards said. "Honestly, Coach Sal is a different kind of cat. He's really, really hard on you. ... I realized he wasn't just picking on me. He didn't have favorites. He tells everyone the same. He was going to get on you. It helped me with dealing with adversity."
Edwards always had the physical ability. Now, Sunseri has made him develop the mental toughness to go with it. With the way Edwards finished last season, people will expect him to make those kinds of big plays every Saturday this fall.
But who are we kidding? They already did.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Some of the key pieces from last season's Michigan State "Spartan Dawgs" defense may be gone, but the standard isn't. Neither is the architect of that defense.