Berkley Edwards | RB | Redshirt Freshman | 5'9" 190 lbs. Has to compile any statistics at the collegiate level.
*Looks at name of next Player to Watch. "Berkley Edwards."*
*Finds 2013 preview from nearly every outlet covering the Gophers.*
*Hits Command+A, then Command+C, then Command+V on keyboard.*
*Calls it a day, commences day drinking and researching fantasy football for upcoming draft this weekend.*
Jokes aside; fans, media and coaches alike have been eagerly waiting for Berkley Edwards since last fall, when he brought to campus an aspect badly needed in the Gopher running game: breakaway speed.
While it was unclear how much of an impact or role Edwards would have on the team in 2013, those questions were quickly answered when he suffered a high ankle sprain a week before the season opener against UNLV. As the season progressed, David Cobb became the team's workhorse and rather than allow the injury to waste half of Edwards's freshman year, the coaching staff decided to have him redshirt.
Edwards brings a certain amount of prestige, being the brother and son of former NFL players and University of Michigan standouts Braylon and Stan Edwards. A lot of ink has been spilled about Michigan declining to offer Edwards a scholarship and Iowa pulling its offer when Edwards declined to make an early commitment to Iowa City. Those two slights have given Edwards motivation heading into his Big Ten career, which he mentioned to Marcus R. Fuller of the Pioneer Press in February 2013.
"Those will be two big games," Edwards told Fuller. "I want to definitely prove to (the Wolverines) that at least they should have offered me. But things happen, and it is what it is. (With Iowa,) I waited. But for me, I had to make sure the decision I made was the best decision for me, because this is a new chapter in my life. And it's a real big decision."
On National Signing Day 2013, Kynon Codrington of Rivals.com named Edwards as a potential sleeper. The knock on Edwards as a recruit was primarily his size, as he stands only 5-foot-9 and weighs 190 pounds, but his sprinter speed and receiving skills could erase those concerns this fall. The GPS monitors that the Gophers wear in practice clocked Edwards at 22 mph this year and according to Fuller and Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune, Edwards has routinely churned out long touchdown runs in practice.
Coach Jerry Kill, not always a person prone to hyperbole, called Edwards "lightning in a bottle."
"When you've got Berkley in the backfield, you never really know what's going to happen," quarterback Mitch Leidner told Christensen. "Like the play there, he breaks a tackle, and he's gone. You're off the field already. That's what our offense really needs."
What is Edwards's role this year though? David Cobb has a steady grasp on the starting job right now; in practice, Christensen reported that Cobb typically takes the field with the first-team offense. Donnell Kirkwood has shown he can play when needed and Roderick Williams, Jr. has claim to playing time when the team wants a bigger back in the game. Edwards reportedly mixes in a few snaps with the number ones and has also lined up at receiver as well.
To see the field regularly, Edwards will need to showcase his speed on the handful of touches he receives. Cobb came into last year with all of 65 yards rushing in his career, but ran well in the season opener. Kirkwood dealt with some nagging injuries and Williams took his starting role in name, but Cobb became the team's main rushing threat. The point is that Kill, Limegrover and Co. aren't shy about mixing up their running backs and rotating through players until they find someone who fits. If things break right for Edwards, he could see 214 carries like Chad Spann during Kill's last year at Northern Illinois, a player Kill recently compared to Edwards. If Edwards struggles, he could get buried behind Cobb, Kirkwood and Williams.
Kill may not want to tip his hand quite yet, but the safest bet is to see Edwards in a variety of situations on Saturdays this fall.
"All I can tell you is he'll move around," Kill told Fuller. "He'll be playing. He'll be doing a lot of things."
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Elliot Mann is a Minnesota-based writer who contributes to The Daily Gopher. Follow his journey of finding Big Ten merchandise at random brunch establishments at twitter.com/elliotmann.