Dallas Colleges: Steve Edmond

Despite losses, Texas D becoming dominant

October, 14, 2014
10/14/14
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford knew they’d have to rebuild a defense before Texas would be ready to win and win big. Six games in, construction is unquestionably ahead of schedule.

Signs of how dramatically this group’s production has been overhauled are all over the place. Even with two more losses, Texas’ defense through six games this season has exceeded the midseason production of its 2013 counterpart in every way.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasThe Longhorns' record may not reflect it -- yet -- but Texas coach Charlie Strong has dramatically improved the defense in his first season.
This year’s group has given up nearly 700 fewer yards and cut its yardage rate down a full 1.3 yards per play. The Longhorns rank No. 3 nationally in pass defense, No. 4 in yards per play, No. 2 in QBR defense and No. 3 in sack rate. And they’ve done it against a far tougher schedule.

Throw out two special-teams scores and two offensive turnovers for touchdowns and you get this: Texas’ defense is responsible for giving up 99 points in six games, a 16.5 points-per-game average that would rank top 10 nationally.

In the three greatest tests of his tenure, Strong’s defenders held the loaded offenses of UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma to 20, 21 and 17 points. All three were losses. When the day comes that Strong can pair this D with a reliable offense and decent special-teams play, Texas could be poised to shake up the Big 12.

Still, ever since the 41-7 loss to BYU, a game in which a third-quarter implosion wiped out an otherwise fine day for this defense, they've been dominant. Yet that’s not how Strong and his defensive coordinator, Bedford, want to perceive things.

“If we had been dominating,” Bedford said last week, “right now we would be undefeated. We're not.”

A variety of factors have coalesced to make this group great. It’s a veteran-heavy unit. Texas has a midseason All-American in Malcom Brown setting the tone up front. Linebackers Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond are playing the best football of their lives. The secondary hasn’t had many busts, despite relying on three first-time starters at safety.

But there’s plenty more to be said for how Strong and his staff have transformed Texas’ work on weekdays. It’s clear they value schematic versatility when it comes to coverage and defensive line fronts, and the blueprint can change on any given week depending on the opponent.

“You never know what to expect from our coaching staff,” defensive back Mykkele Thompson said.

What they expect from the players has changed dramatically. Hicks credits the staff’s insistence on an open-door policy in the coaches’ office. Players are stopping by now more than ever to talk ball and delve deeper into the game plan.

“They’re just so real about everything,” Hicks said. “We trust them. They know we trust them. They’ve built that along this entire process. They explain things in our terms, tell us the purpose and context behind why they’re doing things. It’s not surface level.”

When the staff’s plan against Baylor called for dialing up major pressure from Edmond, he was in the office every day, working to further master what was being asked. He responded with a career-best 19 tackles and two sacks against the Bears.

Cornerback Quandre Diggs has been wowed by the buy-in from players this season. It’s the concentration on weekday preparation that’s creating the success on Saturdays.

“We prepare at a totally different level than everybody is accustomed to around here,” Diggs said. “The way we prepare, it’s crazy how all guys are on board with it. We have tremendous respect for the staff. Those guys love us to death. We’ll be up here watching film on those iPads. When you go in there, they always have good tip sheets and a lot of stuff about tendencies. Those tendencies, they show up in the games and we take advantage.”

Meanwhile, back at Louisville, the defense Strong and Bedford constructed hasn’t slipped either. Their knack for talent evaluation and development continues to pay off: The Cardinals’ defense, now led by Todd Grantham, ranks No. 1 nationally in total defense, rushing defense and QBR defense and No. 2 in yards per play.

Rebuilding Texas’ defense on the same principles of preparation and information that made Louisville great is creating confidence that, when these crucial veterans -- Diggs, Edmond, Thompson, Cedric Reed, and possibly Brown and Hicks -- are gone next year, a younger defense won’t take much of a step back in 2015 and beyond.

“I think the young guys are going to see the example that we’ve set,” Hicks said. “This is the standard.”

Big 12 players in Week 7 spotlight

October, 9, 2014
10/09/14
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Last week, Brandon Chatmon correctly predicted big games for Baylor's offensive line, TCU receiver Kolby Listenbee (103 receiving yards) and Iowa State cornerback Nigel Tribune (one interception). Who could be due for a breakout game in Week 7? Here are nine players to keep an eye on Saturday.

Baylor WR KD Cannon: He was killer in non-conference play, but now that the veterans are back his targets are down considerably. He played an insignificant role last week -- one catch, 8 yards -- and Baylor did not hit the game-changing deep bombs against Texas. The Bears will need to find better ways to free up Cannon in space and let him do his thing.

Iowa State TE E.J. Bibbs: The breakthrough finally came last week for Bibbs, who caught two touchdowns in the second half against Oklahoma State. Against a Toledo defense that ranks fourth-worst in FBS in pass defense, he should feast.

