Texas needs LB Edmond to take next step

AUSTIN, Texas -- Steve Edmond doesn’t need much to be happy.

An avid fisherman, Texas’ sophomore middle linebacker could probably get by with a tackle box and fishing pole and be at peace with the world.

This Saturday, though, the Longhorns are going to need him to turn into the tackle box they recruited him to be in 2011.

He has been as close to that as Texas has had through three games this season. His 22 tackles are second on the team to Jordan Hicks’ 23. Edmond has two tackles for loss along with that 22-yard interception he returned last weekend for a touchdown against Ole Miss.

But the Longhorns could be without Hicks when they travel Saturday to Oklahoma State. The junior linebacker suffered a hip injury against the Rebels and is still not 100 percent. His status for Texas’ Big 12 opener is still in question.

Whether or not Hicks steps on the field, Edmond is going to be asked to take on much more of a leadership role as the most experienced of the group. And by "experienced" we’re talking about someone who played in 12 games as a true freshman, but did so in a limited role, making just 16 tackles.

“Steve didn't play a lot last year, so his learning curve is going really quickly. He needs to [learn fast] now,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “Especially depending on what we see with Jordan. He's got to step it up and play.”

Not only might Edmond have to do so without Hicks to his side, but he’ll be doing it against one of the most potent offenses in college football. Oklahoma State leads all FBS teams in points per game (62.3), yards per game (686.7) and third-down conversion percentage.

The Cowboys also hold a two-game winning streak against the Longhorns.

However Texas lines up to try and defend Oklahoma State, it will likely do so with Edmond in the middle. Who will line up next to him, and on which side, remains to be seen.

When Hicks went out against Ole Miss, Demarco Cobbs transitioned from the strong side to the weak side, and backup Kendall Thompson came in at the strong side. During the off week, however, Texas looked at packages that allowed freshman Dalton Santos, a natural middle linebacker, to be on the field with Edmond.

“We’ve just got to find some guys there,” Brown said. "And you're going to play more nickel defense in the Big 12 than you do sometimes when you're playing some option teams. So that will be a factor, too. There will be an extra defensive back in there more in the next four or five weeks than there were the first three. That will factor in.”

The main concern for Texas' defense going into the hostile environment in Stillwater, Okla., without Hicks could be that the Horns will miss his leadership. When Hicks went out against Ole Miss, the rest of the defense admitted that it panicked.

“The thing right now we have with Jordan is not only his experience but his leadership,” Brown said. “All the other guys are younger and haven't played near as much. He gives us so much leadership at linebacker. That's what we lost last year with Keenan [Robinson] and Emmanuel [Acho].”

With Hicks out or just limited, that responsibility will shift to Edmond’s burly shoulders.

“He's got all the tools,” Brown said. “He's so big, fast, can catch. Looked like a fullback running when he turned it up the other night. But Steve needs to be a big-time player here as we start Big 12 play.”