junior linebacker

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.

Junior Steve Edmond returns an intercepted ball against Ole Miss during the Longhorns’ 2012 season. Edmond may prove to be a key player for Texas next year as he returns for his final season. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: Junior linebacker Steve Edmond is the third of five “Players to Watch” who will be featured leading up to the Orange-White scrimmage Mar. 30. The fourth, Quandre Diggs, will be published Thursday.

Steve Edmond won’t talk your ear off and probably wouldn’t win a screaming contest. 

The junior linebacker, known among coaches for his soft-spoken nature, has been overlooked as a leader in the past because of his shy ways.

“Steve is very quiet,” head coach Mack Brown said last year of Edmond. “He’s very bright. He’s not going to let you know he’s bright, because he’s not going to talk to you. He won’t look at you in some cases. But he’s got great instincts.”

On the field, the unobtrusive characteristics drift away, and he morphs into a powerful ax with hard hits and speed. Edmond, who won three straight state championships in high school and came to Texas as one of ESPNU’s top 150 national prospects, played in 12 games during his first year, adding 16 tackles. 

As a sophomore, he played in all 13 games, starting 12 at middle linebacker, and his numbers made him second on the team in tackles and tied for second in forced fumbles. 

But now the stakes are higher for the Daingerfield, Texas native, who will enter his junior year with the pressure of keeping his starting spot and competing against other top linebackers including Dalton Santos and Jordan Hicks

“The competition between Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond has been great because Steve’s playing much better and Dalton’s all over the place,” Brown said. “I think Steve is at a different place with his intensity than he was this time last year.”

A large part of that intensity has come with increased conditioning to trim down during spring practice. As Santos worked tirelessly to lose weight, Edmond followed suit, Brown said.

Santos, a sophomore who saw action in all 13 games last year and led the team in special teams tackles, isn’t giving Edmond an easy time. But the teammate rivalry between the two has helped Edmond as a player.

“Dalton Santos has made Steve Edmond better,” defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Manny Diaz said. “I think Steve has made some big improvements over the last week or so. It’s just a battle, and I am keeping score.”

Hicks is returning from last year’s hip injury and will provide another threat for Edmond if he can stay healthy. A fellow junior who played in every game as a freshman and in 13 games as a sophomore, Hicks brings strength, size and leadership to the field. Sophomore Peter Jinkens, who served as a reserve linebacker and started three games last season, is also vying for a starting slot. 

For now, Edmond will continue to plug away in the spring, toning his body, working on tackling and growing quietly as a leader. 

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Edmond lets play speak for itself". 

An attorney for junior linebacker Jordan Hicks stated that his client is denying the sexual assault allegations made against him, according to a press release issued Sunday.

“Mr. Hicks vehemently asserts that all conduct that occurred during the evening of the incident was consensual by everyone involved,” Perry Minton, an Austin-based attorney, said in the statement. “The allegation, if any, that a sexual assault occurred by anyone at anytime is completely false.”

An unidentified 21-year-old woman reported that two UT football players sexually assaulted her Friday morning between 2 a.m. and 2:40 a.m. in her San Antonio hotel room, according to statements and a police report issued that day by the San Antonio Police Department. As of Friday, San Antonio police said no charges had been filed.

The names of the players and the victim were blacked out in the heavily redacted report, although the descriptions in the report fit Hicks and backup quarterback Case McCoy. Head football coach Mack Brown announced Friday morning that he was suspending two players for violating unspecified team rules, but he did not name any players. Both players were sent home and did not play in the final game of the season.

The UT football team was in San Antonio at the time of the alleged incident for the Valero Alamo Bowl, which was played on Saturday. UT beat No. 13-ranked Oregon State 31-27.

The press release goes on to state that Hicks gave San Antonio police a statement and underwent a physical exam when requested to do so.

“These are not the actions of a young man with something to hide or one with a guilty conscience,” Minton said in the statement. “These are the actions of an honest citizen eager to cooperate with law enforcement on every level in order to clear his name and that of his friend.”

According to the press release, Hicks will continue to cooperate with law enforcement regarding this incident.

“Mr. Hicks and his family are devastated over this incident,” Minton said. “This young man has worked his entire life to be in the position at the University of Texas that he has so diligently earned.”

Hicks had not played a game since suffering a season-ending injury against Ole Miss in September. McCoy started one game but logged backup minutes throughout the season.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Mack Brown announced Monday that junior linebacker Jordan Hicks is out for the season and will apply for a medical redshirt. If that had been said five weeks ago, the future of the defense would have been a serious concern.

But a lot has changed in recent weeks.

Hicks has been out since Sept. 15 when he injured his hip during Texas’ win over Ole Miss. In his absence, the run defense struggled.

In the four games following Hicks’ injury, teams averaged 266 rushing yards per game and Texas went 2-2.  But in Texas’ three most recent matchups, teams have averaged 163 rushing.

Senior defensive end Alex Okafor said he had “zero confidence” in Texas’ ability to stop the run after Texas’ loss to Oklahoma. Since then, however, he feels that things are beginning to look up.