Kansas QB Michael Cummings: It's possible the Jayhawks stick with Montell Cozart this week, but now that the quarterback position is an open competition again, what is Cummings capable of? A week of preparation knowing that he could start should help, and he did better things in the pass game during his second-half audition last week than Cozart has. Let's see what the guy can do if he gets his chance.

Oklahoma offensive line: Two things Texas' defense does best: Sacks and takeaways. At a time when Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight's play is being called into question, it's going to be on his big boys up front to protect him and reduce the pressure he will face in a crazy Cotton Bowl atmosphere. Plus, if the weather forecast holds true and we get some rain on Saturday, this line has to create push for Oklahoma's run game in what could be a sloppy brawl.

Oklahoma State CB Kevin Peterson: Whoever is playing quarterback at Kansas (and the Pokes could see all three), the Cowboys' secondary should be in for some fun. Peterson has just one interception this season, but should get a chance to snag at least one pass forced Nick Harwell's way.

TCU RB B.J. Catalon: His final stats against Oklahoma were relatively modest, but Catalon is a guy who can burn you as a rusher, receiver and returner. He snuck behind the Sooners' defense for a wide-open, 39-yard touchdown reception last week, ran another TD in and went 30 yards on TCU's trick play kick return. Don't be surprised if he finds the end zone a few more times this week.

Texas LB Steve Edmond: He is coming off probably the finest performance of his career, a team-high 17 tackles and two sacks against Baylor, and he is earning major praise from Charlie Strong and his teammates for all the extra film work he's putting in during the week. Edmond was asked to do a lot against the Bears, and he will be just as responsible this week against Oklahoma's tough power run game.

Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington: The Red Raiders completely abandoned the run last week, giving just one carry to a running back in the second half against Kansas State. And it didn't go to Washington, either. Tech needs to keep this game close enough that it can have a lot more balance offensively, and Washington needs to make a dent with his first-half opportunities.

West Virginia CB Daryl Worley: Well, how much rust should we expect? Worley is coming back from a two-game suspension and has some catching up to do. Now that he has been reinstated, West Virginia has arguably its best defender back just in time to help shut down Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez. He should get tested often on Saturday.

Texas 'trash' talk a sign of Baylor's ascent

October, 1, 2014
10/01/14
8:30
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WACO, Texas -- Goliath wasn't the one slinging stones. Nor had he much need for trash talk.

That's what makes the blossoming feud between Baylor and Texas so bemusing. Who would've ever thought the once-powerless Bears could someday provoke contempt from these once-gigantic Longhorns?

Their relationship has never felt more different than in 2014. David is faster and more confident than ever, his arsenal of weapons expanded well beyond the slingshot. Goliath, well, he's working through some issues right now.

Baylor players got heated in April when Texas linebacker Steve Edmond, in relatively unprovoked fashion, declared: "I really don't like Baylor. I still think they're trash." This week, when Texas receiver John Harris made a similarly dismissive comment, those players couldn't help but laugh.

"It's a sign of something…I just can't put my finger on it," Baylor lineman Pat Colbert said.

It's mostly disrespect. Texas players see no reason to bow down to the Big 12 champions in advance of their rematch on Saturday in Austin. No. 7 Baylor has beat the Longhorns three of the last four years, but can't quite seem to humble them.

If the Bears expect deference, they're looking in the wrong place.

"They're still Baylor," Harris said Monday. "Just because they started playing better in this era, that's good for them. We're still Texas."

Baylor coach Art Briles didn't quite know how to respond to that statement on Monday.

"I mean, what am I supposed to say?" Briles said. "We're still Baylor, TCU is still TCU, Oklahoma is still Oklahoma. I'm not sure what it means."

Why'd Harris say it? He was asked if Baylor was snatching control of the state of Texas away from his program. Briles says he doesn't look at things that way, that this is a "week-to-week business."

But anyone suggesting Baylor is still Baylor hasn't been paying too much attention, including to the scoreboard, over these past few seasons.

"We're a completely different team than we were five years ago," Bears linebacker Bryce Hager said. "We're a nationally contending team. Eventually, people are just going to have to accept it."

When Edmond's comments hit Twitter, Colbert was one of the first to react, vowing that the Bears would "kick our feet straight through his teeth AGAIN!!" Fellow lineman Troy Baker posted a photo of their Big 12 title trophy with the caption, "I love this trash too."

When asked Tuesday how he'd respond to being called trash, Colbert paused before offering: "You're trash for saying that."

Edmond has spoken to reporters just once since his post-spring game smack talk. When asked if he wanted to say anything more on the subject, he quickly said no. Teammate Quandre Diggs joked this summer that Edmond's comments weren't surprising because, simply put, he's gonna say what's on his mind.

"Steve is country. That's just how it is," Diggs said. "When you're raised in the country, you don't really care. You don't care about hurting people's feelings."

What made Edmond's diss so silly is the fact he didn't even play against Baylor last season while recovering from a lacerated liver. He'll get a chance to back up (or pay for) his words on Saturday.

