Evrett Edwards isn’t your typical Duke football recruit.
Most Blue Devil gridiron commits don’t draw attention, let alone praise, from Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Edwards—a 5-foot-11 lockdown cornerback—did though, while attending a camp in Tuscaloosa this summer.
“[Alabama] had heard about me,” Edwards said. “But they had not seen me or paid any attention to me until I got down there. I shut down everybody that lined up against me for three days straight. And [Saban] told me that I am the best high school corner he has seen this year.”
Usually, the gems of a Duke football recruiting class aren’t one of the first players to commit either.
“What makes Edwards so special is that he committed early to give them some [recruiting] momentum,” said Dave Hooker, an ESPN ACC football recruiting analyst.
Giving his pledge to head coach David Cutcliffe in March, Edwards is a high-end three-star prospect and the No. 41-ranked cornerback overall in the class of 2013, according to ESPN.com. But those rankings do not reflect the increase in buzz surrounding Edwards since the beginning of the year.
The Woodbridge, Va. product is a speedster, with a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds. Perhaps best of all, he is a diligent student to the game, watching hours of film each week to study his opponents’ tendencies.
“I study film for outrageous amounts of hours,” Edwards said. “I study tendencies and can tell which routes will be ran by certain wideouts. A lot of kids in high school just react, but I am very cerebral on the field.”
Given the difficulty of luring elite defensive linemen to Durham, it’s pivotal to have quality defensive backs in Duke’s 4-2-5 scheme, especially when facing the perimeter athletes in Florida State’s and Clemson’s spread attacks, which torched the Blue Devils’ secondary for 678 total yards and eight touchdowns, collectively, through the air this year.
Potentially enrolling at Duke next semester, the intelligent, loose-hipped and quick Edwards promises to be an impact player who can help prevent explosive ACC offenses from connecting on aerial bombs in years to come.
“I think Edwards is a prime example of a guy that you need in that conference,” Hooker said. “I really think he is an intriguing prospect for Duke. I do think it’s reasonable that Edwards could come in [as a freshman] and work his way into the rotation.”
His high school team’s season is now over after finishing 6-5 and losing in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs this past weekend. Committed recruits usually enjoy down time after the conclusion of their high school seasons. But Edwards does not have that luxury as he is still being hotly pursued by a number of top programs, which are trying to sway him out of his commitment to Duke.
Cutcliffe and his assistants are experiencing, in a way, a good problem—fending off a host of high-major BCS programs. Edwards says he talks to the Blue Devil coaching staff at least twice a week.
Playing in an area that is a hotbed for prep football talent, Edwards has seen his recruiting process pick up during his senior campaign. Now, he has about 30 scholarship offers with a laundry list of schools still in hot pursuit of him, even though he has been committed to Duke for months now. North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Maryland and Arizona State are recruiting him now, Edwards said, while Penn State, Illinois and Pittsburgh, among others, have been doing so for a while.
“It doesn’t surprise me that other schools have continued to come calling,” Hooker said. “That’s one thing that is so impressive about Edwards is that from day one he committed to Duke, and he has not wavered, to my knowledge.”
In today’s age, verbal commitments from football recruits carry little weight given the accessibility to players via social media. Many commits, especially those who have pledged to Duke, would decommit if traditionally rich football schools came calling.
“It’s easier to get in touch with kids, and I think [other schools recruiting committed players] is incredibly prominent,” Hooker said. “Frankly, a verbal commitment from a good portion of the guys doesn’t mean much anymore.”
Despite the increased interest from other big-time football schools, Edwards is still firmly committed to the Blue Devils.
“I am committed to Duke, and Duke is committed to me,” Edwards said. “Like I said from the beginning, I am looking for a four-year school and Duke is the type of school that will prepare me for life after college.”
Edwards is clearly unique and exemplifies the impressive strides made by Duke football on and off the field.
And if you still don’t believe it, Edwards’ most staggering distinction is his reaction to Saban’s remarks this summer.
“It was just another compliment,” Edwards nonchalantly said.