Up Close: Larry Edwards

<I>Inside Carolina</i>'s Andy Britt is touring the countryside to visit each UNC football commitment. Look for his unique, on-location two-part profiles all year long. Today, he reports from Tampa, Fla. on linebacker Larry Edwards.

TAMPA, Fla. – Over the past four years, Wharton High School head coach and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Richard Wood has served as a father figure for North Carolina football commitment Larry Edwards.

As Edwards begins passage unto the next level – Division I football at the University of North Carolina – he will again seek to fill the void left by growing up without a father.

Both UNC head coach John Bunting and defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable have apparently proven to Edwards that they are worthy of such a responsibility.

"Coach Huxtable is probably one of the best coaches I have ever met," Edwards said. "His overall game plan and his preparation for the game is what really impressed me so far. He goes over every detail, and he knows where to put what talent.

"He thinks I have ability to be a big-time player for Carolina."

Talk about passion for one's craft. Just listen to Edwards describe what football means to him:

"There have been a lot of hurdles. I mean from when I was little with a heart murmur and a lot of stuff when I was little…it's kind of a struggle a little bit at times. But, I've always found pleasure in sports. That's my outlet. And I think that is what has helped me to be myself. It helps me release my emotions, and at the same time, it helps me in life – opportunity- and education-wise. I've learned a lot because of football, and I've learned it takes a lot of hard work to achieve your goals and I realize it's going to take a lot of hard work to be one of the best players I can be."

Edwards, who began his high school career as a defensive tackle and was moved to running back in his junior year, rushed for 1,350 yards and scored 27 touchdowns (12 rush, 15 rec.) as a senior at Wharton. On defense, he registered nine sacks, 18 tackles for loss and forced three fumbles.

The Wildcats, 2002 regional champs, finished 13-2, losers in the Florida state 5-A title game to Pompano Beach Ely, 22-10.

"Larry never ran the ball until his junior year," Wood said.

Edwards: ‘Coach, I've never run the football before; I can't run the football.'

Wood: ‘Yes, you can. When I get through with you, you will be able to run the football.'

"He goes at everything full speed," Wood said. "He never takes a play off in practice, and he's the same way in the games. He's the ‘Energizer Bunny.' Basically, that is what he is, and that's what impressed Coach [Hal] Hunter when he saw him."

One heck of a Florida running back, Edwards will likely not get the chance to demonstrate his offensive skills on the Kenan Stadium turf.

All parties agree: Edwards' future will best be served at linebacker for the Tar Heels.

"He was just an unbelievable talent ever since he was in the ninth grade," Wood said. "In his junior year, we moved him to running back and outside linebacker, because we knew he was going to be an outside linebacker -- but he was league MVP as a running back.

"The reason I made him a running back was because I saw him running the 200 meters one night and he was running by everybody.

"Here's a kid that is 6-2, 210 pounds, and he's smoking people."

Wood then turned to his offensive coordinator and said, "Coach, there's your new running back.'"

With that said. Wood and the UNC coaches believe that Edwards projects as a weak outside linebacker (WILL) at the collegiate level.

Why?

"He can rush the passer relentlessly, because here is a kid that will come off of the ball on every play," Wood said. "That is what you want at that weak outside spot – a guy who can cover people and who will get in the zones. Last year he played SAM, but this year I moved him to WILL to show that he was a guy that can exclusively rush the passer.

"John [Bunting] said he wanted to improve the defense; and we all know that defense wins championships."

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…


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