Vandals land verbal from impact safety

GIVEN THE STRUGGLES OF IDAHO'S secondary in 2013, it's no surprise that rebuilding the defensive backfield is a top priority. Last weekend Idaho hosted Butte (Calif.) College standout safety CHRIS EDWARDS (6-2, 215, 4.55), a Detroit (Mich.) native, and got the commitment they sought. GVN caught up with Butte coach and former Vandal WR Bobby Bernal-Wood for insight on the hard hitting safety.

In 2013 the Idaho pass defense finished 124th in the nation, ahead of only California out of the Pac-12 Conference in the final FBS rankings. Without any doubt, overhauling this unit is one of the top priorities this recruiting season. Near the top of the Vandal recruiting board is hard hitting safety Chris Edwards, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore with 4.55 speed. Last week Twitter feeds picked up the verbal commitment of Edwards to the Idaho program during his official visit to the campus.

"I'm committed to Idaho," Edwards told "I've been getting interest from Washington and Texas Tech [among others]. But the only school that stuck with me, and was recruiting me the hardest, was Idaho. So that's why I made my decision to commit."

Persistence, it seems, pays off. Edwards carries official offers from Northern Colorado and South Carolina State in addition to Idaho. The Vandal program is the only school he's officially visited (weekend of January 17th), and Idaho is also the only school he plans to visit.

Vandal offensive coordinator, Kris Cinkovich, led the charge in recruiting Edwards to the Idaho program.

"What really stood out to me was the coaches," Edwards said of the recruiting process. "They really want to win, even though they didn't have a good year this year. I have a lot of faith in them, and I trust them that they're going to turn the program around. I want to be a part of that."

One thing that stands out in particular about Edwards is his size (in addition to his punishing hits). So really the question wasn't so much if he expected to play this fall, but where.

"Actually Idaho is looking at me to play strong safety, but we'll have to see when I get up there, because I can also play the free," Edwards said in advance of his arrival on June 9th. "So we'll have to see when I get up there."

Regardless of where he plays, we know he'll be familiar with the schemes Idaho runs before he arrives. "I talked to coach Lee a lot," Edwards said. "They run a 4-3 defense, so I'm really familiar with that -- that's what I ran in high school, so I have a good idea of what they want to do."

FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR with the Butte College program, they are good. Crazy good. This season the Roadrunners went 12-0 and won the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship. Ranked third nationally heading into the title game, they beat the No.2 team in the nation (Fullerton) for the state championship, and were awarded the co-Junior College National Championship with East Mississippi.

Not a bad season.

And Edwards was instrumental to Butte's winning ways. "I felt like I had a pretty solid season," Edwards recalled, reflecting on the season. "I didn't do everything I wanted to do, but I think my season overall went pretty good personally. Team-wise we had an excellent season. We went 12-0, won the California State Championship and were named National Champions. So it went real good."

Statistically, Edwards' numbers weren't gaudy. He finished with 55 tackles (34 solo), one pick, and one fumble recovery. The statistic that you won't see though is pain delivered per tackle, and Edwards brought plenty. He played on a good defense on one of the best teams nationally in the junior college ranks. The fact he came in to a solid program like Butte, and with just one year of eligibility left earned a starting nod and played well speaks volumes enough.

At Idaho Edwards will have two years to play two, and has expectations of playing immediately. Given his resume, there is little doubt he will be in the thick of the hunt for immediate playing time in the Vandal defense.

SO TO GET GET MORE INSIGHT into what Edwards accomplished at Butte, we reached out to former Vandal record setting wide receiver Bobby Bernal-Wood, the single-season record holder with 96 receptions in 2004, who is a coach on the staff at Butte College.

"Chris was a one-year guy, a transfer from Grand Rapids (Mich.) junior college," Bernal-Wood said. "He came in and was an impact player right away. Physically, he's a really good looking player. He got better over the year -- he had to sit out a year after transferring in from Grand Rapids. He shook off some of the rust early on in the season. But physically he will be as good looking as any player who's put on a Vandal uniform playing the safety position. Numbers-wise, strength-wise, he's right on par.

"The other guys are going to be like 'Whoa!' I've been in the situation, myself, going from Butte College to Idaho myself. Maybe some of the weight lifting habits might not have been there. But not with these guys [Chris and Idaho's other Butte commit Wesley McCoy]. They'll jump right in there and be right on par with everyone else."

So one of the things that really stands out in watching video of Chris is his size for a safety.

"And that's what it is," Bernal-Wood stated as one of Edwards' biggest assets heading to the next level. "He's the prototypical guy you want in your secondary. He's big enough to play the run, agile enough to lock-up with a slot receiver or an outside guy or a tightend. For him, he's what you want on paper. I think his best football is ahead of him, just because he shook off some of the rust this year.

"From day one in camp through the last game he was playing really well."

Given the needs in Idaho's secondary in this, the second season in the Paul Petrino era, Edwards may be just the impact defensive back the Vandals need.

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