Senior quarterback Malik Brown (1) will help lead the Starkville High School football team against Columbus on Friday night. Brown has thrown for 295 yards and four touchdowns this season. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff Buy this photo.
September 7, 2017 10:24:33 AM
STARKVILLE -- Zach Edwards doesn't review himself like a person playing a key role in one of the state's top Class 6A defenses. Six tackles for a loss and three sacks through three games is enough to earn recognition for most; that's not the case for Edwards or any other Starkville High School Yellow Jacket after last week's loss to West Point.
"I played horrible West Point game. The other two games I thought I was OK," Edwards said.
Such a statement is indicative of the new movement in the Starkville football program after last week's loss to West Point, a rededication of sorts to the team's base principles.
"It's good he understands. We want to make sure they're about the team instead of about stars and offers," Starkville coach Chris Jones said. "I think at times they tend to work a little bit too hard for that instead of doing what we teach, doing stuff our way and what we ask them to do. They're not bad kids.
"I want them to get all the recognition they can possibly get but I want them to do it with the framework of the team. The mind-set shouldn't be, 'I did my job, I shouldn't worry about it.' Not that they said that, but I don't want that mentality. You're going to get stars and scholarship offers by playing within the scheme."
Jones hopes that attitude re-emerges at 7 p.m. Friday when Starkville (2-1) plays host to Columbus (0-2) in a showdown of the Golden Triangle's two biggest programs.
Jones' edict is just as true for Edwards as it is any other: in his hybrid linebacker / defensive end position, opportunities to make plays may come to him more than some others. The patience to wait for those times is easier said than done, especially for Edwards, and that's what Jones is trying to coach into him.
"This is good and bad, but Zach tries to make every play sometimes," Jones said. "If (the running back) cuts back, he's cutting back into a play for you to make. A lot of good plays that guys make never show up in the stat book."
When Edwards is operating at his best, he can be a pivotal piece of the Starkville defense. Defensive coordinator Kevie Thompson has taken to moving Edwards around in the front, with his linebacker role taking reps all over the formation while his defensive end spot gets him in advantageous positions on a situational basis.
Having a player like him allows Thompson to seamlessly move from three-man fronts to four-man fronts, which Starkville does consistently -- even as he's learning the linebacker position.
"Right now, I would think he's a little better at end because he's still learning the position to play linebacker. He's still a great athlete at linebacker," Thompson said. "He's still in the beginning stages, but he's still ahead of a lot of people because of his athletic ability."
Edwards said that linebacker is more difficult -- "you have to read (plays) and stuff." -- but he's found his previous experience at defensive line is helping him, particularly in engaging blockers.
Edwards said his favorite move is his spin, but he's fond of his bull rush and his dip and rip, too. The dip and rip -- where Edwards dips his shoulder as he makes contact with the opposing blocker and uppercuts with the same arm to shed the block -- is Thompson's favorite.
It's also why Thompson loves to use him in the pass rush.
"He's able to dominate a block," Thompson said. "He's a real smart kid, so he's able to read stuff and dissect a play really quick."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson
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