“People forget that we had a stretch of playing maybe four top-five offenses in a row,” Okafor said. “That’s a lot to throw at our defense at once, especially when we were trying to fill the shoes of key players that we lost last year. I think we matured a lot as a defense. Everybody’s just doing their job now.”

The offenses of Texas’ recent opponents haven’t been as good as those the team faced in early conference matchups, but also the run defense has improved since Hicks’ injury and the news of his season ending doesn’t mean the Longhorns’ season is ending, too.

Before his injury, Hicks was Texas’ most experienced linebacker and had 23 total tackles in just three games. Now sophomore Kendall Thompson has stepped in for Hicks at weakside linebacker.

Although Hicks is an important leader for the defense, senior safety Kenny Vaccaro spoke to Hicks about his season ending and said it was the right thing for him, as he can apply for a medical redshirt at year’s end and get a full season of eligibility back. Hicks will again be a junior. Vaccaro said he knows Hicks has a bright future ahead of him and the struggles the defense went though early in conference play made them stronger.

“Anybody can take the easy route and win all the games and play perfect defense,” Vaccaro said. “But I think it means a lot more when you face a lot of adversity. A lot of guys back us in a corner and say we’re horrible and that Coach Diaz didn’t need to be here, but I think we got together as a team. We could have quit after OU, after we got blown out. But we got together as a team.”

Many players cited the team’s play against Oklahoma as a turning point for the defense. The Sooners had 343 rushing yards and averaged 6.7 yards per rush.

For a defense that ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 in run defense last season, this was not the kind of performance it expected. But after now-NFL linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson graduated last year, their absence was felt early this season. Since Vacarro and Okafor are

Texas’ only seniors on defense, Hicks played a significant leadership role, especially for the linebackers.

But freshman linebackers like Peter Jinkens  and Dalton Santos, each of whom have started a game, are beginning to understand their role in the defense.

“When things happen too often you kind of get tired of it,” junior safety Adrian Phillips said. “We just made it up in our mind that we’re not going to let offenses run the ball on us. In practice we put an emphasis on everybody running to ball and hitting well and getting assisted tackles and making sure that the person with the ball doesn’t get any extra yards. It’s been working for us.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 as: Jordan Hicks is out for season, but Horns step up run defense at end of Big 12 play

The Longhorns’ opponent this past weekend wore burnt orange and white, not red. Texas had nine penalties for 81 yards and that is what essentially propelled Oklahoma to its 28-20 win at the 105th Red River Rivalry.

The first of many flags was thrown on the second play of the game when junior linebacker Keenan Robinson was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul.

“They called me for hitting a lineman who was coming at me near the pile while the play was still alive,” Robinson said. “The play was still alive.”

Unfortunately for Robinson, replays showed that he pushed an OU offensive lineman in the back away from the tackle.

As the game went on, Texas sunk deeper and deeper into penalty debt. Three penalties kept Oklahoma scoring drives alive and five either came on third down or second-and-long situations.

If it had not been for those silly mistakes, the Longhorns would have gained prime field position on a few potential game-changing downs.

For example, at the start of the third quarter when Texas was down a somewhat manageable 21-10, freshman defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat rushed off the edge to tackle OU quarterback Landry Jones, causing him to fumble on his down 22-yard line. Texas’ offense rushed the field to set up for a first down, but the officials called the play back, stating that senior defensive end Eddie Jones — who had actually recovered the fumble — had been offsides prior to the snap.

“If we get that fumble at the 22-yard line, that’s a first down with momentum,” said head coach Mack Brown. “I liked our chances there.”

The momentum pendulum almost swung Texas’ way again in the fourth quarter until Jeffcoat received a personal foul for an apparent retaliation that gave the Sooners a first down on third-and-20. Sooners’ running back DeMarco Murray would later score on a 20-yard run, widening the score to 28-10.

“The [penalties] were killers,” Brown said. “Absolute killers.”

After the game, Brown said he wasn’t going to judge or comment on any of the calls until he watched film.

“I can’t comment on them,” he said. “I’m going to go home and watch them and see whether [the penalties] were there ... but I won’t make excuses. They called them on us and that’s what it is.”

Penalties are a result of lack of preparation, which is surprising for a unit that was ranked as the nation’s best last season and is coached by a coordinator as accomplished as Will Muschamp.

“I guess it was lack of discipline,” said junior defensive tackle Kheeston Randall. “People make mistakes and after a mistake we just have to go out and try to put the fire out.”

But the fire held a steady flame throughout the game, because even despite the penalties, Texas still had chances to win but didn’t capitalize.

In the last minute of the fourth quarter, junior linebacker Emmanuel Acho caused Landry Jones to fumble a second time in OU territory. But before any Longhorn could snatch the football, it bounced out of bounds.

The ball rolling just inches out of reach was indicative of the Longhorns’ entire day.

“When you have a close game like this, it comes down to inches and we just didn’t get the inches,” Brown said.