While David Edwards didn’t wait long to decide, returning to the University of Wisconsin for the 2018 season wasn’t as easy of a choice as it may have seemed.
Before the redshirt sophomore right tackle announced his intentions to stay during the early stages of bowl prep last year, he received a second-round grade from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee, forcing him to sit down with Badgers coach Paul Chryst and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Rudolph to seek advice on his future.
“Yeah, no question (it was difficult),” Edwards said. “I wasn’t that close to leaving. I thought I made up my mind pretty early that I was going to come back. In my gut and in my heart, it just felt like coming back was the right move. But I definitely did look into leaving.”
Edwards recently submitted his name to the College Advisory Committee again, along with UW redshirt sophomore center Tyler Biadasz. This time around, Edwards’ decision may prove to be even more complicated.
The junior suffered a shoulder injury during fall camp and played through it for the first 10 games of the season. He sat out the Badgers’ final two games against Purdue and Minnesota and remains questionable to play in the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami later this month.
Edwards said the injury came from a stinger that took strength out of his left arm and never recovered, although in recent weeks it’s beginning to improve with rest. It prevented him from playing as well as last season, when he earned four All-American honors, including a first-team selection from the American Football Coaches Association.
“I couldn’t play the way I wanted to,” Edwards said. “It was an extremely difficult thing to go through, but I’m proud of the way that I tried to maintain a good attitude and work as much as I could. … I think the one thing I wanted to be able to do was help our team. If I felt like I could play and play at the level that would help us, I tried to stay in there. But after the Penn State game, I really recognized that the pain in my shoulder was too much and really felt like I was hurting the team.”
While Edwards’ shoulder appears to be improving with time away from the field, his limitations this season make life difficult on evaluators at the next level who watch his tape from this season, even knowing many of his shortcomings were due to injury.
“I definitely think it will (play a factor),” Edwards said. “I think the things that I’ve put on tape in the past and even some things this year, there’s been a lot of good. But as a result of my injury, there’s been stuff on tape that I’m not proud of and things that, quite frankly, make me sick. But I definitely think that factors into the whole big picture.”
Biadasz’s draft stock continued to rise this season as he established himself as one of the better centers in the country. He earned consensus All-Big Ten first-team honors earlier this month, and his chances of receiving a high grade from the advisory board aren’t just a pipe dream.
He said he worked this offseason on improving his footwork and flexibility. He also felt much more comfortable communicating calls from the center position than during his redshirt freshman season.
“This year, I’m confident in whatever I do,” Biadasz said. “At the beginning of the season, I knew I had a pretty good shot (at the NFL) if I could get some stuff down. Last year I could compare myself to the centers that did go in the draft. I thought, if I can get this down or these little things, like my footwork and my hand placement and all that stuff, then I can be elite.”
Four current UW players — David Edwards, Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel and T.J. Edwards — considered leaving early last season before ultimately staying for another year. Biadasz said he’s spoken with those four about making their decisions and how it affected them.
Deiter and Benzschawel are now seniors, meaning the Badgers may need to replace four starters on the offensive line next season if both David Edwards and Biadasz opt to leave early.
They have until Jan. 14 to decide if they’ll make the jump, and they likely won’t make a final call until after the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27.
“(The advisory board’s grades) play a big part in it, but obviously there are a lot more things that go into it,” Biadasz said. “… You’ve got to consider all the factors. I’m at that point right now where I’m taking it all in and weighing all my options.”