In an effort to continue to boost their offense for next season, Rutgers football added an intriguing graduate transfer in former Miami running back Gus Edwards less than two weeks ago. We covered Edwards and his background here. After having the worst offense of 128 FBS teams last season, Rutgers can use all the help they can get. However, I thought it was important to gain more perspective on the type of impact Edwards can have next season, so I turned to someone who has seen his Miami career up close.
I was fortunate to speak with Cameron Underwood, the managing editor of State of The U, SB Nation’s Miami site. Edwards had some ups and downs in his career for the ‘Canes. I asked Cam about whether Edwards met expectations in his career, what his strengths and weaknesses are, how he was used in the Miami offense, as well as his thoughts on his move to Rutgers. My questions are in bold and Cam’s answers follow below each. Let’s get into it.
What were expectations for Edwards when he arrived at Miami and how would you grade his career with the program?
Gus Edwards was a late add to the 2013 recruiting class. He was supposed to be the 2nd RB we took in that year, which would have been great. But the whole Alex Collins National Signing Day drama (you know the one: Collins was committed to Miami, his mom wanted him at Miami, he announced that he would sign with Arkansas on NSD 2013...and his mom refused to sign his NLI and STOLE THE PAPERWORK) took the top RB off Miami's class and elevated Edwards to the RB1 spot in that class.
Edwards was expected to be a big, bruising RB the likes of which Miami hasn't seen since the days of Najeh Davenport and Willis McGahee. Needless to say, Edwards was far from that caliber of back, and battled injuries in his 4 years at Miami. For a would-have-been RB2 in his recruiting class, I would grade Edwards as a B-.
Overall, with less than 1,000 yards in 3 seasons -- Edwards took a medical RS in 2015 with a foot injury -- (but 12 TDs, which is nice), I'd give Edwards a C.
What are his strengths?
Despite his size, Edwards' biggest strength is his speed. He has okay vision, and solid balance as well. Surprisingly elusive for someone of his size.
What are his weaknesses?
His outright refusal to lower his pad level and use his size to his advantage. Gus Edwards is 6'1" 230lbs. He should be running. Instead, he tries to dance around them and use his speed a the the exclusion of all else on the field. Also, Needs development in pass protection/blitz pickup as well. Not a natural pass catcher, so don't expect to flex him to be a big part of the passing game, either.
Serving as mostly a backup last season, was he more of a 3rd down and goalline back? Or would he be subbed in at the beginning of drives here and there?
This is a good question, and kind of gets to the heart of why Edwards is transferring. In 2016, Edwards really didn't have a role. Mark Walton was the starter. Joe Yearby was the change of pace. Bubble screens were a defacto extension of the run game. And way down on the list was Edwards. He played some in the lighter part of the schedule, then popped up again at the end of the year, when it was clear Joe Yearby would be leaving to the NFL and maybe carries for Edwards would pacify him enough that he would stick around for 2017.
When Edwards did play (season opener vs FAMU then the last 5 games of the year), he was a rotation guy who got his own drive to work. Against FAMU, that was in the 4th quarter. In the final few games, that was happened a bit earlier. Every time Edwards played, it felt like "oh hey! That's right. He's on this team".
How much of a loss is Edwards for Miami or was the writing on the wall that he was likely to leave at season's end?
Gus Edwards is a loss that hurts depth at the RB position for Miami. Beyond that, it's kind of a non-factor. There were rumors about Edwards' desire to transfer for seemingly 2 years, so it's not a shock that he finally pulled the trigger to find a fresh start elsewhere.
As I previously said, with the rumors swirling later on in the 2016 season, it seemed as though Edwards was bumped up the depth chart (43 of his 59 carries came over the course of the season's final 5 games) to try to give him a reward and enough game action to show that staying could be a good thing. But, in the end, that wasn't what happened, and Rutgers is getting a new RB.
What are your overall lasting impressions of Edwards and your thoughts on his move to Rutgers?
My lasting impression of Gus Edwards is that he's a speed back in a big back's body. While it rhymes, the nickname "Gus The Bus" couldn't be further from the truth. And, that nickname also leads people to look at him in a way that Edwards doesn't look at himself.
At media day 2015, I asked Edwards about his size and how that would help him on the field. The first words out of his mouth in response? "Well, my speed...." And that tells the story. I started calling him "Speed Back Gus Edwards", which fits his style and his self-image. That disconnect between physical build and desired style of play is something that I will always remember about Gus Edwards.
I think this is a good move for all involved parties. Miami (if able to find another RB for depth) can rely on other backs. Edwards gets a fresh start at a school closer to his Long Island, NY home.
And, for Rutgers, this is a good get. Edwards is as talented as, if not more talented than, ever RB on the Scarlet Knights' roster. If used effectively (which, for him, is in a speed/outside run kind of thing), and if he stays healthy, I think Edwards could be a nice surprise. It wouldn't surprise me if he ended up being Rutgers' leading rusher in 2017. It also wouldn't surprise me if Edwards had 60 carries for 200 yards. But, he's the kind of risk/reward player that could be nice if things click.
I agree with Cam that Edwards is a low risk, high reward pickup for next season. Robert Martin and Josh Hicks enter their senior years after having up and down careers of their own so far. Adding Edwards accomplishes one goal that Rutgers head coach Chris Ash has stated is important since he took over the program and that is improving the competition within each position group. Adding a back like Edwards does just that for the running back position.
With new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill taking over, as well has new running backs coach Lester Erb, there will be a fresh perspective and approach towards this group for next season. Any of these three backs could emerge as the starter, or we could see a solid mix of all three. The good news is by adding Edwards, Rutgers has more depth and a potential difference maker who wasn’t on the roster last season. How big of an impact Edwards makes remains to be seen, but it certainly is worth giving him a shot to finish his career on a high note at Rutgers.
Thanks again to Cameron for taking the time to answer my questions and for giving us great insight on Gus Edwards. Follow Cam on twitter here and for great coverage on all Miami sports, check out State of The U.