Back South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards Ready for More

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South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards Ready for More

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Beyond his consistency, what is most impressive about Bryan Edwards is that he has constantly adjusted his role to fit team needs.

Bryan Edwards came to Columbia and started right away as a highly-touted true freshman. The rest, with more still to come, is history.

South Carolina has to replace one of the most dynamic players in the country in the versatile Deebo Samuel. One of the most productive, senior Bryan Edwards, is ready for that charge. The SEC's active receptions leader with 163 career grabs, Edwards has a legacy all his own. Edwards is on pace to become the Gamecocks' all-time leading receiver, poised to pass the likes of Kenny McKinley, Alshon Jeffery and Sterling Sharpe, with a chance to top South Carolina's record books in yards and touchdown catches as well.

Remarkably, Edwards has at least one reception in every single game of his career. Just once, in a span of 38 outings, has Edwards caught only a single pass in a contest; fittingly, it went for a 33-yard score. The 6'3'', 215-pound talent currently has 16 touchdowns, five 100-yard efforts and has finished in the top seven in the SEC in receiving yards per game in back-to-back years. Edwards came to Columbia and started right away as a highly-touted true freshman. The rest, with more still to come, is history.

Matching his three-season average of 54 catches per year, a rate only like to actually increase as he moves into the number one spot out wide, Edwards would slide into sixth all-time in the SEC in career receptions. If he were to replicate his 2017 production, with Edwards emerging as South Carolina's top playmaker with Samuel out due to injury, he would move into the top five. Furthermore, Edwards is in position to become just the league's sixth 3000-yard receiver ever, with 865 more yards, nearly what he recorded last fall, moving him into third behind only Jordan Matthews and Amari Cooper. 

Already, this is a career with milestones both rare and remembered.

Edwards topped the 100-yard mark in his first game ever, coming up with key catches in a close win at Vanderbilt. Later that season, he caught a touchdown in his debut against rival Clemson and his postseason introduction in the Birmingham Bowl. Not long after scoring on the Tigers again as a sophomore, Edwards had one of the plays of the game in a comeback victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl; with the Tigers down 19-9 late in the third quarter, he went up for a highlight-reel touchdown grab that was arguably the turning point for the win. A year ago, Edwards topped 100 yards three times: Georgia, Ole Miss and Akron

Beyond his consistency, what is most impressive about Edwards is that he has constantly adjusted his role to fit team needs. Edwards, late in his freshman year, developed a knack for finding the endzone by catching four touchdown passes from late October on. With Samuel hurt, Edwards, as a sophomore, became the overall offensive focal point, catching 64 passes, more than double the next wide receiver on the roster. He, this past season, was a big play threat who stretched the field, leading everyone on the perimeter with a 15.4-yard-per-catch average.

Now, Edwards moves into a clear leadership position; both as one of the most accomplished receivers in all of college football and a respected veteran in the locker room.

Though you can't truly replace a superstar like Samuel, recently drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers, South Carolina will still have a potent downfield passing attack. Back is senior quarterback Jake Bentley, likely soon to become only the 10th SEC quarterback all-time to reach 10,000 career passing yards. Edwards and Shi Smith combined for over 1,500 yards receiver a year ago and 6'4'' option OrTre Smith is back from injury. Edwards will set the tone.

The opportunities to make headlines will be many. Arguably, the Gamecocks play the toughest schedule in the country with Alabama, Clemson and Georgia, perhaps the national top three, along with the likes of Appalachian State, Florida and Texas A&M all on the slate; those six teams, alone, combined for 70 wins last season. Throughout his career, Edwards has often been at his best in spotlight. He and South Carolina will have the chance to shape the national narrative.

Edwards has long made it a point to make an impact. In addition to statistical production that has already earned him a place in Gamecock media guides, Edwards has been rewarded with multiple academic honors during his time at South Carolina. He has been an example, in Columbia, in more ways than one, a standard set to be a showcase this season. Should Edwards stay healthy and the Gamecocks advance to a bowl game, he will finish his South Carolina career with a notable 50 total starts. 

With kickoff approaching and challenges awaiting, the Gamecocks are ready for a run. One of college football's top receivers will set the pace once again.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports