COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Three years ago, when Maryland sophomore Avery Edwards was at Ravenscroft High (Raleigh, N.C.), the tight end committed to in-state North Carolina. Not only did UNC represent an opportunity to play near his family, but Edwards was also looking forward to learning from the Tar Heels’ tight ends coach.
A coach who just so happens to be in College Park and running the Terps’ offense these days.
“Coach [Walt] Bell was basically the reason I committed to UNC Chapel Hill. I had no idea he’d be [coming to Maryland], but it’s funny how things work out,” Edwards said. “I fell in love with the offense [at UNC] and I fell in love with [Bell]. I think it’s a great fit.”
It’s quite obvious Edwards has readily taken to Bell. The second-year starter has been lining up all over the field, catching passes out wide; in the slot; and even flaring out.
“I’m going to get to do it all. Attached, in the slot, on the hash, in the backfield. I’m going to be everywhere,” Edwards said. “Flood [formation], multiple tight ends, front side, back side. In a spread, you think everyone is always spread out, but we’re going to run the ball and definitely use the tight ends.
“It’s definitely a tight end friendly offense. We have a bunch of different formations and different positions, so I would say it’s really exciting for us. [Aug. 12] we used a lot of flood personnel, two tight ends, and we ran the ball great. Andrew Stefanelli is a great H-back for us, and he’s creating some holes for us on short-yardage [situations] and third downs.”
Edwards didn’t call the scheme a complete 180 from last year’s offense under Mike Locksley, but he admitted it’s been a major adjustment. The tight mentioned the pace, more so than the system, has been a challenge,
“It’s a lot faster, and we have to get used to it; no complaining,” Edwards said. “But it’s exciting, I love up-tempo offenses.”
Edwards should have no issues finding the ball this season, a lock to trump his 14-catch, 115-yard, two-touchdown 2015 campaign. But while grabbing passes is Edwards’ forte, he still needs work with his blocking. Last year, for example, Edwards only started three of the team’s 12 games because Maryland needed a blocker up front.
“We’re working on [the blocking], that’s his challenge. He’s responded to that,” head coach D.J. Durkin said. “To be a complete player at his position, he needs to do that. He’s a conscientious, competitive guy and he knows his deficiencies and weaknesses, and we’re pointing those out and helping him. He’s doing a good job.”
Edwards said he spent his offseason focusing on becoming a more proficient blocker. He also added muscle so he could pack more of a punch at the point of attack.
“Blocking was a big focus for me. I gained 10, 12 pounds. Then definitely just a lot of technique work, getting my hands inside, striking was a big point for me,” Edwards said. “Coach [Pete] Lembo worked with me and so did Coach [Dave] Borbes [Borbely]. It’s been good.”
If Edwards can improve, he’ll easily become the key cog among UMD’s relatively thin tight end crop. Additionally, he’s taken on a role typically held by the team’s elder statesmen.
“I’ve been here a year and know the ropes, and I think I have great leadership. [Former Terp] P.J. Gallo and Andrew Isaacs led me along and showed me the course, and it was easy to grow up and mature,” Edwards said. “I’m excited for the season.”