The Bus is back.
He’s sturdy, he’s fast and he is finally producing – even if he’s sharing the highway with Mark Walton and Joe Yearby.
“Coaches gave me an opportunity and I was focused on making the best out of those opportunities,’’ said running back Gus “the Bus” Edwards, who has suddenly reappeared after disappearing from UM’s offense early in the season. “I just try to stay humble, control what I can control and be ready…so that when I do get the chance I can prove that I’m able to be trusted and be on the field.”
Edwards, a redshirt junior who missed all of last season with a Lisfranc fracture that required five screws and a metal plate be surgically inserted into his left foot, got his most carries of the season in last week’s victory at Virginia: 11 for 68 yards, a 6.2-yard-per-carry average.
He now has 204 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries, also a 6.2-yard-per-carry average.
As the Hurricanes (6-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepare for North Carolina State (5-5, 2-4) in Raleigh on Saturday, Edwards is ready to get touches against the nation’s fourth best rushing defense.
The Wolfpack allows only 99.4 ground yards a game.
“I think he’s been motivated the entire year,’’ UM running backs coach Thomas Brown said of Edwards. “He’s been frustrated a bunch, which I get, and in my opinion I probably should have played him early on. It’s my fault for not getting him involved more with the offense. But he’s been consistent, hasn’t complained and worked his butt off and earned the right to play more.”
Though Mark Walton (885 yards and 11 touchdowns on 160 carries) and Joe Yearby (575 yards and seven touchdowns on 96 carries) are the featured backs of Miami’s offense, Edwards might get a bit more love these next three games.
“Gus has been battling,’’ Richt said. “He was coming off an injury. He didn’t go through the offseason program, the mat drill program and all that. His foot was healthy… but he was struggling a bit with the conditioning in the spring. And then by the summer and fall he really came around and was in much better condition.
“We hadn’t gotten him the ball a lot, obviously. But he’s just been very patient, very diligent. He kept earning the right to play and then when he got his opportunity he played well. So he’s going to get more opportunities. I’m proud of his attitude through it all because obviously he’s a very talented guy.’’
Edwards, from Staten Island, N.Y., ran for 338 yards (5.1-yard average) and five touchdowns his freshman season in 2013 and for 349 yards (5.7-yard average) and six touchdowns in 2014.
Richt said he has no qualms playing a three-tailback rotation.
“I played three backs a lot in the past,’’ the coach said. “If you’ve got two guys going 20 carries a game, that’s a lot. If you have 15-15-10 [or] 18-12-8 – whatever – that’s not bad. ...That position, the more you can keep guys fresh in a game, in a season and in a career, I think you’re doing them a favor.”
Brown said Edwards, who noted he runs the 40 in about 4.5 seconds, “had to realize how big he is’’ and how he “can overpower guys’’ by playing behind his pads and “[hitting] it full speed.
“‘There’s nobody going to step in front of you when you’re going full speed,’ Brown said he told Edwards. “’But you make yourself a lot easier to tackle when you’re trying to dodge guys and go side to side.’ So I think he’s done a really good job of buying into it and realizing how big he is and how big he can play.”
Edwards said he has no intention of transferring, given his light workload until now.
“I’ve been here since my freshman year,’’ he said. “This is home. All my brothers are here. A new coaching staff, but at the same time they’re family now, so I wouldn’t want to turn my back on them no matter what.”
▪ Former left guard Kc McDermott, who shifted to left tackle in place of the injured Trevor Darling (knee) last game, was still at tackle Tuesday in practice. Darling was at practice but didn’t do a lot of work, said Richt, who wouldn’t rule out McDermott staying at tackle.