The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching, something we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. That’s not until July 21, however. In the meantime, it’s as good a time as any to start taking a closer look at Virginia Tech.
This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on the Hokies’ roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people/ideas that will determine whether Virginia Tech’s 2013 season is a success or not. Next up is …
No. 18: Tariq Edwards, inside linebacker
Virginia Tech can consider itself fortunate last year. Fortunate to have a versatile enough inside linebacker in Bruce Taylor who could easily switch to a different spot and fortunate to have a former backup in Jack Tyler who could step into a starting role and thrive.
So in hindsight, not having Edwards for pretty much all of 2012 because of complications following leg and knee surgeries wasn’t quite the blow it could have been to the Hokies’ defense.
But with Taylor gone and the backups far from proven, Virginia Tech will need Edwards to step back into the starting lineup and regain the form he had as an emerging star late in the 2011 season.
It’s easy to forget that Edwards started all 14 games in ’11, finishing with 71 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two picks. He finished the year on a high note, with eight tackles, two TFLs and a sack in the Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan.
But he didn’t recover from surgery last spring to relieve pain from a stress fracture in his leg as quickly as Tech hoped. A subsequent knee surgery in August set him back again. Once he returned in the middle of the season, he didn’t look like he was running right. At the level Taylor and Tyler were playing, it didn’t make sense to bump either from the lineup.
Now that Taylor is gone, Edwards figures to slide right back into his old starting spot at backer, a position that requires somebody who can be a run stopper and drop into coverage. The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder is a good physical fit for that job and didn’t appear to have any hitch in his step this spring, when he was a full participant.
That’s good news, especially considering the backups at backer – Deon Clarke and Dahman McKinnon – have yet to see significant action at the college level.
If Edwards can return to his 2011 form, that’d be one less question mark on a defense that doesn’t figure to have a whole lot of them in 2013.
Coming Thursday: The first pairing on the countdown, and it’s on defense.