Looks Like University Of Illinois - TeRah Edwards

Jan 28, 2022

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Still plowing through the pile of LLUOI files on my desk. And since TeRah Edwards was officially announced today (transfers can't really be announced until they're enrolled and all of their transfer paperwork is complete), perhaps now is the best time to do the TeRah Edwards LLUOI.

(They just announced Tommy DeVito officially as well, so perhaps I should get to that one next.)

Let's start with this. With transfers, I'll often go find some blogger for the other team to see what he or she is saying about the transfer. NC State blogs were very "oh man Calvin Hart is good that's a loss" and Missouri blogs were "who is this kid who transferred to Illinois - Khmari Thompson?" (hey man, they were disrespecting him, not me). When doing the same for Northwestern and TeRah Edwards, I found some gold.

On August 19th, a Northwestern blogger wrote the following paragraph about Northwestern's defensive line in 2021:

Northwestern's defensive line might be the deepest position group in the Big Ten West, let alone the Wildcat roster. The group is headlined by Samdup Miller, who returns to the team after opting out in 2020. Miller is looking to recapture his 2017 season where he accumulated 5.5 sacks. Adetomiwa Adebawore was the standout of the Wildcat defensive front in 2020, accumulating six tackles for loss and two sacks, according to The Athletic's Matt Fortuna.

That's actually what it said. "Might bet the deepest position group in the Big Ten West". I mean, I've been known to hyperbolize, but that's... that's amazing.

Some stats from the Northwestern defense this season:

Scoring defense - 29.0 ppg allowed (89th nationally, 12th in the Big Ten).
Rushing defense - 213 rushing yards allowed per game (119th nationally, 14th in the Big Ten).
Sacks - 19 in 12 games (1.58 per game which was 107th nationally and 13th in the Big Ten).

"Might be the deepest position group in the Big Ten West." That's an all-timer.

Of course, that backfires a little bit because TeRah Edwards was one of those defensive lineman. He didn't play much, and he was only a redshirt freshman, but still, if he was some superstar he probably would have been playing in front of some of these guys who gave up 213 rushing yards and only had 19 sacks. That's probably where we should start this evaluation.

But "redshirt freshman" is very important here. Defensive line is a developmental spot - we only saw Calvin Avery start to come into his own this past season (his fourth year). Even Whitney Mercilus only played sparingly as a third-year player before having his breakout season as a fourth-year player. Defensive line almost always takes time. I can only really think of three "wow, he's ready right now" freshmen on the defensive line since I started blogging: Corey Liuget, Bobby Roundtree, and Johnny Newton. Even Akeem Spence (eventually drafted) was very, very raw (he redshirted).

Now, I'm probably being too hard on the author of that Northwestern article. "Deep", to me, means "lots of talent on the first, second, and even third string", but he might have just meant "holy crap Northwestern has a ton of defensive linemen." He mentions 18 names in that article (eighteen defensive linemen), so yeah, he was probably going for "a DL room where they have to bring in extra chairs". Then again, after listing the 18th name, he states "this Northwestern defensive line is deep and talented, and O'Neil should give the defensive line the opportunity for favorable pass rush matchups."

From everything I can gather, that seems to be the reason for the Edwards transfer. Overflowing DL room, didn't play much as a redshirt freshman, enter the portal as a 4-to-play-4 and see what else is out there. Illinois scooped him up and here we are.

Also, his name is pronounced "TEE-ruh". At least that's how he said it in this video:

OK, so what kind of player are we getting? Well, he's a defensive tackle, and he's 295 lbs, so he's likely a nose tackle. And the rotation there seems like it could be fairly simple. Going off the snap counts for nose tackles this past season:

2021 - Roderick Perry (SR) 67% of the time, Calvin Avery (JR) 27% of the time, Verdis Brown (SO) 6% of the time.

And then projecting that forward to next season:

2022: Calvin Avery (SR) 67% of the time, Verdis Brown (JR) 27% of the time, TeRah Edwards (rs-FR) 6% of the time

Perhaps we can even do the same for the following season:

2023: Verdis Brown (SR) 67% of the time, Te'Rah Edwards (SO) 27% of the time, some other nose tackle 6% of the time

And so on. Maybe they lower his weight a bit and he plays at the Randolph or Newton position, but I'm assuming nose tackle so I'm assuming that's where he slots into the rotation.

As strange as it might sound for a player transferring after two years at Northwestern, Edwards' time to shine might be 2024 and 2025. With his Covid bonus year, his clock would work like this:

2020: Freshman at Northwestern, season doesn't count towards anyone's eligibility.
2021: Freshman again (5 years to play 4), plays in only three games so that's a redshirt.
2022: Transfers to Illinois, has 4 to play 4. So he's a redshirt freshman this fall.
2023: 3 to play 3
2024: 2 to play 2
2025: 1 to play 1

And that's really the beauty of grabbing a transfer like this. We talked a lot last year about the advantages that the Covid bonus year provides. Keith Randolph, Johnny Newton, and Isaiah Williams were all third-year freshmen. Here you're getting a third-year defensive tackle and he has four years of eligibility. It's like recruiting a juco who can play four years, not two.

