FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After a year filled with All-American honors, the NFL Draft Advisory Board still believes inside linebacker T.J. Edwards could benefit from returning to the University of Wisconsin for his senior season.
Edwards said Wednesday he received a “come-back-to-school grade” after he sought advice from the advisory board, which grades players as first round, second round, or return to school.
"It is what it is,” Edwards said. "I didn’t expect to get a first- or second-round grade, to be honest with you. ... I’m still on the fence, just because there’s so many things that go into it. It’s kind of tough."
Edwards continues to seek feedback from other sources before making a final decision on whether he’ll jump to the NFL a year early. The deadline for underclassmen to declare is Jan. 15.
Edwards, a three-year starter, recorded 75 tackles, 11 for loss, two sacks, four interceptions and one touchdown this season.
He said the biggest concern regarding his draft position comes from his lack of speed, an attribute that’s difficult to improve significantly in just one year. Edwards also said he’ll consider the risk of what may happen to his draft stock if he suffers an injury next season after fellow UW inside linebacker Jack Cichy tore his anterior cruciate ligament in August, just before his senior year began.
UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonard said Wednesday he believes Edwards is capable of making the jump to the NFL right now.
“I think he’s ready, especially mentally,” Leonhard said. "He’s got a great grasp of football. Obviously, at this time, still developing as a player physically and all that stuff. The more time the better, but what he’s done on the field this year has been very impressive to me, just the consistency and that he’s made big plays for us."
UW set to face former coach
Former University of Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Brown is set to face the Badgers as Miami’s offensive coordinator in Saturday’s Orange Bowl.
Brown spent just one season (2014) at UW, when Melvin Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards and finished runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
“(I learned) just the way that program is built and just the mindset of those players not to back down from any challenge,” Brown said Wednesday of his time at UW. "I remember the year I was there, we came down and played Auburn in the (Outback) Bowl, and there was a lot of conversation from Auburn about them being more athletic.
"I just think those guys being able to always stay focused. It’s going to be an in-your-face, physical game for four quarters. ... They’re a very physical group of players that take great pride in their program."
Brown said he remains in contact with former Badgers running backs Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, as well as current UW inside linebacker Arrington Farrar.
Brown left the Badgers to join current Miami coach Mark Richt at Georgia, where he served as running backs coach. Brown played running back for the Bulldogs under Richt from 2004-07.
Richt was fired following the 2015 season and hired Brown as the Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator after taking the job at Miami.
"I’m learning (from Richt) how to continue to run an offense,” Brown said. "He’s done a really good job for a long time from an offensive standpoint, but also learning how to run a team from a head coach standpoint. ... Being able to be around him and be in this program was the reason why I left Wisconsin to come back to Georgia. Not just because it was my alma mater."