Steve Edmond

Stock Up: Quandre Diggs

With Texas struggling and trailing, 6-3, the senior defensive back came up with arguably the biggest play of the game. As Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes scrambled left, Diggs met him with a huge hit, jarring the ball loose in the process.

“When I saw him hit the guy, I wasn’t excited — I was shocked,” senior linebacker Steve Edmond said about the hit. “I didn’t know how a guy that small could bring that much power.” Through nine games, Diggs has been far and away the best corner for Texas, leading the Longhorns’ pass defense to a top-10 national ranking. He has been all over the field — breaking up deep balls and stuffing the run.

Stock Up: Bryson Echols

The sophomore defensive back saw significant time at nickelback for the first time this season. You may not have even realized he was playing, as the receivers he was guarding remained relatively quiet. That’s good news for a corner. But, in addition to helping hold Tech’s pass-heavy offense to just 225 yards, Echols recorded seven tackles — four of those on his own. When Diggs leaves after the year, someone is going to have to step up. After his performance Saturday, Echols is showing that he could be that guy.

Stock Up: Running backs

Remember how disappointing the running game was in the first two-thirds of the season? It’s understandable if those memories were erased Saturday, as the Longhorns scampered for 241 yards. Senior Malcolm Brown became the first Longhorn to break the 100-yard mark in a game this season, as he ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns. And that was after not getting a carry in the second half against Kansas State. Junior Johnathan Gray’s performance was even more encouraging. Gray ran for 76 yards and a touchdown of his own, making this the season’s first game in which both backs had success. 

Stock Down: Marcus Johnson

Can things get any worse for the junior wideout? He had just one catch for five yards and dropped what easily would have been a huge gain. It’s his seventh game with two or less catches. He only had four such games last year. Without Johnson, Texas’ wide-receiving corps remains thin, as only seniors John Harris and Jaxon Shipley seem to be making plays. They both leave next year, and, as of now, Johnson seems far, far away from stepping into the No. 1 role in 2015.

Longhorn defensive end Cedric Reed has struggled to live up to expectations this season. He’ll have to be better in order for Texas to knock off the Wildcats on the road this weekend.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Safeties

Safety Jason Hall may only be a freshman, but his presence was sorely missed against Iowa State. The patchwork rotation of sophomore Adrian Colbert and senior Josh Turner struggled against the Cyclones.

Hall is listed as day-to-day, so even if he does play against Kansas State, it’s unlikely that he’ll be at 100 percent. The Longhorns will need better production from Colbert and Turner if Hall is out or not at full strength. On the opposite side, senior safety Mykkele Thompson had issues against Iowa State, too.

The Longhorns will have a challenge in defending Tyler Lockett, Kansas State’s deep threat, so they can’t afford to have troubling safety play to plague an otherwise solid secondary. Colbert, Hall, Thompson and Turner must step up in order for Texas to upset the Wildcats.

Linebacker Dalton Santos

Junior linebacker Dalton Santos started at middle linebacker in place of senior Steve Edmond against Iowa State. Dalton appeared a step slower than the Cyclones, and Edmond was forced into action as a result. 

If Edmond isn’t 100 percent Saturday, Santos will need to be ready to go against the Wildcats. He’ll need to step up and perform better than he did against the Cyclones if he is forced into the middle linebacker role against Kansas State.

Defensive end Cedric Reed

Senior defensive end Cedric Reed hasn’t had the season he was expected to have. While Reed’s presence on the field is noticeable, his season statistics show that his productivity hasn’t been great. This season, Reed only has 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. The Longhorns need more from Reed as they look to knock off the Wildcats on Saturday.

Running backs

While the offensive line has hampered the Longhorn running game this season, senior running back Malcolm Brown, junior running back Johnathan Gray and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes have finally started to see success running the ball.

Swoopes ran for 95 yards and a touchdown against Iowa State. Brown and Gray added an additional 86 yards and three scores on the ground against the Cyclones.

Now that Swoopes is having success running the ball, defenses are more likely to respect him in the run game, which will open things up for the backs. If the Wildcats contain Swoopes, the running backs will need to step up in his place.

Senior linebacker Steve Edmond led the Longhorn defense against Baylor on Saturday with a career-high 17 tackles and two sacks against the Bears.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Although Texas’ 2-3 record doesn’t quite reflect it, the Longhorn defense stands strong this season. The Baylor offense entered Saturday’s game ranked highly, averaging 56.8 points, 641 total yards and 401.3 passing yards per game. Unfazed, the Texas defensive line cut each of those numbers by at least 40 percent: down to 28 points, 389 yards of total offense and just 111 passing yards. Numerous players contributed to the Longhorns’ defensive efforts, but senior linebacker Steve Edmond stood out above them all.

