The second practice of the day was over, and the Gophers cleared the field Monday, all except Berkley Edwards, who remained for several minutes, catching footballs from a passing machine.
“Fifty balls after practice, just to get better at catching the ball because I’m going to be doing more of that,” Edwards said. “That’s going to be probably most of my role this year.”
Edwards is a redshirt freshman running back, but with David Cobb atop the tailback depth chart — and upperclassmen Rodrick Williams and Donnell Kirkwood close behind — Edwards has been splitting out at wide receiver.
The Gophers plan to use Edwards as a weapon on jet sweeps, bubble screens and other basic passing plays.
“We don’t put a lot on his plate,” wide receivers coach Brian Anderson said. “The biggest thing is trying to get the ball in space, and don’t overload his plate with route techniques. You give up a little bit of the technique stuff just to get the ball in his hands.”
Edwards said he didn’t catch many passes until his senior year at Chelsea (Mich.) High School. His brother, Braylon Edwards, was an All-America receiver at Michigan, before playing eight years in the NFL. And their father, Stan Edwards, was a running back at Michigan before playing six years in the NFL.
Berkley Edwards was expected to play as a true freshman last year before suffering a high ankle sprain late in training camp. The Gophers wound up redshirting him.
“I guess the biggest thing I learned was to be patient and humble myself, let everybody else have their time,” Edwards said. “Now I feel like it’s my time, as well as everybody else’s time. But you know, now it’s time to do my thing.”
Myrick’s the fastest
Edwards won Michigan state titles in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash, but he said sophomore cornerback Jalen Myrick is the fastest player on this Gophers team.
“He’s unbelievably fast,” Edwards said. “I don’t think he really knows how fast he is.”
Myrick played 11 games as a true freshman last year and has been working with the second-team defense. He’s likely the first replacement at cornerback after Eric Murray, Derrick Wells and Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
Defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel said Myrick had one of the 10 fastest prep times in the country in the 100-meter dash as a junior in Bloomingdale, Ga.
“He’s 210 pounds right now, so this is a rare type of guy,” Sawvel said. “You don’t find a lot of those out there.
Punting can wait
Ryan Santoso earned a spot in the Under Armour All-American Bowl as a high school place-kicker, but he also averaged 39.3 yards per punt. After coming from Pace, Fla., to Minnesota on scholarship, he redshirted last year and trimmed 35 pounds from his bulky, 6-5 frame.
Now, Santoso is battling walk-on Andrew Harte for the kicking job. Santoso drilled a 54-yard field goal earlier in camp. The question was Santoso’s consistency, but he’s showing that, too, as he made hicks from 33 and 38 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage.
The Gophers could pick Santoso as their kicker, but they’re going to leave punting duties to junior Peter Mortell, whose 43.3-yard average last year was third-best in school history. Santoso said he’d like to punt again later in his career, but he’s content to wait.
“Right now, Pete is the guy,” Santoso said. “He did it last year, so the coaches are comfortable with him. And I’m just grateful to be on the field, and playing D-I football, Big Ten. Field goals are what they want me to do right now; I’m grateful for it.”
Receivers in waiting
Melvin Holland Jr. and Isaiah Gentry remain the two true freshmen receivers with the best chance to play this year. The Gophers love Desmond Gant’s potential, but he’s raw, and Conner Krizancic is still out with a hamstring injury.
“I think Melvin Holland and Isaiah Gentry have both shown some things that they can help,” Anderson said. “But, now where does it fit? And are they completely ready? Not yet, but who knows what happens in two weeks?”