Will RB Recruit Help Gophers Early?
National Football Signing Day is Wednesday and it appears the Gophers will have only one running back among their signees. Rivals.com lists 16 players who have verbally committed to the Gophers, including Berkley Edwards ranked by Rivals as the No. 9 all-purpose running back in the country.
Edwards, from Chelsea, Michigan, is about 5-9, 185 pounds. If he fits the classic definition of an all-purpose back, he can block, catch the ball and run effectively inside and out.
Despite lobbying by older brother and former Michigan star Braylon Edwards, the Wolverines didn’t want Berkley who is ranked a three-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout.com. On Wednesday five-star recruit Derrick Green, perhaps the nation’s most coveted prep running back, is expected to sign with Michigan.
Braylon tweeted last year how he couldn’t understand how his brother, despite running the “eighth” fastest time in the 60 meters in the country, was not being recruited by the Wolverines, according to an August 14 story by Miprepzone.com. Berkley’s coach, Brad Bush, said in the story: “He has the ability to be a big time back at the next level.”
Will Edwards contribute as a freshman for the Gophers next fall? Running back is among the positions that freshmen most often earn playing time in college football. And the Gophers need help in the backfield.
Minnesota has been searching for multiple impact runners. The Gophers’ leading rusher last season, sophomore Donnell Kirkwood, averaged only 71.2 yards per game. He had a 38-yard run, the longest of the season by any Minnesota running back and an indication of the minimal explosiveness by the team’s rushing offense.
The most promising of the running backs was freshman Rodrick Williams, the 5-foot-11, 228-pound native of Lewisville, Texas who showed Big Ten quality muscle while often bullying his way through tacklers. Could the speed and quickness of Edwards be the right complement to Williams next fall?
Edwards, who drew only mild interest from major college programs, might fit that undersized, under the radar recruiting philosophy the Gophers coaching staff is associated with. Head coach Jerry Kill knows he can’t bring the elite out of state running backs like Green to Minnesota, a program that is among the have-nots of the Big Ten.
But that doesn’t mean Kill and his staff don’t have confidence in their recruiting. Past success is one reason for that confidence. Edwards, for example, was recruited by assistant coach Rob Reeves, according to Rivals, and Reeves has been a running backs specialist at other schools where he’s worked for Kill.
At Northern Illinois Reeves coached Chad Spann who was first team All-MAC for two seasons and league MVP for one. At Southern Illinois Reeves coached four All-Americans.
But for now forget the post-season awards. Reeves would no doubt just welcome Edwards earning regular playing time next fall.