‘Bus’ is rolling, so Miami Hurricanes hop on Gus Edwards express

Gus Edwards (7) holds off cornerback Michael Jackson in UM's 2016 spring game. (Miami Herald)

Gus Edwards (7) holds off cornerback Michael Jackson in UM’s 2016 spring game. (Miami Herald)

The man who kept The Bus in park most of this season wishes he could put everything in reverse for a do-over.

Thomas Brown, the University of Miami’s offensive coordinator, said Tuesday that he regrets not giving running back Gus Edwards more playing time this season. Edwards carried 11 times for 68 yards (a 6.2 average) against Virginia on Saturday in a performance that had Hurricanes fans searching their memory banks.

Gus the Bus? Isn’t that the guy who had a 100-yard game in his second collegiate outing in 2013? And had 106 in this year’s opener? How could Edwards could contribute more against Virginia than he did in the five preceding games combined (a total of 30 yards)? And more than all of 2015?

Some of the answers are simple. Edwards missed last season because of a foot injury. He healed in time for UM’s offseason training program, but his conditioning was such that he spent all spring catching up to teammates. But the time fall rolled around, UM had decided that Mark Walton and Joe Yearby would receive the bulk of the carries, with Edwards filling out the three-pronged attack.

UM rushed for 222 yards in the 34-14 victory over Virginia as the ground game returned to the level it reached early this season. As the backs churned up yardage, coaches turned to Edwards, who had no warning.

“I really didn’t know,” he said. “I was just trying to be ready.”

One successful carry led to another and another. Before long, he’d logged his most attempts since Oct. 23, 2014, against Virginia Tech.

“It felt great just being out there,” he said.

With games at North Carolina State and against Duke remaining on the regular-season schedule, Edwards, a redshirt junior, is likely to rekindle that feeling again.

“We hadn’t gotten him the ball a lot, obviously,” coach Mark Richt said. “But he’s been very patient, very diligent. He kept earning the right to play and then when he got his opportunity, he played well. So he’s going to get more opportunities because of that. I’m proud of his attitude through it all because obviously he’s a very talented guy. It’s hard to watch.”

Edwards said he never questioned whether opportunities would come his way again.

“I wasn’t trying to frustrate myself because if I’m frustrating myself, it will only make me practice worse and I wouldn’t want to do that,” Edwards said.

Brown is blunt.

“I probably should have played him early on,” Brown said. “So it’s my fault for not getting him involved more with the offense. But he’s been consistent, hasn’t complained and worked his butt off.”

One adjustment Edwards made is not relying solely on his athleticism. At 6-feet-1, 230 pounds, he can be a force for any tacklers, especially those in the secondary.

“He had to realize how big he is,” Brown said. “I think because he is elusive at times and is athletic, at least in the springtime he tried to worry about making guys miss more. I told him, ‘You can overpower guys if you play behind your pads and hit it full speed. There’s nobody going to step in front of you.’ ”

Richt sees one benefit to how things have played out. All three backs appear fresh.

“At that position, the more you can keep guys fresh in a game and in a season and in a career, I think you’re doing them a favor,” Richt said. “I think you’re blessing them by having depth at that position and young men understand that nowadays. Years ago, it was like they wanted to carry it 20 or 30 times a game. I don’t think that’s wise for any back, to be honest with you.”

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