Kalimba Edwards’ State

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December 10, 2001
Kalimba Edwards’ State

South Carolina’s Kalimba Edwards entered 2001 as a prospect well worth watching. Blessed with size, speed, endless athleticism and uncanny smarts, scouts and personnel people seemed almost giddy whenever they spoke of Edwards’ seemingly limitless potential.

But after a disappointing season (relative to the expectations) gave way to a season-ending knee injury on November 10, the buzz surrounding Edwards quieted. Gamecock coaches asked Edwards to pick up perhaps too much slack this year, stretching his responsibilites and stunting some of his growth as a player, not to mention, impacting his stat totals.

But Edwards remains a viable prospect. In fact, HoustonProFootball.com recently learned that Edwards, who scouts think would make a great, edge-rushing OLB in the NFL, might be second on Houston’s wish list behind Tennessee DT John Henderson. So with that in mind, The War Room recently caught up with Michael Smith of The State in Columbia, South Carolina, to get an insightful, first-hand look at Edwards’ season and his prospects beyond it.

HPF: First things first, where is Kalimba Edwards on his road back from injury? Will he be healthy/ready for the 2001 combine? If not, when?

Smith: Edwards is rehabbing his knee. The injury was a sprained MCL. No surgery was required and everything is being handled through rehab. He is questionable for USC’s bowl game, but I don’t expect him to play. Edwards should be OK for the combine and there are no long-term concerns with the injury. He had played in all 44 games of his college career until the injury, showing he’s extremely durable.

HPF: Pre-injury, what was the buzz on Edwards’ season? There’s been concern in the past about his instincts – did those improve at all this year?

Smith: The concerns about his instincts are understandable, given that he’s been asked to learn a new position the past two years. As a junior, he was moved from defensive end, where he played all his life as a down lineman, to outside linebacker. He had to learn pass coverages and all the things that go with being a linebacker. This season, because of injuries, Edwards was forced to play three positions, inside linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end. While his tackle numbers were up, his big-play numbers (tackles for loss, sacks) were down. That’s a reflection of him playing more inside linebacker.

HPF: Would it be fair to say Edwards has been misused by USC on defense? If so, how?

Smith: Going back to the previous question, Edwards has played different positions. I don’t know that he’s been misused, but he certainly hasn’t been showcased as well as he could have been, like an Alex Brown was at Florida.

HPF: Though they’ve said personnel will ultimately determine the defensive scheme, it’s no secret Houston coach Dom Capers prefers the 3-4. What kind of defensive scheme did USC use this year?

Smith: USC’s scheme was technically a 3-3-5, but it took the shape of a 3-4. USC’s strength was its secondary and the coaches felt they were better off with five defensive backs on the field. That made them somewhat susceptible to the run, but the bend-don’t-break philosophy served them well. The Gamecocks were one of the SEC’s best in scoring defense.

HPF: Some scouts think Edwards would make a fantastic DE in the NFL. Where do you see Edwards playing at the pro level and why?

Smith: I think Edwards must play defensive end. I’m not well-versed on the distinctions between outside linebacker and defensive end in the different NFL schemes, but Edwards has been a defensive end all his life and he feels most comfortable as a down lineman coming off the edge, much as John Abraham
does with the Jets.

HPF: What do you think are Edwards’ strengths and weaknesses?

Smith: Edwards’ strengths are his raw size and speed. He’s 6’6", 260 and has worked hard to gain that much weight. He eats protein shakes and watches his diet carefully to keep weight on. He came to USC about 230 pounds. His weaknesses are that he sometimes gets too caught up in what he’s doing mentally and doesn’t react. He is such a cerebral guy, but he needs to stop thinking so much and just react. Part of that probably has to do with learning a new position. But he was a far more effective pass rusher his first two-plus seasons.

HPF: What do Edwards’ coaches think of him?

Smith: He’s probably the best character guy on the team. If stats were kept, he would lead the team in community service projects. It’s nothing for him to stop by a class room and spend an hour with kids at a local junior high. And that’s unsolicited. His father, Lloyd, is a college professor at North Carolina and his influence on Kalimba has been obvious.

HPF: How does Edwards get along with his teammates?

Smith: The team’s unquestioned leader. When Kalimba talks, everyone listens.

HPF: What’s Edwards like off the field? Has he ever been in trouble? How has he dealt with expectations and pressure this year?

Smith: Never been in trouble. Going back to his community-service projects, Kalimba once shadowed a troubled 13-year old to school for a week. And get this: that was during Kalimba’s spring break. He didn’t go to the beach, he stayed in Columbia to hang out with this foster child. A few months later, when the foster child was admitted to a hospital because of some problems, the kid listed Kalimba as his only family member. That tells you the impact Kalimba had on the kid.

HPF: Is there any player currently in the NFL or that maybe you’ve covered that Edwards reminds you of?

Smith: Everyone at USC thinks of Edwards as another John Abraham (of the New York Jets). They played the same position at USC and have many of the same attributes. Abraham has more flat-out speed and quickness, while Edwards is better against the run.

HPF: Do you have any confirmation that Texan scouts and/or personnel have been watching Edwards and/or talking with his coaches?

Smith: Everyone is watching Edwards.

HPF: Lastly, are there any other Gamecocks that Texan fans should keep an eye for the 2002 draft?

Smith: Both USC cornerbacks, Sheldon Brown and Andre Goodman, are expected to be drafted. Safety Willie Offord could go fairly high, maybe second or third round, depending on his workouts. You won’t hear much about middle linebacker Kenny Harney because of his injuries, but he’s 6-3, 250 pounds and can run. Would be a prototypical NFL middle linebacker.

Michael Smith has covered the Gamecocks for the past four years. We want to thank him for taking time and letting us get to know Edwards a little better.

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