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Return of Gus Edwards will have big impact on Canes’ backfield

Richard Lewis/Icon Sportswire

Mark Richt plans on using a rotation of running backs at Miami. That plays right into the return of Gus Edwards, who missed all of last season with a foot injury.

After rushing for 687 yards and 11 touchdowns over his first two seasons, 2015 appeared to be a possible breakout season for Edwards, but he suffered the injury just prior to the season opener and was relegated to the sidelines for its entirety.

He’s back at full strength for 2016, and nobody is more excited about his return than Richt.

“There won’t be just one featured back,” Richt said. “We’ll figure out who the starter and see what kind of shape he’s in. But I feel very comfortable with more than just one or two tailbacks right now. We’ll be fine, we keep them fresh and keep them healthy.”

Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Brown likes what he’s seen so far from the Canes’ powerful back.

“Gus is out here making some improvements, no doubt,” Brown said. “He’s done a really good job since the spring. I told him the other day ‘Gus you’re a totally different Gus then you were back in spring’ and I think that’s very encouraging, but there’s still a long way to go. I’m pleased with the progress that he’s made and he’s definitely fighting his butt off.”

Edwards continues to improve in preseason workouts and says he feels even better than he did in the spring.

“I feel a lot more comfortable; I think I am at 100 percent right now,” Edwards said.

He said he’s having fun again even though practices have been tough in Richt’s first season as the Canes’ head coach. Edwards has a solid 230 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame and claims his body fat is at nine percent.

He’s one of a group of running backs Richt will count on to do their part this season. What role Edwards ends up playing in the Canes’ offense remains to be seen.

“I am willing to do whatever they want me to do,” Edwards said. I don’t think they plan on holding me back from anything. They have got me doing it all.”

Edwards will share playing time with Joe Yearby and Mark Walton, who each bring a unique style to the table.

Yearby rushed for 1,042 yards and six touchdowns last season in Edwards’ absence. A shifty runner who can catch the ball out of the backfield (23 catches, 273 yards, 2 TDs), Yearby is a versatile athlete who has gotten stronger and leaner over the offseason.

Walton (496 yards, 9 TDs) is more of a slippery back, tough to hold onto with an ability to shed tackles.

Edwards is more of a bruising back. The redshirt junior from Staten Island, N.Y., averaged 5.7 yards per carry as a sophomore, up from 5.1 as a freshman. Healthy and ready to go, Edwards intends to continue where he left off, ripping up large chunks of yardage with each carry as he returns to the Canes’ backfield to play a key role in The U’s success in 2016.

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