The world of Maryland linebacker Karl Edwards is not violent so much as eccentric, revolving in part around a poodle named Lady Bridget, a chow named Sheila, a motor scooter and a deep and abiding commitment to making an impression of some sort.

"Wait. Let me think of something else," said the fifth-year senior after he regained his eligibility by passing six summer-school courses. "Here's one: Miracles do happen; my girlfriend told me that if God can part the Red Sea He can make Karl Edwards eligible."

A short time later, Edwards, his shoulder-length blond hair just about flowing in the breeze, insisted that he and Maryland Coach Joe Krivak, a straight-ahead conservative, "are really the same person, because we want the same things."

"Yeah, right," retorted Krivak. "It's been a very interesting relationship but I wouldn't say we're the same -- I'm the one with all the gray hairs."

The Maryland coaches generally regard Edwards with a weary shake of the head, wishing for more impressions in the chests of opposing running backs and less pontification or attempts at philosophy.

"I've had some beauties, but I've never spent so much time with one kid and not had a clue as to what he was about," said assistant Kurt Van Valkenburgh. "You're never sure who's talking to whom or what's being discussed. I've never once thought I had him figured out -- I'd probably commit myself if I did."

After he fell behind at the start of the season because of academic difficulties, his playing time has increased in each of the Terrapins' first three games. With a number of other players hobbled by injury, he likely will start Saturday against North Carolina State at Byrd Stadium.

"Am I ready? It's hard to say," he said. "Every week I've been playing more, I've gotten better each week, I'm practicing well, I'm getting in shape . . . but nothing's been perfect since this season started."

Some would say the same applies to Edwards's entire career. Mention his name in any conversation and the words "unrealized potential" and "flake" are sure to follow.

"The program lists me at 222 pounds; I'm really 240 and still growing," Edwards said. "I'd like to play Saturday's game at 245 -- it depends on how my girls feed me."


"You know, the girls who take care of me. . . . That ought to get some people calling tonight."

"He's such a great athlete; he always comes out on top when we do our testing," said linebacker Glenn Page. "His vertical jump, his squats -- he has amazing flexibility; I'm in awe of him but I don't know . . . it just seems like certain things have held him back."

As a high school senior at Aberdeen, Edwards was named the Maryland football player of the year and was voted the nation's best heavyweight wrestler. After redshirting his first season at Maryland and playing sparingly the following year, Edwards seemed ready for stardom, making 74 tackles as a sophomore.

His progress was abated last season, however, when he broke a foot in preseason practice. Playing the final six games of the year with a pin inserted in the bone, he still totaled 40 tackles.

Even with the impressive numbers, coaches have seemed hesitant to count on him.

"He's always shown sparks but there hasn't been the consistent development," said Van Valkenburgh. "Now he's running out of time."

Edwards, who would rather run wind sprints after practice with his dogs than his teammates, is the first to admit that his progress has been hindered at times by his carefree spirit. That attitude reached its apex -- or perhaps nadir -- at the end of last year's spring semester, when he found himself needing a 3.5 grade-point average in summer school in order to play his final season.

"Where I went wrong was thinking about myself; it was a shallow way of looking at things -- thinking that I should only be a football player," he said. "That was my fault; now I know that everything has to go in the same direction. I can't be here for a while, then hop over there or do good in one area and expect it to make everything right. So far it's working out."

Krivak warily hopes that Edwards's actions will speak more eloquently than his patter against the Wolfpack.

"For all the talking, this is his last year; there's not much I can do for him now -- all the second chances are gone."