Avery Edwards is someone to celebrate in Terps passing game

Avery Edwards is someone to celebrate in Terps passing game
Maryland tight end Avery Edwards gestures as he scores a touchdown in the second half against South Florida. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

The parallels between the beginnings of his standout high school career and of his college career were clear to Avery Edwards as he jogged off the field following his first career touchdown in the third quarter of Maryland's 35-17 win over South Florida on Saturday.

When he scored his first touchdown in high school, he had run the wrong route, so his coach chewed him out after he returned to the sideline. After he hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Rowe to put Maryland up 28-10, Edwards unleashed a monster, Rob Gronkowski-esque spike in the end zone, earning him a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and the ire of coach Randy Edsall when he returned to the sideline.


"I guess first touchdown in college, got yelled at by coach, so it kind of makes sense," Edwards said Saturday.

Edwards emerged as a dangerous receiving weapon in the Terps' victory, catching three passes for 36 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 234-pound freshman was a big and reliable target for Rowe, making his first start since October 2013. He gives Maryland a legitimate receiving threat at tight end, and his two receiving touchdowns equaled the number of scores Maryland tight ends had a year ago.

"Avery is a great player, and he's going to continue to make big plays for us," Levern Jacobs said. "He's just one of those guys that's just special out there at tight end. I expect a lot of big plays from him for the rest of the season."

One of the Maryland coaching staff's buzzwords early this season has been "versatility" in reference to the Terps offense. When tight end Andrew Isaacs suffered a season-ending knee injury last September, it forced Maryland to spread out more and use four wide receivers more often and be less unpredictable on offense. With healthy and more experienced tight ends, the Terps can show more formations and use more diverse personnel groupings.

On Saturday, Rowe often used play-action under center to draw the South Florida safeties up and free up his playmakers downfield. Edwards' second touchdown catch came when Rowe drew the Bulls safety up by looking at his wide receivers making bubble screens, freeing Edwards to run up the seam wide open for a 22-yard touchdown.

"He's a good find for us this year and he'll continue to be a bigger part of our offense the more he improves," Rowe said. "He's a guy that's a big target, easy to throw to, so I'm looking forward to throwing him the ball."

The celebration after Edwards' second touchdown was a little more muted, though. He embraced Jacobs behind the end zone and then handed the ball off to an official. After the game, Edwards said he "must have been watching a little too much TV and Gronkowski," the New England Patriots star tight end known for spiking the ball in his touchdown celebrations.

"It was a good feeling until I ran over to Coach Edsall and then I kind of realized that it's probably not the best thing I could have done, so definitely on the second touchdown I learned my lesson," Edwards said.

"I didn't realize we were in the NFL and we were allowed to spike the ball," Edsall said. "I mean, holy crap, that was a shocker. The official said to me he almost didn't throw his flag because he hadn't seen that in so long."

Spikes and penalties aside, Edwards' performance Saturday was another boost to an offense sporting a revamped look after the first two weeks of the season. Rowe was named the starter with speedier wide receivers on the outside to boost the passing game. The Maryland coaching staff had praised Edwards' receiving ability, and he got early time playing with the first team Saturday.

Earlier this season, Edwards spoke about wanting to emerge as one of the top playmakers in the Maryland offense. And he has the physical skills to do so. His career is off to a quick start. A high school career that started with getting yelled at by a coach ended with him being a touted college recruit. Now he's hoping that his college career can have a similar trajectory.

"Our first two games, we were not where we wanted to be," Edwards said. "We definitely had something to prove and we definitely took great steps today."