“With 17 tackles and a sack, [Edmond] is getting better and better,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “You’d like for him to be a little more vocal because the way he plays the game, players all respect him. But the game he had on Saturday, he was very good.”

As Strong said, Edmond’s leadership style is far from vocal. He prefers his actions to speak louder than his words, and his production accomplishes just that. Edmond’s seven tackles for loss ranks second on the team after junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown. In addition, with a career-high 17 tackles and two sacks against Baylor this weekend, Edmond trails senior linebacker Jordan Hicks’ 69 total tackles by just four.

“[Edmond] and Hicks are real consistent players on the defense,” Strong said.

This consistency doesn’t come without hours of preparation. And it’s this preparation combined with Edmond’s stats that has gained his teammates’ respect. Hicks said Edmond spends hours in the film room with Strong and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary. While analyzing footage with coaches, Edmond isn’t afraid to ask questions to better understand schemes. Hicks said Edmond works toward one goal: understanding the game well enough that he’s always on the same page as the rest of the team. Through five games in 2014, Edmond certainly has been.

“It’s his preparation,” Hicks said. “He’s going into the game prepared, taking it very seriously this year. That’s been key for him — going out able to play fast and play confident. He’s doing a great job for us.”

Without redshirt senior center Dominic Espinosa and former quarterback David Ash to lead the offense this season, the Longhorns have needed players like Edmond to have great performances. Redshirt senior receiver John Harris said the offense knows it’s not pulling its weight, but it also appreciates the defensive compensation. Harris said he finds it comforting to know that if the offense can pull it together, it won’t have to worry about the defense resulting in losses.

“You can get numb to [losing], and I’m not saying you want to get used to losing, but we want to change it,” Harris said. “If we can just get on a roll and score some points — our defense is playing great, and we can get these younger guys moving forward and learning how to play football games.”

Harris and fellow offensive players know that if they eliminate the small errors, they’ll be able to get on a roll. All it takes is some extra practice, time in the film room and asking the necessary questions to get on the same page as the team. The strategy works, and Edmond can vouch for it. And if he’s not vocal enough to vouch for it on his own, his 17 tackles against Baylor will speak
for themselves.

Offensive Line

This is already the second time this year the offensive line has been put on this list. 

This time, it’s because they aren’t opening running lanes for its running backs — junior Johnathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown. The Longhorns struggled to run the ball against Kansas as it put eight and nine men in the box. Texas needs to find a way to improve its running game, and that starts up front with the linemen. The Longhorns also need to protect sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and allow him time to throw the deep ball.

Nick Rose

Junior kicker Nick Rose hasn’t had the best 2014 season thus far. After Texas scored its first touchdown against Kansas, Rose missed the extra point, something he hadn’t done all season. Rose also had a field goal blocked against the Jayhawks, but he wasn’t given enough time to get the kick off after defenders blew through the line. 

Rose has missed fifty percent of his kicks this season. The Longhorns will need him to be much better when they take on Baylor.

John Harris and Steve Edmond

Senior wide receiver John Harris and senior linebacker Steve Edmond have both had solid seasons. Harris has been a big surprise, leading the team in receiving yards with 336 and receiving touchdowns with four. Edmond has recorded 40 total tackles and is a key component of the Longhorn defense this season.

But both provided Baylor with bulletin board material. After the spring game, Edmond went on a rant about Baylor, which didn’t exactly sit well with the Bears.

“I really don’t like Baylor,” Edmond said. “I still think they’re trash … Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It’s not like you never won a game. I’m like, ‘They won it, so what?’ They still suck to me.”

Harris followed Edmond’s lead by misspeaking at Monday’s press conference. Bear fans weren’t too pleased with his statement either.

“They’re still Baylor,” Harris said. “Just because they started playing better, that’s good for them. We’re still Texas.”

Now, Harris and Edmond must step up and back up their statements.

Freshman Jason Hall displayed physicality during his first start at safety against Kansas on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

When asked about freshman safety Jason Hall, teammates and coaches consistently mention the same trait: Hall’s energy.

“He’s the safety on the nickel package; he’s the starter so he plays a lot,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “He plays with a lot of energy and passion, and he brings a lot to the team. So yeah, he’ll play a lot. He’s been playing a lot.”

Hall, a South Grand Prairie High School graduate dubbed the No. 85 safety in his class by ESPN, was named an honorable mention All-State 5A by the Associated Press in 2013. His senior year production amounted to 57 tackles, six interceptions, six pass breakups, one pressure and two defensive touchdowns. Instead of redshirting his freshman year, Hall’s start against Kansas made him the first true freshman to start at safety since Blake Gideon in 2008. 

