The question didn’t stump Duke’s DeVon Edwards, an Academic All-American.
Asked Thursday at the ACC Kickoff what player holds the NCAA career record for kickoff returns for touchdowns, Edwards quickly replied, “C.J. Spiller.”
Correct answer. The former Clemson star had seven returns for TDs during his college career. Edwards has six after scoring three times on returns in the 2015 season.
“C.J. Spiller was one of my favorite players growing up,” Edwards said, smiling. “I want to break his record and meet him. Hopefully that can happen.”
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Edwards, named to All-America teams last season as return specialist, figures to be a marked man this fall. Teams invariably will try and kick away from him or might use pooched, shorter kickoffs to keep the ball out of his hands.
There has been talk of late of eliminating the kickoff return in college football altogether, that it’s too dangerous a play, resulting in too many head injuries and other mishaps.
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com reported this week that the American Football Coaches Association’s board of trustees have had “informal talks” with the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee about eliminating kickoffs, providing more player safety. There would be no change until after the 2017 season, it was reported.
That wouldn’t affect Edwards. Nor is he in favor of a rules change.
“I feel like that’s a game-changer play,” Edwards said. “I’m pretty sure there are a lot of injuries that come with that, though. You have people coming full speed.
“I would think the returner is the person that would take the most punishment … and I don’t really have a problem with it. I like kick returning and I don’t think it should go away.”
A year ago, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Edwards had a 100-yard return for a TD against Georgia Tech, a 95-yarder against Tulane and 94-yarder against Virginia. He averaged 29.17 yards on 24 returns, leading the ACC.
“He has got great feet, great quickness,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “He’s a great sprinter. He’s much faster than people realize. He’s explosive.
“All of those things combined, I mean, he is truly a phenomenal kickoff return man. I’ve had Willie Gault, some great ones. Nothing comes close to what DeVon Edwards is as a kickoff return man.”
Edwards, 11th in the ACC in tackles per game (7.7) in 2016, is making the move from safety to cornerback the season. The Covington. Ga., native, who graduated in May, was on the field for 1,084 snaps last season and will continue to be busy as Duke looks to build on an 8-5 season and bowl victory.
But Edwards has Spiller — who played at Clemson from 2006 to 2009 — in his sights. So does Autrey Golden of UTEP, who also has six career TD returns on kickoffs.
“The record for the NCAA, it’s been right around the corner, but that’s not really what I’m worried about,” Edwards said. “If it happens, it happens.”