August 5, 2008

Motivated Edelman ready for senior season

Fact: There is a quarterback issue at Kent State.

Sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan throws the crisp passes that one would see on Sunday, but he still doesn't throw it in time. Junior Anthony Magazu played well against Buffalo last season, but his ankle injury thwarted any attempt of him moving up on the depth chart last season.

The problem gets more complex when sophomore receiver Leneric Muldrow mentions that senior quarterback (no not the senior quarterback that should come to mind) Jon Brown throws the most catch-able ball.

Fact: Julian Edelman is the starting senior quarterback for Kent State, and he's healthy and ready for his final season in Kent.

The feel is different from the beginning of last season when Edelman was coming off his first year as the starter, and nearly had the Flashes in the Mid-American Conference title game. The then sophomore, junior college transfer from California, had been named second team All-MAC. His ability to elude would-be tacklers in the pocket had captured the imagination of the MAC and the Kent State fan base.

Last season, the only complex thing about the Kent State quarterback situation was Edelman's media day shaggy hair.

After a buzz cut, Edelman's media buzz began to fade. After leading the Flashes to an upset win over Iowa State, the junior tore his PCL against Kentucky. He then played six more games, at times on one leg, until a broken wrist on his throwing arm ended his season with four games left to play.

"Last year we had big things, high expectations," Edelman said, "We let (the coaches) down a lot. All we got to say is Mississippi, and I won't explain that."

Kent State sputtered in 2007, losing the rest of the season, and losing Morgan to an ACL injury only after he threw for more than 250 yards and three touchdowns against MAC champion Central Michigan. The race for the Patriot Bowl started that day, and in the minds of some, maybe Edelman, who had been blamed for the turnover struggles, should be moved down on the depth chart.

But that hasn't stopped a player who has played quarterback since the day he picked up a football.

"That's what you get when you play quarterback," Edelman said. "When you win, you're the Superman. I mean (Eugene Jarvis) has a great game, it still comes back (that) the quarterback orchestrated a good drive. If you lose, you're going to be the goat, so I've been through that all my life, and that just fuels my fire."

Edelman wasted no time after the season, as he began rehabbing the day after he underwent surgery on his wrist. The quarterback went back to California to work with his old high school quarterbacks coach Roger Theeder. After playing quarterback his entire career, Edelman was forced to rework his throwing motion. And it paid off, as the young passer was ready for spring practice, where Kent State coach Doug Martin removed the red jersey in an attempt to force Edelman to learn to slide or run out of bounds rather than fight for an extra yard or two.

"As soon as I broke my arm, I was never in a cast," Edelman said. "I was working the day after surgery on rotation, I did that for about two-three months. Then short throws in the summer, I threw everyday. I had to worry about my shoulder, because that was still a little banged up from (the 2006 season). It was pretty heavy."
The off-season workouts have appeared to payoff. With summer practices starting on Monday, Edelman was No.1 on the depth chart, and took the most snaps. In his third year as a starter, this is Edelman's first year that he enters summer camp after going through a spring practice.

"I was just starting to throw in the spring, (and) I needed those reps," Edelman said. "I'm not going to lie, my year before where I sat out that helped a lot too, because I got to visualize everything, and I was very mentally prepared, but this way I got to help my physical reps."

So what is the finished project? By the time it's a player's senior year, usually he has established himself; he has become a player that teammates and fans know, and can in some way generalize. Is player No. 1 a passer, yes, but he runs well. Is he a Scott Frost, Nebraska-like quarterback? No, not exactly. Whatever he is, fellow senior wide receiver Shawn Bayes said the quarterback from the Bay area is back, and better.

"He's improved a lot," Bayes said. "We've been working in the off-season, running routes, and just working on our timing. As long as our timing is right, no one can stop us."

With the question surrounding Edelman's passing ability heading into camp, fans may forget that it wasn't necessarily his passing that has made Julian Edelman a college quarterback.

It's his rushing ability, which made him the team's second leading rusher. Edelman said his injured knee is back to 100-percent. He said his passing is better, and he's visibly excited to pass to new tight end Jameson Konz.

But when it's third down, and the play breaks down, will the guy that Kent State fans love--the guy that seemingly sprays Crisco on his jersey before he plays and imitates Barry Sanders when he breaks tackles--be back?

"I worry about a lot of things, but that's not one of them," Martin said. "He's got a really nice grasp of the offense mentally. He knows the reads, he knows the defenses, the mental side of things, he's so far along."

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