Film-wise, there's not much to study. There's high school film, but that was from the fall of 2019 and it's now 2022. For the same reason that studying freshman and sophomore film doesn't tell us much about a high school senior, studying 2019 film doesn't help much here. Let me go see if he posted anything on his Twitter account with maybe some Northwestern practice film (like we see Illini transfers Dalevon Campbell and others doing these days).

OK so now I'm down a rabbit hole for sure. I wrote that whole "Edwards was announced today" thing above but there's no way I'm posting this until tomorrow because I have to go pick up our carry-order soon and that dive down the rabbit hole took a long time. This will take a bit to explain. Maybe I'll do my run to CVS and then go grab the carry-out and revisit this in the morning.

{transition screen, daylight again, cup of coffee in my hand}

Here's what sent me down the rabbit hole. While looking to see if Edwards tweeted any film of himself at Northwestern (so that there's something more recent than 2019 high school film), I noticed that his "I'm entering the transfer portal" tweet said that he was transferring with three years of eligibility. Did I do the math wrong? I have him as 4 to play 4.

So I go look it up and yes, he arrived at Northwestern in the fall of 2020 (the "Covid Year"). He played in two games but that doesn't matter - nobody's clock took a hit. So he arrived in the fall of 2020 with five years to play four seasons and he returned this past fall with five years to play four seasons. He only played in three games, and that counts as a redshirt season, so he's now 4 to play 4. So why is he listing himself as having "three years of eligibility?"

Because it looks like Northwestern is ignoring the Covid Waiver. I went and looked up several players on Northwestern's roster. Evan Hull? Redshirted in 2019 (only played in four games), played in 2020 (didn't count), played in 2021, now listed as a junior on their 2022 roster. Technically, this past fall, he was a redshirt freshman so he'd be a sophomore going into next season. Meaning they're counting 2020 even though it didn't "count".

So I look at other players. Their best player (offensive lineman Peter Skoronski)? Arrived in 2020 and played (but it didn't count), played in 2021, now listed as a junior. Andrew Marty, the QB who started against Illinois in their most recent game? Was technically a redshirt junior, but was listed as a senior on their 2021 roster and isn't listed on their 2022 roster.

That's enough for me to be able to say that Northwestern isn't "using" the Covid waiver. They're treating it like, well, like Illinois Basketball. Advance everyone at their normal pace on the roster. And if they happen to be asked back for a bonus season (like Da'Monte and Trent), they're asked back. Illinois football brought back every possible Super Senior in 2021 (22 total). Northwestern brought back four. Illinois lists every single player on the roster as if 2020 never happened (this fall, Isaiah Williams was listed as a freshman and 4th-year Matt Robinson as a sophomore and 5th-year Alex Pihlstrom as a junior). Northwestern lists every single player on their roster as if 2020 counted.

Again, this is somewhat common, and again, this is what Illinois basketball is doing. Last season didn't count, but Brandon Lieb is listed as a sophomore this year and Kofi as a junior. Technically, Lieb is a freshman and Kofi is a sophomore (if we were listing players like our football roster lists players). 2020-21 never "happened".

Here's where I'm going with all of this. From everything we've seen - from the most Super Seniors in the country to listing everyone with their Covid-waiver eligibility - Bielema's staff appears to be trying to max out every player's eligibility. Michael Marchese was out of eligibility, but the staff applied for a waiver (I'm guessing based on his five games in 2017 counting as a "redshirt year") and they received the waiver. Marchese will return in 2022 for his sixth season on the field even though he already played four plus the "never happened" season in 2020.

Same with Kendall Smith and Jamal Woods. Smith only played 2 games in 2019 (mostly because he wasn't in the rotation) and Woods only played 4 games in 2018 (injury). So even though these two 2017 recruits both played as true freshmen in 2017 and were both seniors this past fall (even when counting the "never happened" year), they both are returning for a sixth season because they have a mid-career season they can apply as a redshirt season.

You get my point by now. This staff is doing all it can to max out the eligibility of all players. On the flipside, Northwestern appears to be treating their entire roster as if the bonus year never really existed. Four of their guys were asked to return for one extra season and everyone else was advanced along the official roster as if 2020 had counted towards their eligibility. Which means that when TeRah Edwards put together his "thanks for everything Northwestern but I've decided to enter the portal" tweet, he noted his eligibility the way Northwestern was telling him his remaining eligibility: three years. If it's true that he only played three games this fall (and I looked several places and he's consistently listed as only having 3 games played), then he has four years of eligibility. 2020 didn't count, 2021 was his redshirt, can play 2022 through 2025.

I should probably note the thing I always note when talking about this. None of this means that the staff WILL max-out the player's eligibility. Everyone is given a chance to get their four-year degree and graduate. Years five and six are up to the staff. If someone isn't contributing at all, they likely move on after four years. But since the roster lists these players with their max eligibility, I talk about the players with their max eligibility. The Law Firm of Newton & Randolph can play three more seasons together on the defensive line even though 2024 would be Keith Randolph's sixth season. And TeRah Edwards has the eligibility to play nose tackle between them for three years and then play yet another season in 2025.

So I like this pickup. Two years of strength and technique work on Northwestern's dime. And now (possibly) four years at Illinois. I can only go middle-of-the-road Tom Cruises here, but we needed interior depth and picked up a third-year player. I like that.

TeRah Edwards - Two and three-quarter Tom Cruises.


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