“We’ve been playing Jason Hall a little bit each game, and he played quite a bit against UCLA,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said before the Kansas game. “Did he make some mistakes? Yes, he did. But what I saw was a physical presence; that’s what we are looking for — guys that can bring physicality to the game.”

Hall continued to bring physicality to the game against the Jayhawks this weekend. Registering a career-high seven tackles, five of which were solos, Hall tied sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway’s stops, only ranking behind veterans senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and junior linebacker Steve Edmond. Through two games played, Hall has recorded 11 total tackles, eight of which were solo. Fellow defensive back senior Quandre Diggs said Hall ramps up the team energy when he steps on the field.

“We had a nice little spark from Jason when he came in,” Diggs said about Hall’s UCLA production. “He came in and he had two nice plays back-to-back, and, you know, he’s out there hitting guys. He loves to hit; he loves competing. You can tell he has a passion for the game.”

Nevertheless, Diggs sees Hall’s youth as a double-edged sword. Although his inexperience motivates him to perform, it also overwhelms him with excitement at times.

“Once we get him in the right direction and get him lined up in the right places, you know he’s going to let loose and he’s going to go,” Diggs said. “That’s the hard thing about being young. You just want to get in and you want to play. [You] might not do things right, but you’re going to run your tail up to the ball.”

Hall does run his tail up to the ball. He sees the football team as “something I want to be a part of,” as he told The Daily Texan in April. Each game, he’s becoming an increasingly significant part.

But, as Diggs says, once Hall learns to “read his keys more,” toning down the energy to balance it with a tad more strategy, Hall’s “going to be a great player.”

After two straight seasons being sidelined with injuries, redshirt senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is ready to return to his role as a defensive leader on the team. Hicks is set to lead his squad as one of Texas' most experienced players this season under new head coach Charlie Strong.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

There is no Longhorn position group as interesting as Texas’ linebacking corps.

From fifth-year senior starters to some of the lesser-known reserves, each linebacker has an interesting story to tell.

There’s junior Dalton Santos, who didn’t play much in his first two years on campus but made national headlines this spring when his Twitter plea went viral. Santos sent out a tweet in April to try to raise money for his mother, who didn’t have health insurance and needed open heart surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm. The fundraiser quickly spread across the country and wound up raising $66,000 to help pay for the operation. The surgery went as planned, and Santos’ mother, Vista, is doing well.

Or, how about senior Steve Edmond, who has flown under the radar in his first three years at Texas, despite having started 22 games and recording 192 tackles over that span? Edmond, a Daingerfield native, nearly had his senior season shortened before it even started after he and fellow linebacker Jordan Hicks faced possible suspensions stemming from a meal that had been paid for by an agent. In the end, Edmond was cleared by the NCAA and won’t miss any time this season. He opened the year with five tackles against North Texas.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Demarco Cobbs has started just six games since arriving at Texas in 2010. Cobbs, a Tulsa native, played sparingly as a reserve and on special teams in his first three years as a Longhorn, before missing all of last season with a knee injury. Cobbs is a backup again this year but made the biggest play of his lengthy career Saturday, recording his first ever interception and taking it to the house for a defensive touchdown.

“Demarco [Cobbs] and I sat and talked about this night for a long time,” said Hicks, who has roomed with Cobbs since they were freshmen. “Coming off of injuries — both of us — we’re both very blessed to be in the situation that we’re in.”

But of all the “backers,” as they like to be called, Hicks has had the wildest ride at Texas. Coming out of high school, Hicks, a product of Cincinnati, was ranked as the best linebacker and fourth-best recruit overall by ESPN. After an underwhelming freshman campaign, Hicks hit his stride in his sophomore season, but then the injury bug got him. He earned a medical redshirt after missing 10 games in 2012, but 2013 was hardly any better, as he continued to be plagued by injuries and missed nine more contests. 

In the middle of all that, Hicks was accused of sexual assault after he allegedly had non-consensual sex with a 21-year-old woman at a San Antonio hotel prior to the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl. Charges were never filed, and the case was closed by the San Antonio Police Department a couple weeks later.

Hicks enters his fifth season at Texas, looking to write a storybook ending to what has been an eventful collegiate career. He’s well on his way to doing just that after recording eight tackles and his first career interception against North Texas.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Hicks said. “It’s just awesome to be able to be back out on the field with everybody and be able to play. Playing the game — it feels like it’s been forever.”

Their stories are all different, but finally together and healthy, Texas’ veteran linebackers appear poised to be a strong unit.

