Coach Edwards making cuts and managing leaders

Edwards may be cutting players

Tuesday’s practice shed light on some unorthodox plans that head coach Herm Edwards has for the team as Edwards expects to cut some players from the team, while also identifying team leaders for next season.

“Between now and next week, you’re going to find out the situation here and whether you continue to be a part of it or not,” Edwards said. “I told them that when I first took the job, and that’s the way to be honest with the guys. It’s always evaluation, it’s always participation, it’s always autograph your performance — that is your resume when you practice.”

Edwards seems to be basing his decision primarily on the fact that he has not seen certain players enough to give them a position when he’s seen others on tape and at recent practices. 

“Sometimes, these players think, 'Well it’s 85 scholarships so I’m good.' No, you’re not good," Edwards said. "You’ve earned a scholarship because of your ability to be a student athlete … If you don’t meet that standard, there’s consequences … If I don’t apply those consequences, then I’m not doing my job."

However, Edwards clarified that if these cuts occur, none of the players will lose their scholarships. 

“I would say there’s some guys that maybe not being a part of the team, they’re not going to lose their scholarships … their scholarships are good,” Edwards said. “They may not participate as an athlete. They might just become students.”

As far as who will be a team leader in the Fall, Edwards mentioned redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins.

“He’s very meticulous," Edwards said. "When you watch him in practice, he’s always looking. He’s trying to look at things not only through the quarterback’s eyes, but what I like, the defensive eyes … He plays the hardest position in football.” 

Wilkins took the majority of the reps for a variety of running and pass drills, while junior quarterback Dillion Sterling-Cole and redshirt junior quarterback Blake Barnett split the remainder. 

Sophomore running back Eno Benjamin was also a heavy participant in practice and got a lot of individual time with running back coach John Simon to work on fine-tuning his positioning. 

“The fact that there’s four running backs right now means he’s spending a lot of extra time with us, making sure things are going right as opposed to … (correcting) it later on film,” Benjamin said. “But now we have the chance to correct it in person.”

Benjamin is the front-runner to take one of the two spots left with the departure of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.

“I feel like I can be the every down guy, the in between the tackle guy … as well as the outside of the tackles with the speed and power,” Benjamin said. 

This may leave Benjamin in a leadership role on the team, but so far, Wilkins is the only player on offense Edwards listed as such as the rest were veteran players on defense. 

“24 is a guy that I’m prodding. 9 is a guy I’m prodding," Edwards said. "96, 95 — there’s some guys I’m going to and saying, ‘Hey, eventually you’re going to have to do this,’ and it’s hard because they haven’t been asked to do that. It’s hard to lead … You’ve got to lead until the job is done.”

Respectively, the players listed are: redshirt sophomore defensive back Chase Lucas, senior linebacker Jay Jay Wilson, redshirt junior defensive lineman Jalen Bates, redshirt senior defensive lineman Renell Wren

As far as the other happenings during practice, the defense spent a lot of time on a variety of fundamental drills based on tackling, stoppage, speed and footwork. 

Additionally, redshirt junior wide receiver Ryan Newsome acted as the wide receiver for the punt coverage unit and got reps alongside junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry for some end-of-practice catching drills.

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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