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August 15, 2011

Edwards ready to step into a playmaking role at backer

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech fans remember vividly the days when Xavier Adibi patrolled the field at the backer position. Tall, strong and fast, Adibi made plays from sideline to sideline and earned All-America honors following a senior season in which he recorded more than 100 tackles.

The backer position hasn’t seen anyone like him since then – until now.

Tariq Edwards, a redshirt sophomore, looks like Adibi in pads. He stands 6-foot-2, weighs 230 pounds and runs from sideline to sideline. He thumped people on the field this past spring and earned the team’s most improved defensive player coming out of spring practice.

Finally, he played the way he wanted to and knew he could – and the way the coaches knew he could, too. The difference? He felt comfortable with Tech’s scheme.

“It was just the mental part of the game,” Edwards said when asked what held him back originally. “I was just trying to figure out what was going on here and what was going on there. Usually, I’m pretty good at that, but when I’m coming from a simplistic defense in high school to a complex defense, I had to learn a little more, like coverages and different blitzes and audibles. That was the hardest part. But now I feel I know what to do.”

Edwards holds the top spot at backer on the depth chart, but was challenged this spring by Telvion Clark, who enjoyed his best spring since arriving at Tech. The two of them will need to replace Lyndell Gibson, a 13-game starter a year ago who decided to transfer following the season.

“We [he and Telvion] push each other,” Edwards said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be. He’s doing a great job, and I’m doing a great job. We’ll never lose a step if either of us is in the game. That’s how you get better as a team.”

Bruce Taylor returns to handle things at the other inside linebacker spot – the mike linebacker position. The second-team All-ACC selection started all 14 games a year ago and finished with 91 tackles and six sacks. He missed spring practice with a shoulder injury, but should be at full strength once the season starts.

Barquell Rivers, Jack Tyler and Chase Williams all return at the mike spot. Rivers, who started in 2009, missed nearly all of last season while trying to recover from a torn quadriceps tendon and should be at full speed this fall.

These two positions are among the most experienced on the team. The players hope to return the defense back to its previous ways after allowing 155.9 yards rushing per game last season.

“I’m very excited,” Edwards said. “I’m watching film, trying to get prepared. I’m doing everything I can to help the team as much as possible. I’ve been trying to get to this point since I’ve been here. It’s been a learning process. I’ve been trying to get over the hump, and it feels good to get over the hump.”

Mike linebackers
51 Bruce Taylor (6-2, 243, r-Jr.)
52 Barquell Rivers (6-0, 250, r-Sr.)
58 Jack Tyler (6-0, 229, r-Soph.)
36 Chase Williams (6-1, 223, r-Fr.)
47 Brian Laiti (6-3, 217, r-Fr.)

24 Tariq Edwards (6-2, 230, r-Soph.)
57 Telvion Clark (6-1, 228, r-Soph.)
36 Chase Williams (6-1, 223, r-Fr.)
Jonathan Halfhide (5-10, 217, r-Fr.)


Returning starter: Bruce Taylor (14 career starts)

Starter lost: Lyndell Gibson (13 career starts)

Projected new starter: Tariq Edwards

Top reserves: Telvion Clark, Barquell Rivers, Jack Tyler, Chase Williams

Newcomer: Williams

Breakout candidate: Edwards

Notes: Taylor led the Hokies in tackles a year ago with 91 and in tackles for a loss with 15.5 … Tyler, who gave the Hokies great play down the stretch last season, injured his back and missed all of spring practice. He has been cleared for fall practice. … Rivers, who missed virtually all of last season while recovering from a torn quadriceps tendon, earned the Don Williams TEAM UNITED award this spring for putting the team first.