“I think he’s grown up a little bit,” UNC running backs coach Andre’ Powell said. “He’s had an outstanding camp. He’s where we expected him to be.”
“I saw that I was disappointing some people that I cared about and that cared about me,” Edwards added. “We’re all a family, and you don’t want to let your family down at all.”
Edwards, a 6-foot, 220-pound junior transfer from LSU, showed flashes of his potential last season, popping a 62-yard run on the second play of the game at N.C. State – the longest run from scrimmage for a UNC tailback since 2003. His career-high 129 yards on 25 attempts in the 31-24 Tar Heels’ win over the Wolfpack earned him ACC Offensive Back of the Week honors.
But for the most part, there was more talk than substance. In a year his team was counting on him to fill the void left by Ronnie McGill’s early season absence due to injury, Edwards averaged just 44.1 yards rushing per game and scored only twice.
This year Edwards has settled down and figured out how to stay focused.
“When I first came into camp last year, it was new to me again,” Edwards said. “I was just trying to get into the groove of things. There was a lot of attention on me and I had a chance to get a big shot at things. Things were overwhelming.
“I’ve had time to sit back, take a look at things and humble myself a little bit,” he continued. “Now I’m making sure there are no distractions off the field. I’m just trying to get things going on the field and trying to be the best teammate I can be.
“You learn from your mistakes. I saw that if I do those things, then these are the consequences. I’m looking forward to this year, and I don’t really think about them that much now.”
Edwards has earned a spot as the leading backup to McGill as preseason camp winds down this week. He was not guaranteed that status when drills began. The most important thing his has learned on the field is how to “see” the play he’s running.
“What Coach Powell emphasizes is vision,” Edwards said. “This is not high school anymore. You don’t just get the ball and run where you want to run. He stresses everyday, ‘This is how a play is supposed to be ran, this is your key, this is your read to tell you to do this, and then the rest is just play football.’ I’ve spent a lot of time with him watching film. He tells me if I work on it, it will help the team and myself.
“That’s just the new me, and I’m ready to do that.”
His emotional and physical rebirth is rubbing off on his teammates, especially the offensive linemen.
“They tell me the better I run, the more they’ll thrive off of it,” Edwards said. “I ask them, ‘Do you need me to block for you?’
“The way the whole team – the offense and defense…the way we’re bonding as a unit, it reminds me of being at LSU when we won a national championship – the tempo and the attitude,” he said.
“There’s no way we shouldn’t be able to be one of the top teams in the ACC. My teammates are happy, my coaches are happy, and as long as everything is clicking – everything is good.”