After sitting out a one-game suspension, sophomore wide receiver Daje Johnson is ready to return to the field. Johnson, along with fullback Chet Moss, sat out against Texas Tech for an unspecified violation of team rules.

This is the second violation of team rules for Johnson, who missed the 2012 season opener against Wyoming for the same reason. A main focus at the beginning of the season for the sophomore was that his issues were behind him, and he had grown in his maturity. Unfortunately, after suffering an ankle injury against BYU earlier in the season, Johnson has had limited big play production, and those issues resurfaced.

The Pflugerville native is listed back in his usual wide receiver position, and head coach Mack Brown said he will also be back in the mix on punt and kickoff returns.

Steve Edmond out for the season

Junior linebacker Steve Edmond suffered a lacerated liver in last Thursday’s Thanksgiving matchup and will miss the rest of the season. Edmond was injured after he took a hard block to the rib area in the second quarter, which caused him to leave the game.

Edmond leads the team in tackles with 73 and has also tallied two interceptions this season. Brown said he expects the junior to be fully ready to play again in the spring.

Edmond’s injury further thins the linebacker front for Texas, as senior Jordan Hicks and junior Tevin Jackson are also out with injuries. The Longhorns now look at sophomore Peter Jinkins, redshirt freshman Timothy Cole and junior Kendall Thompson to step up in Edmond’s place.

Texas to close out Floyd Casey Stadium

The Longhorns’ game against Baylor on Saturday will be the last contest played at the Bears’ Floyd Casey Stadium.

The Waco stadium, which opened in 1950, was first named Baylor Stadium and has become a staple of Baylor athletics. Texas fans usually flock to the oval-shaped stadium when the Longhorns make an appearance in Waco, bringing, at times, about 25,000 to 30,000 fans in burnt orange.

The tarp, which usually covers the seats in the south end zone at the stadium, will be lifted for the season finale. 

Texas has a 29-15-2 record in Waco in the 102-game series and will look to add one more to the win column as it tries for at least a share of the Big 12 title.

“I think it’s a great story line,” senior offensive lineman Mason Walters said. “We like that opportunity. We like our odds, [and we’re] looking forward to a great game. [With] that being the last in Floyd Casey Stadium, it will just be a great environment.”

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

When the Longhorns’ defense scuffled in games against BYU and Ole Miss to start the season, the linebackers were at the forefront of the issue.

The same problems of missed tackles and failed assignments that plagued the unit last year seemed to reappear, and things got even worse when junior linebacker Jordan Hicks, the team’s leading tackler, went down for the season with a ruptured Achilles in just the fourth game of the season.

As the season progressed, though, these struggles became nothing more than a distant memory for the Texas linebackers, and head coach Mack Brown believes the hiring of defensive coordinate Greg Robinson after Week 2 made all the difference.

“Greg is very simplistic, fundamentally sound,” Brown said. “He starts with stats every day and works very hard on angles. It’s tackling, pursuit angles and effort [with him], and he wants to free their mind to do that.”

The biggest strides made by the Texas linebackers under Robinson came in stopping the run. After surrendering 550 rushing yards against BYU and 272 against Ole Miss, the Longhorns improved to second in the Big 12 in allowing just 123.3 rushing yards per game through their first six conference contests.

The linebackers garnered much of the credit for this defensive turnaround, as their simplified approach under Robinson allowed them to fix their early-season issues and get the most out of their talent. Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said the linebackers became fed up with the criticism surrounding them at the beginning of the year, and he believes they continue to use this as motivation.

“They were tired of hearing things about how they weren’t doing very well,” Jeffcoat said. “There were little things that had to get corrected, and they got it right. They’re playing their butts off, flying around, making plays all over the field. They just wanted to show what they could do.”

Junior linebacker Steve Edmond has been in the middle of the defensive turnaround, leading Texas with 63 tackles and seven passes defended while sharing the team-lead with two interceptions. Edmond emerged as the leader of the unit once Hicks went down, and he credits the chemistry between the linebackers for their recent production.

“It’s our pride that we put into our practice,” Edmond said. “It’s like a brotherhood we’ve got going on. We’re just always pulling for each other.”

In addition to Edmond, sophomore linebacker Dalton Santos continues to make significant contributions. Santos joined the starting lineup following the injury to Hicks, and he stands fifth on the team with 46 tackles and fourth with six tackles for a loss.

While Hicks remains unable to assist the Longhorns on the field, his impact continues to be felt. Brown said Hicks was receptive to Texas’ midseason change at defensive coordinator, and he believes the junior linebacker played a major role in getting his teammates to buy into Robinson’s scheme.

