Jamaal Edwards Makes a Case for Top Tailback in NC

When someone talks about the best tailbacks in the North Carolina class of 2004, three prospects immediately come to mind.

They could mean bullish George Bell of Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville. Or, they could mean lightning-quick Andre Brown of Greenville Rose High School, who has recently been reclassified by some services as a wideout. But if they are talking in terms of the most balanced and complete tailback prospect in NC, they probably mean Jamaal Edwards of Dudley Senior High in Greensboro.

All three prospects are rated among the best in the country at their positions, but for some reason, many services continue to rate Edwards below Bell and Brown. It may be because most of the recruiting attention at Dudley focuses on teammate Demario Pressley, who is rated one of the top defensive linemen in the nation. Dudley head coach Vincent Floyd, however, thinks differently. In fact, he thinks that, as good as Pressley is, Edwards is equivalent in terms of pure football talent and athletic ability.

"Jamaal is a tremendous talent," said Floyd. "He can run. He can catch the ball. He can return kicks, block, play split end or cornerback, whatever. He's an athlete who can do a lot of things. If we played him at corner, he would be one of the top three corners in the nation."

Edwards has all the characteristics of a great tailback. At 6'0 and 202 lbs., he's got a 340-bench press, a 38-inch vertical and runs a 4.3 time in the 40. But it's what he does on the field that sets him apart from the rest. Last year, for example, he demonstrated his combination of power and speed by gaining over 2,000 yards after contact.

"He has the whole package," said coach Floyd. "It's not that he's just running through gaping holes and he's got Division I linemen blocking for him. That's not the case. This kid breaks tackles from the time he touches the ball all the way down the field. You don't find all that in one kid."

"Out of the other running backs we had in the U.S. Army All-Star game last year – Demetris Summers (signed with South Carolina), Darrell Blackman (NC State), Travis Thomas (Notre Dame) and Tim Castille (Alabama) – I wouldn't trade any of them for Jamaal."

As far as recruiting, Edwards has already received 18 scholarship offers from top Division I programs, and even though the NC State coaching staff had called early and often, coach Floyd says that a formal offer was never extended from the Wolfpack.

"The schools at the top of my list are North Carolina, Miami, Florida State and Virginia," said Edwards. "I really like NC State, but they haven't been calling recently."

According to Coach Floyd, schools like Miami and Florida have said Edwards is one of the top three running backs in the nation and Florida State has made him their number one priority at that position. With attention like that, it is difficult to understand why the NC State coaching staff appears to have backed off of their recruitment of Jamaal.

For whatever reason, even though Chuck Amato and company may be recruiting several running backs this year, their primary focus has likely shifted toward George Bell. But with the unknown status of Darrell Blackman and the possibility of T.A. McClendon leaving after his junior season next year, State coaches will probably keep a good eye on Edwards. And with all the attention he's generated on a national level, they can't really afford to take their eyes off of him.

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