After nearly three years of uninterrupted growth, the stylish braids worn by Braylon Edwards were shorn in the off-season. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm trying to get out the last little bits of immaturity,‚Äù says the Wolverines‚Äô senior wideout, who now sports a close-cut look. ‚ÄúIt tells people I‚Äôm serious about this year.‚Äù
The new look is big news to the Michigan fans who flooded chat rooms with accusations that Edwards was trying to draw attention to himself when he showed up at media day last year with a full-blown Afro. That was nothing compared with the heat Edwards felt from coach Lloyd Carr, who pulled his star receiver from the starting lineup of the ‚Äô03 opener against Central Michigan for being late to team meetings. Edwards, who‚Äôd earned the right to wear Michigan‚Äôs famed number 1 jersey after a breakout sophomore season, admits he was often more focused on his image than on football, which contributed to a rough start last year.
The 6'3" 210-pounder got back on track in time to wind up with 85 receptions for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns, closing the season with four straight 100yard games. In the regular-season finale against Ohio State, Edwards had his best game of the year: seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns in a 35‚Äì21 win that clinched the Big Ten title. ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt believe there was a better wide receiver in the country the last half of the season,‚Äù says Carr.
Edwards, who‚Äôll be working with a new quarterback as second-year man Matt Gutierrez replaces graduated starter John Navarre, thought about turning pro but returned for his senior season because, he says, ‚ÄúI felt I would be leaving an incomplete career.‚Äù The son of former Michigan running back Stan Edwards, Braylon is an encyclopedia of Wolverines history and wants to finish as the school‚Äôs alltime leading receiver. (He needs 866 yards to break Anthony Carter‚Äôs record of 3,076.) Edwards could also become the first player in Big Ten history to put together three straight seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards.
‚ÄúHis decision to come back,‚Äù says Carr, ‚Äúspeaks volumes about his desire to leave a great legacy.‚Äù To say nothing of his decision to visit the barber. --S.M.
2003 RECORD 10‚Äì3 (7‚Äì1, 1st in Big Ten)
FINAL AP RANK 6 RETURNING STARTERS 13
KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)
WR BRAYLON EDWARDS (SR.)
Should set school marks for catches and yards
LB LAWRENCE REID (SR.)
Career-high 82 tackles led the team
G DAVID BAAS (SR.)
A two-time All‚ÄìBig Ten selection
CB MARLIN JACKSON (SR.)
Returns to cornerback after a year at safety
S ERNEST SHAZOR (SR.)
Two sacks and two interceptions
Big Ten wins for Lloyd Carr, most by an active coach. In ‚Äô03 he passed Wisconsin‚Äôs Barry Alvarez (54) and Penn State‚Äôs Joe Paterno (55).
Matt Gutierrez is 37‚Äì0 as a starting quarterback. Those starts, however, all came at De La Salle High of Concord, Calif., which has won 151 straight games. The 6'4" 230-pounder, in his second season, is the front-runner to take over another powerhouse--one that has sent its last seven starting quarterbacks to the NFL.
Sept. 4 MIAMI (Ohio)
11 at Notre Dame
18 SAN DIEGO STATE 25 IOWA
Oct. 2 at Indiana
16 at Illinois
23 at Purdue
30 MICHIGAN STATE
Nov. 13 NORTHWESTERN
20 at Ohio State