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August 11, 2009Antavian Edison is 3-for-3.
After each of the first three days of training camp, the freshman wide receiver has been singled out by Coach Danny Hope as a standout, leaving him perhaps as a front-runner, among a slew of newcomers, for early playing time.
"He's a really good player," Hope said unprompted following Monday's practice. "He gets open and looks natural doing it. He makes people miss in space, catches the ball well.
"He doesn't seem to let anything bother him and that's big when you're a freshman coming in. They've all got talent, but he seems to be a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more polished."
Edison's early emergence is a positive development for the Boilermakers, who are desperately in search of playmakers at wide receiver, after a majority of their production from last season moved on. As has been well documented, five of Purdue's top six wideouts are gone, leaving the Boilers with only two returnees who have double-digit career receptions.
Thus, there are plenty of holes to be filled over the next few weeks.
At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Edison might be best suited to play on the inside, as he did during his career at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Fla. With the Boilermakers, he could team with veteran Keith Smith in the slot, filling much the same role as Desmond Tardy did a season ago.
But from talking to Edison, it's evident that the youngster will do whatever is asked of him, from taking hits while going over the middle to splitting out wide on the outside, or anything else. As he said repeatedly during a short interview outside the Mollenkopf Athletic Center after practice Monday, he'll do whatever position coach Brian Rock says.
"Always, if he says run five laps, I'll run five laps," Edison said. "If he says do a thousand up-downs, I'll do a thousand up-downs. He's not as much of a coach, he's a dad, a father to us."
That Edison's willing to do whatever seems to fit the same traits he displayed at Dunbar. There, he rushed for nearly 500 yards, had another 500 or so in receiving yardage (on 35 catches), returned kicks and punts and made 38 tackles as a defensive back.
He was also a star baseball player and ran track, posting a 10.7 in the 100-meter dash and participating in one of the state's best 4x100 relay teams. Yet, despite all that, he was only a two-star Rivals.com recruit (listed as an athlete), and came to Purdue without any other major BCS offers.
But he's shining now, although he's unwilling to evaluate his own early performance.
"I'm going to leave that up to the coaches," he said. "That's up to the coaches to decide, so I'm not going to comment on that.
"But I'm always giving my best effort."
That effort might be good enough to get Edison on the field as a true freshman. He's poised to perhaps fill in on the two-deeps there, backing up Smith. And he's been fielding punts and kicks in practice - he scored four touchdowns in only 18 attempts on combined returns as a senior last season - as the Boilermakers look to fill holes there as well.
Edison would be willing to be a lead return man too, if asked.
"If the coaches see me as the best fit," he said. "Then, I definitely feel I can handle the position and get the job done."
Anything, Edison says, is on the table. He'd even be willing to kick field goals, if that's what the coaching staff wanted.
"Without a doubt," he joked. "If they felt like I was capable of kicking field goals, I'm going to kick some field goals. All the way."
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