middle linebacker

Steve Edmond (33) took some time to get used to playing in the Big 12, but now in his sophomore season he appears to be catching on and catching up to the talent level of everyone else in the conference.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Steve Edmond is the perfect blend of size and speed for a middle linebacker, but that frame isn’t quite so suitable to kicking field goals.

However, that’s one of the roles Edmond found himself in at Daingerfield High School, a small 2A school in East Texas. And it’s safe to say, Edmond is a much better suited at linebacker than kicker.

During one district home game, Edmond had missed four or five PAT’s in a row, and despite what should be a supportive home atmosphere, the stadium announcer was making light of Edmond’s inability to split the uprights. Remarkably, it got even worse for Edmond when he knocked in his final two attempts, because in those moments, with the urging of the commentator, the fans exploded into sarcastic applause.

Edmond, however, got some retribution for his embarrassment when a more friendly announcer called their next contest.

“The dude [commentator] got fired the very next day,” Edmond said. “It hurt my feelings. And my coach was saying ‘I can’t believe they are doing this to Steve.’”

Edmond has come a long way from missing PAT’s at a 2A school. Now he’s making the calls in the middle of the field at the University of Texas. However, as it was when Edmond kicked field goals, he’s had quite a few misses before being able to connect.

At the beginning of the season the hype was high for Edmond, who would be taking over the starting role at middle linebacker. He had received rave reviews from his teammates in the offseason and his natural athletic ability — he runs a 4.7 second 40-yard dash — made him one to watch.

However, Edmond had only played sparingly during his freshman campaign, and it would be a big adjustment for him to go from 2A high school football to the Big 12.

“The expectations were totally unreasonable because he played very little last year,” head coach Mack Brown said. “The transition from Daingerfield to here is a big leap.”

It proved to be.

Edmond struggled at the beginning of the season to stay in his lanes and keep up with all of the responsibilities that come with being in the commander in the middle of the defense.

Remarkably, the speed of the game managed to pick up when Texas lost linebacker Jordan Hicks to a hip injury in the Ole Miss game. Hicks, a junior, was the eldest member of the linebacking corps and the unquestioned leader of the group. But without his presence all of the pre-snap responsibilities fell to Edmond. 

“When he [Hicks] was out there he’d be telling me ‘do this, do that or whatever’ and I’d just do that,” Edmond said. “And now that he’s gone the pressure is on me now.”

Through the first few games, Edmond, and to an extent the Texas defense, had difficulty adjusting to Hicks’ absence. In four successive games, two of which were losses, the Longhorns surrendered 275, 192, 334 and 255 yards rushing.

It wasn’t all on Edmond — tackling issues have plagued the entire unit this year and other young players have floundered — but he felt responsible for the pair of losses. It didn’t help the sophomore that he was heaping too much pressure upon himself attempting to live up to expectations.

“I just wanted to backup what everybody was saying, and then I kinda wasn’t,” Edmond said. “I felt like the OU loss and West Virginia loss was on my shoulders.”

He’s done more the enough over the past few games to make up for it. The coaches aren’t sure when it happened, but it seems a light has clicked on for Edmond of late. He’s playing more aggressively and is no longer hesitating on his calls at the line. He looks like a more confident player in the middle and is playing like it.

Last Saturday against Texas Tech, Edmond was swarming around the field. He led the team with 10 tackles, and his fourth quarter pass breakup – on a play in which he read the quarterbacks’ eyes to swat away what would have been a sure first down — stopped a promising Tech drive, which would have allowed the Red Raiders to snag
the lead.

Edmond is now the team leader in tackles with 76. He still hasn’t quite reached the outstanding potential his freakish athleticism allows, but he’s on a steady upward tick.

“He’s making better plays week in and week out,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He still has it ton to improve, but it’s been fun to see his growth.”

The growth will continue, but he’s ensured one thing already: there isn’t another announcer that will dare to poke fun at his skills again.

Trey Edmond and the rest of the linebackers have struggled so far this season. Without Jordan Hicks’ leadership, the corps have allowed opponents to earn 5.24 yards per rushing attempt. But, on Saturday, Edmond stepped up and showed that he can lead this new generation of linebackers.
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Texas hadn’t been able to stop the run all season, and that had been a direct reflection on middle linebacker Steve Edmond. But just as the Texas defense made strides Saturday against Baylor, so did Edmond.

“I thought Steve Edmond by far played his best game since he’s been here,” head coach Mack Brown said.

Edmond led the team with 10 tackles and was all over the field. He was quick from sideline-to-sideline and looked significantly more instinctive attacking the ball carrier. His efforts earned him the team’s most valuable player award on defense against the No. 1 offense in the country.

However, it was one play in particular that elevated Edmond’s showing from good to great.

With only a few seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Baylor was driving and looking to retake the lead with a touchdown. The Bears had just reached midfield, and on 3rd and 1 Baylor called a run up the middle.

It’s the kind of play that’s plagued the Longhorns all season. Texas is allowing 5.24 yards per rushing attempt and are 109th out of 124 teams in rushing yards allowed per game.

In this case, Edmond was there to make the play. He met Baylor running back Glasco Martin in the gap created by the Bears’ offensive line, and the pair collided. Edmond was able to stop Martin’s momentum and, most importantly, forced the ball to come loose.

“I put my head on the ball, and it popped out,” Edmond said. “I didn’t even know I made him fumble. Everybody just started screaming. I was like, ‘What is going on?’ until I saw the replay.”

The fumble was exactly the kind of game-changing play the Longhorn defense has desperately needed, and it was one of the first times this season in conference play that a member of the line-backing core made an impact defensive play.

It was a sign of growth for Edmond and for Texas’ youthful linebackers — even though they gave up 255 yards on the ground — that has desperately missed their leader, Jordan Hicks.

“I thought the young linebackers did stop the run better tonight than we’ve done,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “Still didn’t stop it great, obviously, but it was better ... We made some plays. We’re doing better. We’re sure not where we need to be, but we’re taking baby steps here.”

The same can be said of Edmond.

Early in the season he was missing assignments, tackling with bad technique and in the wrong spot way too often. But he’s always shown flashes of his potential.

At 6-foot-3-inches and 255 pounds, Edmond is an imposing presence up the middle. He’s a freight train when he tackles opponents, and for someone with his size he’s surprisingly fleet on his feet. That combo has allowed him to make a few highlight-reel tackles this season, and his instincts also led to his pick-six against Ole Miss.

The Baylor performance was Edmond’s best of the season, but Diaz isn’t quite ready to “make any light on proclamations.”

“I know he played his best as to what he did to this point,” Diaz said. “He’s becoming more familiar with our system and how it works. And keep in mind: it was under very stressful environments. [The Bears] are the most frantic offense in the country. But there are a lot of things he can be excited about.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 as: Edmond shows promise: Sophomore's effort against Baylor epitomizes defense's improvement