Herm Edwards drawn to DBs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- By nature, Herm Edwards is an energetic guy. For the past two days, the White team coach has been visible and vocal, encouraging his players and coaches while sending friendly barbs to his friends coaching the Black team for the Under Armour All-America Game (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN).

While keeping an eye on the big picture, the former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback has naturally gravitated toward the defensive backs.

"It's really a major bonus to have Coach Edwards spending so much time with us," said Ocala (Fla.) Vanguard four-star safety P.J. Williams. "He keeps everything up-tempo, and he's just pushing us to go out and make plays."

That doesn't mean just pass breakups and forcing receivers off their routes.

"What you find from a lot of the young defensive backs is that they don't really have their ball skills developed yet," Edwards said. "Breaking up a pass is nice, but I want to see the interceptions.

"I want to tell these defensive backs that they have as much right to the football as those guys on offense. The mentality of a defensive back has to be that once that ball is in the air, it's mine. It's my football, and I'm taking it home with me."

Ronald Darby, a Notre Dame commit from Oxon (Md.) Potomac, quickly saw Edwards' point.

"He definitely wants us to be more aware of the whole field and how we can attack the football from the secondary," Darby said. "It sounds obvious, but we needed to hear it explained the right way."

The defensive backs responded during recent 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. P.J. Williams grabbed two interceptions, and Eddie Williams, an Alabama commit from Panama City (Fla.) Arnold, grabbed another one.

All in all, it makes for frustrating days for White team quarterbacks and wide receivers. Keyshawn Johnson is working with the receivers, and his frustration was evident.

"That's good because we know if he is screaming at them, we are doing our jobs," Eddie Williams said. "Hopefully he'll continue screaming."

Edwards said he was impressed with the enthusiasm and desire to learn from the DBs.

"Overall, this event is great for these young players because it's going to give them confidence and help them better understand what the level of competition is like in college," he said. "Now, some of the guys with the defensive backs are probably out of position. Some playing cornerback will be playing safety in college, but they are going to be a equipped with cornerback knowledge, too."

Eddie Williams, who most likely will play safety when he gets to Alabama, is happy to learn some of the tricks of the cornerback position.

"It's always important to understand as many positions as you can, especially in the secondary, where the game has changed so much," Williams said. "Sometimes you'll be asked to play a cornerback's role from the safety position, and it's important to know what to do."

Even players not playing defensive back in this game have tried to listen to some of Edwards' teachings.

Marcus Maye probably will play safety at Florida, but the Melbourne (Fla.) Holy Trinity four-star prospect is an outside linebacker this week. Still, he has found his way into some of the defensive back meetings.

"I get to sneak over there every now and then and listen to what he's saying," Maye said. "I want to soak in as much as I can because he's played at the highest level and coached at the highest level.

"Having Coach Edwards around here all week is a great opportunity."

Of course, not everything can be shared, said Brian Poole, a Florida commit from Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast.

"Coach Edwards is teaching us a few tricks," he said. "A few ways to make the plays and get physical without drawing the referee's attention.

"I can't share those secrets with you, though."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.