Edwards bears defensive load

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's been a bear of a year for the Bruins.

The plight of the UCLA offense has been well documented, but its defense has been beset with problems of its own. Strong safety Marvin Goodwin, defensive lineman Bruce Walker and linebacker Jamir Miller were lost to the NFL while starting cornerback Carl Greenwood, inside linebacker Jeff Ruckman and defensive left tackle Grady Stretz are out of the lineup with injuries.

Literally in the middle of this tempest is Donnie Edwards. As outside linebacker and the most experienced veteran on the defense, the youngsters that now surround Edwards look to him to be a calming influence and to make plays.

"Carl Greenwood (out for the season after breaking his leg againt SMU) was the most experienced guy on our defense," Edwards said. "He had a year more experience than me. We filled our spots with talented players, but they are sophomores. I became the most experienced guy on the team and people looked to me. That has made me pick my game up. When you have young players, they look to seniors and juniors to make stuff happen."

If Edwards is known for anything, the 6-foot-3, 216-pound junior is known for making things happen.

This season, he leads the team in several categories, including tackles (66), sacks (8.5), tackles for losses (13) and interceptions (two). It was his sack that ended Cal quarterback Dave Barr's season with a broken clavicle. These numbers do not tell the whole story, however. Edwards has a penchant for being in the right place at the right time. To wit:

He has led the team the last two years in fumbles caused. Last year one of those stopped a Nebraska drive in the fourth quarter that kept the Bruins in the game and this season his interception of a Tennessee pass with 1:55 left sealed a Bruin win.

"I guess it's luck," Edwards said about his knack for making game-breaking plays. "It just happens. I only play one side of the defense, so the play has got to come to me or I won't get it. If Tennessee had thrown to the other side, I wouldn't have gotten it."

Someone who is glad that teams do go to Edwards' side is Bruin head coach Terry Donahue.

"There is no question that Donnie Edwards is our most productive player," Donahue said. "He was a real physical DB coming back (from the '93 team)."

While his speed and quickness separate him from other linebackers, Edwards wants his actions to distinguish himself and is eager to set a good example for others to follow.

"I'm not really worried about my stats," Edwards said. "I rush or defend the pass depending on what defense we use. I don't rush every play like Jamir did. I'm one of the captains. I've always been a semi-vocal leader, but I perform better than talking. Actions speak louder than words."

Despite Edwards' actions, the Bruin defense is stuck in reverse. UCLA is currently last in the Pacific 10 Conference in rushing defense and ninth in total defense, giving up just under 400 yards per game.

"It's tough, everyday you give your all, then you give up a lot of yards," Edwards said. "It's frustrating when you know every week you give your all and it doesn't show in the team's stats."

Despite the poor showing, Edwards knows that because he is a captain, he can't let that affect his attitude or outlook, because others are watching him.

"I don't think about it," Edwards said about the outcomes of the games. "I just go out every day and do what I do."

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