Edwards for Heisman?
Appalachian State superstar could excite voters in '08
Posted: Thursday December 13, 2007 1:44PM; Updated: Thursday December 13, 2007 2:52PM
Watch out, Tim Tebow. There's already a new competitor for the 2008 Heisman Trophy -- and his campaign unofficially begins Friday night.
Any serious college football follower surely remembers Armanti Edwards, the fleet-footed Appalachian State quarterback who went into the Big House the first Saturday of the season and befuddled then-No. 5 Michigan en route to a stunning 34-32 upset. It marked the first-ever win by a team from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) over a ranked I-A opponent.
As is inevitable for a team from that level, Edwards and the Mountaineers fell back off the national radar shortly thereafter. The sophomore QB missed four games with a shoulder injury, and Appalachian State -- which received a handful of AP top-25 votes after becoming eligible following the Michigan win -- suffered a pair of losses to conference rivals Wofford and Georgia Southern.
Last Friday, however, Edwards returned to the spotlight with an epic performance in the Mountaineers' 55-35 win over Richmond in the FCS semifinals: 313 yards and four touchdowns rushing; 14-of-16 for 182 yards and three TDs passing.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a quarterback have the night he had," said Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, who's worked everywhere from Nebraska to Arkansas to Texas Tech in his 40-year career. "Richmond [11-3] had a really good team, so it wasn't like he ran up 400 yards against a bunch of guys that can't tackle. He just had an awesome night."
The Mountaineers are counting on another "awesome" night from Edwards on Friday in Chattanooga, when Appalachian State (12-2) goes for its third straight national championship against Delaware (11-3). Such performances have been the norm all season, with Edwards (who has not played in enough games to qualify among the NCAA's statistical leaders) running for 1,499 yards and 21 touchdowns in 10 games while also completing 67.1 percent of his passes for 1,750 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Apparently, the guy's pretty good.
"He could play at any school in the United States," said Moore. "He's not going to go to West Virginia and beat that guy [Pat White] out there, he's not going to go to Florida and beat that guy [Tebow] out there. But another school in that same league, he could go play."
Though it's too late for this year, it's fair to begin asking the question now: Should Edwards -- who, like Tebow (this year's Heisman winner) and White (who placed sixth in the voting), will be back next season -- continue to shine, will he merit consideration as the best player in the country, regardless of division?
Since the NCAA instituted the I-A/I-AA distinction in 1978, only two lower-division players have finished among the Heisman finalists -- Holy Cross's Gordie Lockbaum (fifth in 1986, third in '87) and Alcorn State's Steve McNair (third in 1994). Four others, including Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), placed in the top 10 in the early '80s.
Rarely, however, has a I-AA team or player been as visible as Edwards and the Mountaineers, thanks in large part to that Sept. 1 game in Ann Arbor in which the 6-foot, 175-pound South Carolina native completed 17-of-23 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns (including 4-of-4 for 55 yards on the game-winning drive) and ran 17 times for 62 yards and a score.
"If he continues to play and perform at the level he is now, I think he deserves the opportunity to be on those 'Heisman Watch' lists [heading into next season]," said Moore. "We're being a little premature right now, but in the spring and summer, when the coffee shop talk starts up, he'd be very deserving of being in that conversation."