Lamonte Edwards, a 6-foot, 210-pound Minnesota Golden Gopher redshirt freshman running back from , is hoping for a fresh start under new head coach Jerry Kill, whose team is 0-2 on the young season.
Woodbury Patch recently caught up with Edwards to learn the latest on his expectations for this season and memories of his time at Woodbury.
Edwards helped lead the Royals to a 6-4 record as a senior. He was named second-team all-state by the Associated Press after he rushed for 1,053 yards, despite playing in just seven games. Edwards scored 13 rushing touchdowns and also played defense, finishing with 45 tackles and four forced fumbles.
Edwards sat out the 2010 season as a redshirt to adjust to the college game. He said he worked hard in the offseason to be ready to contribute this season under Kill, who has noticed the young running back as part of the Minnesota ground attack.
“I would say (we have) a downhill, hard-nosed tough running back in Lamonte," Kill said. "He's done great. I don't think there's any question. He got dinged a little bit towards the end of it, but he's had a good camp, and I've been pleased with him.”
Edwards likes what he has seen from the team so far.
“I think it is going really good,” said Edwards. “We have a good foundation; quarterbacks, running backs and good depth."
Many of the coaches who were at Northern Illinois followed Kill to Minnesota. Edwards feels that the new coaching staff has been a positive change.
“For me, I connect with my position coach better, so it is more comfortable for me out on the field,” Edwards said. “I don’t feel as much pressure, so I can be able to play like I play.”
Edwards has been a player that the Gophers feel can play on both sides of the ball.
“I think that I am more effective on the offensive side of the field, but if it came to the point where I needed to go to the defensive side, I wouldn’t mind,” he said.
Edwards said that his time playing defense at gives him an edge on what to expect as a running back.
“I think that it does help me,” said Edwards. “Being a linebacker in high school, knowing how to pursue a running back and angles that you can set up on them, I think helps a lot."
Edwards worked hard in the offseason to be able to contribute to the team as a freshman.
“Rehabilitation, mostly,” said Edwards. “My knee, I injured it last spring, so I had to get that ready. I worked on my ability to move, cut and make cuts, get up field and my strength.”
Edwards is hoping that that hard work will pay off in more playing time this season. (He had one carry for no yards against USC and seven rushes for 17 yards against New Mexico State.)
“I work hard, so I am looking forward to getting on the field,” said Edwards.
The new offensive scheme has gotten Edwards excited about the Gophers’ new attack and he feels that there is plenty to like about the offense.
“It is a lot different from the previous (offense) we had," he said. "I like the plays. We have the availability to go to the outside, not specifically always going up the middle. I get to use my speed and my flexibility.”
Edwards is playing behind senior Duane Bennett, who has also taught him the responsibilities of being a Big Ten running back.
“He has been like a mentor ever since we’ve been here,” said Edwards. “Even though we are all trying to take his spot and compete, he takes that as an advantage to help us out. ... He is a super senior. We want to allow him to win his last season, too. I go as hard as I can for him, too.”
Still, Edwards is determined to get as much playing time as possible.
“Every chance I get, I want to go as hard as I can and finish through the line and finish everything I do 100 percent,” said Edwards.
Edwards has plenty of memories of being a Royal, especially his relationship with Woodbury assistant coach Lane Swansson, who helped with his college recruitment.
“He is the one who helped me get my opportunity to be here, to be honest," Edwards said. "Homecoming games. We got new uniforms. I know that stood out. Friendships that I had back there. Also what stands out is I didn’t study a lot of film back in high school. I sometimes think that if I had known what I know now, how much better I could have been.”
Edwards’ busy schedule has prevented him from getting back to Woodbury as much as he would like, but he tries to keep with some former classmates.
“I stayed in touch with a couple of people,” said Edwards. “Some of my close friends, but I haven’t been able to watch any of the games because we have been traveling on Fridays, which is their game day.”
Edwards is hoping that those game days will include him getting more and more playing time as the season progresses.