In two years under center, Edwards has compiled a staggering 6,940 total yards of offense combined with 68 total touchdowns, numbers so ridiculous you’d need a Playstation 3 to match them. If that weren’t enough, the South Carolina native holds the record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback at any level with 313, and just for good measure, there are the two national championships he guided his team to in just two years of eligibility.
As a testament to that type of production, the Mountaineers named Edwards one of the captains of 2008’s team. That makes him only the third junior to be named captain in ASU coach Jerry Moore’s 20-year tenure.
“The players have a lot of trust and respect for him,” Moore said. “For him to get that honor really says a lot about what he brings to the table.”
But despite all of the statistics and trophies, Edwards’ erupted onto the national consciousness as the catalyst in ASU’s momentous upset of the Michigan Wolverines.
As the visiting team in 2007’s season opener, the Mountaineers blocked a late field goal to stun the Wolverines, 34-32, in Ann Arbor. Edwards terrorized the Michigan defense all day, connecting on 17 of 23 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 62 rushing yards and another score on the ground.
“It put a bigger target on our back as the season went along. Everybody just wanted to beat the team that beat Michigan,” said Edwards. “It was a big difference because basically almost the whole world knows us. When we’re walking around here in Boone they know who we are. A couple of years ago there were only a few people who knew us but now most of Boone knows who we are.”
Now, Edwards has been charged with the task of making lightning strike twice. The Mountaineers open their second-consecutive season on the road in a very hostile environment against a nationally ranked opponent.
2008 presents an entirely new challenge in the form of the LSU defense. The Tigers have finished every season of Les Miles’ tenure as one of the top three defenses in the country.
LSU’s defensive line, considered by many as one of the best in the country, will try to stop Edwards with a two-deep of NFL-caliber talent. Conversely, Edwards will serve as a difficult challenge for an LSU secondary that is breaking in three new starters.
“It’s going to be a tough start for us this year, same as it was last year,” Edwards said. “We got a good team we’re going against and from what we’ve seen they like to play a lot of man. Michigan played a lot of zone so it’s going to be a big change for us in our offense for what we want to do.”
Edwards is one of the biggest names to come through the FCS ranks in some time, and is a rare instance of an FCS player with NFL aspirations. Out of high school he was looked at by several BCS schools, but never for quarterback. It was at Appalachian State where he was offered a chance to call the shots.
“At my high school we ran the spread offense so I felt like it was a good fit for me,” Edwards said. “Most of the players I hung out with on my recruiting visit were real cool so I just felt comfortable.”
Clemson and Vanderbilt were two of the few Football Bowl Subdivision schools, formerly known as Division-I, that looked at Edwards, but both would have preferred he switched to wide receiver or cornerback.
“We really didn’t play anyone last year that can run and pass like he does,” said LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. “He can do a lot of things when he gets out of the pocket so we have to stay in our lanes and not let him beat us. The closest thing I’ve seen to him is probably Vick.”
When Edwards was informed that several LSU defenders had compared him to such elite company, he laughed.
“Actually my teammates joke around with me about that too,” he said.
He likely won’t challenge Tim Tebow for the Heisman Trophy, but Armanti Edwards will command the same kind of respect as the Gator quarterback when he steps onto the field in Tiger Stadium.
With Edwards at the helm, Appalachian State is an opponent no one can afford to take lightly and he certainly isn’t taking Saturday’s foe lightly.
“They told us it was going to be a whole lot louder than Michigan so we’re just trying to get prepared for that,” Edwards said. “They say the SEC is the fastest and from what we see LSU is pretty fast.”