The last six months have marked a period of transformation for Derreck Edwards. Texas Tech followers might not recognize his name — its spelling, at least — and the Red Raiders’ receiver hopes everyone sees more in his game.
Edwards generated positive momentum for preseason practice by playing well in the spring. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound redshirt freshman will spend the next few weeks battling Marcus Kennard for the No. 2 spot at split end. That’s the realistic goal.
Edwards is optimistic he can challenge starter Eric Ward, too.
“This is huge,” Edwards said of August camp. “Coming off of the spring that I had, this is huge. I’m looking to go into this camp excited with a full head of steam. I’m coming to take spots. I’m coming to push Eric Ward. I’m coming to push Marcus Kennard. At the end of the day, we’re all going to get better, but I’m going to try to crack the starting lineup.”
A shoulder injury kept Ward out of spring practice and a hamstring injury caused Kennard to miss all but the last two workouts. That meant Edwards had an all-you-can-eat opportunity for snaps in February and March.
The former Brenham standout took advantage of it and had the best stretch in the year and a half he’s been in the program.
“He’s going to be a big-time football player here,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said Monday after the first preseason workout. “He really, from this time last year to now, might have made the most improvement from any of the young receivers we’ve had.”
Thus, it’s more important than ever to get his name right.
Growing up and through his first year of college, Edwards spelled his given name “Derek,” but this summer he had Tech officials correct it to “Derreck” on the roster.
“Growing up through high school and junior high, they told me it was ‘D-e-r-e-k’,” Edwards said. “I ended up looking on my birth certificate, and it was ‘D-e-r-r-e-c-k,’ so I’ve tried to adopt that name more because it is on my driver’s license and everything else. It’s a total mixup.”
Edwards’ discovery didn’t happen just recently. He’s actually known the correct spelling since his junior year in high school, but liked the original “Derek” and was content to let it slide for a while.
“I didn’t know anything about the two ‘r’s and the ‘c’ until I was about 17 years old,” Edwards said. “On my report cards, on my ID cards, all that kind of stuff, it was ‘D-e-r-e-k.’ ... My mom told me the story, and I had to adopt the extra ‘r’ and the ‘c.’”
The Red Raiders hope Edwards can become a similar source of confusion for defensive backs trying to cover him. He was a highly regarded signee, but before his physical skills could kick in, Edwards said he needed to add a dose of maturity.
Edwards cites a couple of influences for his making a good impression back in the spring: Receivers coach Tommy Mainord told him he needed to pick it up, especially after Ward went out. Then his parents surprised him by showing up and watching him practice for three days.
Edwards said his key contribution was taking a better approach.
“I don’t believe you begin a practice and end a practice on the same level,” he said. “It’s either you move up or your move down. Being as I have two great receivers beside me, Eric Ward and Marcus Kennard, it’s a grind every day. I have to go out with the mindset I can do really good and beat out Eric Ward or something bad can happen and I’m going to get third.”
Such awareness, Edwards said, was lacking on his part when he was a high-school star.
“Coming from high school, my mindset wasn’t where it needed to be, but now I think it is,” he said. “I think my mindset back then was, ‘I’m Derreck Edwards. Can’t anybody tell me anything.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m Derreck Edwards, teach me what I need to know so I can go make this team better.’”