“Jordan Hicks really helped the linebackers give Greg a chance,” Brown said. “I had a good visit with Jordan and I said, ‘This guy’s got a great resume, what happened is tough, but you get the guys to buy in here,’ and he did. He’s been as instrumental in helping Greg move forward with the linebackers as anybody.”

Robinson succeeded in quickly turning around the Texas’ defense, and the improved play of the linebacker unit remains a significant reason for that. Should the linebackers maintain their high level of production, they can continue to put their slow start to the season further towards the back of their minds.

Junior defensive end Steve Edmond continues to improve and is having a breakout season in his third year.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Steve Edmond always possessed the talent necessary to succeed at the college level.

Edmond committed to the Longhorns out of Daingerfield High School as the second ranked inside linebacker in class of 2011, according to Scout.com, a 4-star prospect with ideal size and capable coverage skills.

But his high school dominance failed to translate during his first two years at Texas. Still, the junior linebacker never lacked motivation or confidence in his ability. Instead, he simply struggled to overcome his nerves.

“[I felt] nervous, like you don’t want to fail,” Edmond said. “Once they said ‘hut,’ it’s like I froze. Last year, sometimes I didn’t know what to do, so I just froze.”

Edmond believes these feelings are in the past. The repetitiveness of practice coupled with having a full season as a starter of experience allowed him to enter this season with a renewed confidence. Edmond led the team with 63 tackles, seven passes defended, as well as a team lead-tying two interceptions.

His growth proved evident last Saturday night against West Virginia, when he knocked down a pass in the end zone on third down and recorded an interception on fourth down to clinch a seven-point, overtime victory for the Longhorns. While his biggest strides this season have come in defending the run, Edmond believes he is at his best when given the opportunity to make plays in the passing game as he did against the Mountaineers.

“It’s natural for me to just read the quarterback’s eyes,” Edmond said. “I really like dropping into coverage and trying to get into passing lanes to break the ball up.”

While Edmond’s play continues to make major noise, he remains one of the most introverted members of the team. He far prefers the solitude of hunting and fishing in his free time to going out with his teammates, but his quiet nature does not reflect his enormous passion for football.

“It’s clear to me that he wants to be good,” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. “I think sometimes people take his quiet demeanor like he isn’t aware of what’s going on. And what I’ve learned is that he is a bright football player, and I just think he is only going to get better.”

Junior cornerback Quandre Diggs said he remains impressed with the strides Edmond made this season, and he expects him to continue to improve.

“I feel like he’s just scratching the surface of what he can be because he’s a tremendous player,” Diggs said. “He’s a great person. You couldn’t ask for a better guy, just for good things to happen to Steve.”

Edmond’s experience and production this season allowed him to step up as the leader of the linebacker corps when junior linebacker Jordan Hicks went down with a ruptured Achilles. As his responsibilities increase, he’ll have no reason to ever feel nervous on the football field again.

Stock up

Kendall Sanders

There wasn’t much to be proud of on either side of the ball Saturday night in Provo, but Kendall Sanders’ first collegiate game was a bit of a bright spot. Following his Week 1 suspension for a DUI last spring, Sanders hauled in four catches for 36 yards and flashed a few of the traits that had everyone so high on him coming into the season. Sanders’ possesses elite speed, good hands and solid route running abilities. While David Ash was under siege most of the night preventing him from getting the ball out on time, Sanders did prove that he could be a big piece of the offense heading forward. 

Anthony Fera

Fera averaged 43.8 yards per punt on his eight (not a misprint) attempts and tried valiantly to give the Longhorns a field position edge against BYU. After losing Duke transfer Alex King this offseason, there was a bit of concern heading into 2013 as to how the Longhorns special teams would be able to replace his average 45.3 yards per punt. Anthony Fera seems like a more than viable option two games into the season, even if he got more face timeSaturday than anyone would have liked to see. 

 

Stock Down

The offensive line

David Ash and the running backs had no chance Saturday night as the BYU front stayed in the Longhorns back field nearly all night. Texas averaged a measly 3.4 yards per carry and allowed four sacks, eventually forcing Ash to tap out of the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent head injury. Mack Brown said going into the BYU game that he wanted his team to be physical and the offensive line failed over and over again. All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy couldn’t be blocked and the offense never really got anything established. If last week was the litmus test, the offensive line failed with miserable grades. 

Steve Edmond

Edmond went into the season as the starting middle linebacker, and he did nothing on Saturday to calm any of those concerns. Blown assignments and missed tackles were prevalent in his game, and while he certainly wasn’t the only one responsible for the school record 550 rushing yards given up, he did nothing to help. Consider the middle linebacker job a question mark until someone steps up to fill the void.