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Miami RB Gus Edwards eager for bigger role

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Gus Edwards stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 230 pounds. Go ahead and ask him how fast he is.

"My fastest time was 4.49," he says.

Tough to find big, bruising backs who can run that fast. Had Edwards competed in the NFL combine this year, that time would have tied him for third among all running backs with Trey Williams at Texas A&M.

Williams is 5-7 and 195 pounds.

Florida State back Karlos Williams, with similar size to Edwards, wowed scouts with his 4.48 time. Though the Miami strength staff has not tested players on their 40 times recently, coach Al Golden confirmed that Edwards has some serious speed, clocking in at 20 miles per hour on the GPS technology the team is using this spring to get a gauge on player productivity.

That ranked Edwards second on the team, behind receiver Rashawn Scott.

So the opportunity is there for Edwards to use his rare combination of size and speed to help fill the void in the backfield with Duke Johnson's departure. Edwards is eager to prove he is more than just a third-down bull rushing back and expand his repertoire now that he will take on an expanded role.

"I'm trying to make the outside zone a better part of my game," Edwards said. "Last year, they ran me more inside but I think I've gotten way better with the outside zones. That's what I want to do now. Last year, I felt like that's what I was being told to do come in on third down and get the short yardage, just power through but now that has to be part of my game.

"Coach thinks I'm one of the fastest guys. I think I could surprise defenses, and when I get in the open field, I'm not trying to get hauled down."

Edwards has been running with the first-team so far this spring, but Miami plans on using a running back by committee approach with Johnson gone. Joe Yearby, a much shiftier back, will also get carries, along with Trayone Gray. Incoming freshman Mark Walton, an ESPN 300 standout, will be a player to watch in the fall, as many inside the program believe he can step in and contribute right away.

Miami has not been shy about playing true freshmen at running back. But at least Edwards and Yearby have game experience -- combining for 147 carries and 858 yards behind Johnson a year ago. In addition to running the ball, Miami used Johnson much more in the pass game last season -- he ranked third on the team with 38 catches for 421 yards.

So the running backs have been working more on their routes out of the backfield in practice than they did in the past, so they can pick up where Johnson left off. Edwards had two catches a year ago; Yearby had eight.

"It's something coaches have been telling us, that we have to be a part of the passing game," Edwards said. "I try to catch everything that's thrown at me, and I think I've been doing a good job at that."

Edwards, who went to high school in Staten Island, New York, was a late commitment to Miami in the class of 2013. After initially committing to Syracuse, he changed his mind when Doug Marrone left for the Bills. It came down to Florida State and Miami.

The turning point for the Canes? James Coley coming to Miami from the Noles. Edwards wanted to play for Coley, who impressed him during the recruiting process. What stuck with Edwards was the fact Coley not only visited his parents at home, he took a second trip to the other side of Staten Island to visit with his high school coaches, too.

Maybe it was all meant to be. Edwards' Little League team was patterned after Miami -- the Staten Island Hurricanes, featuring orange and green uniforms.

"All the little kids wanted to be Hurricanes," Edwards said with a laugh.

Now that he is one, Edwards has his chance to make an even bigger name for himself.