"We'll keep an eye out for him," Colbert said.

Baylor receiver KD Cannon said he considers Texas' disrespect a sign of weakness. The freshman star, who did turn down an offer from UT, noticed Monday that Diggs said he'd never heard Baylor considers itself "Wide Receiver U."

"Texas is going to be Texas," Cannon said. "They have a good program. It's just trash talk. It's just something we've got to shut up."

There's a little more to the "trash" talk, too: Remember, Texas and Baylor were tied 3-3 at halftime last December. The Big 12 trophy and a Fiesta Bowl trip were on the line. And Texas flopped in the second half, getting outscored 27-7 and walking off the Floyd Casey Stadium field in silence as Baylor fans filled the field.

"It still haunts us that we were 30 minutes away from winning a Big 12 championship," Texas defensive end Cedric Reed said.

That heartbreak was the true source of Edmond's negativity and the reason why this bickering began. But if Texas can't appreciate the all-time high Baylor is riding right now, that's just fine with the Bears. They'd rather come down to Texas' house on Saturday and prove their point there.

"Of course they're not going to like us," Colbert said. "We're winning. They're down. We're up. We'll get ‘em back."

Q&A: Texas CB Quandre Diggs

July, 30, 2014
7/30/14
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DALLAS -- When Quandre Diggs says, "Ya’ll know I’m always going to keep it 100 with you," the Texas senior cornerback is not joking. Not even a little bit.

Diggs has been known to use his Twitter account as a beacon for his hot sports takes, so we spent extra time with him last Tuesday at Big 12 media days and gave him a chance to sound off on whatever he wanted. He was happy to oblige.

[+] EnlargeQuandre Diggs
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesTexas cornerback Quandre Diggs has no problem sharing his opinion on a variety of subjects.
On his summer: "Summer was great. I worked out. Busted my tail. I went to Angleton (Texas) a couple times. Went to San Diego once. My brother (Quentin Jammer) tried to kill me out there working out with him. That was tough. I didn’t know the old man still had it in him like he does."

On LeBron James returning to Cleveland: "Ah, man. See, this is the type of question I like, something off the topic of football. I think it was best for him to leave Miami, you know? If D-Wade was going to get an extension, I’d say if D-Wade is worth $7 million, I’m worth $2.5 (million) in basketball terms. D-Wade, his knees gone. When your knees gone and you’re a basketball player, it’s hard to succeed in that league.

"On the real, no, I think it was a great move for LeBron. He earned a lot of people’s respect by going back to Cleveland. As a man, you can tell what type of man LeBron really is. He loves the city of Cleveland, he loves being back at his home. Much respect to him. I’m glad he went back. He has a great young team down there and if those guys can pull off that Kevin Love trade ..."

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Which team will win the Big 12 football title?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,177)

On a Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade: "I’d give up Andrew Wiggins. He’d be gone. Kevin Love gets 26 and 12! That’s way better than what Bosh was doing in Miami."

On being a Heat fan or a LeBron fan: "I’m a LeBron guy! I wasn’t really just a Miami guy. LeBron could’ve gone to the Charlotte Bobcats, I’m going to get me some Bobcat hats or something."

On LSU and other schools claiming they’re “DBU”: "Well yeah, you know, you’ve got the fake DBUs. There’s one real DBU and this tradition is going to continue to go on as long as we’re at Texas. We have (schools) that might’ve just started getting first-round draft picks as DBs. But we’ve had that since, what, the 80s? 70s? I go back in that DB room and look at the wall and I’ve got guys from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, they all made money."

On Texas linebacker Steve Edmond dissing Baylor in May: "Hey man, Steve is going to say what he’s going to say. It don’t matter. Coach [Charlie] Strong can tell him not to say something, but Steve is country. That’s just how it is. When you’re raised in the country, you don’t really care. You don’t care about hurting people’s feelings."

On whether Diggs is OK with that trash talk: "I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t see what’s the problem with it. I’m just going to let that one go. I don’t want to get in trouble. Coach Strong wants us to speak our minds. He speaks his mind. He wants us to be real. I’m not going to elaborate on that situation. ... I’m not bowing down to any man. Any man, any team, I’m not bowing down to anybody. I’m an alpha male and I want to be in charge."

On Texas’ second-best trash talker: "Well, nobody can go blow-for-blow with me, but if I’m going to say one guy that can talk trash: Peter Jinkens. He’s going to say what he wants when he wants. That’s just Pete. He told me to say something stupid for y’all, but I’ll leave that to him when he talks to the media. I hope they don’t let him talk. He hit me up today on Twitter when he saw the pictures and said, ‘Q would be the only one with some Jordans on.’ That’s just me. I’m going to be me. I like to dress up, but I’m not going to dress up in church shoes with pants."

On the cancellation of the “NCAA Football 15” video game: "I was kind of mad. I wanted to see what my rating would be this year. I’d be about 96, something like that. I wish we would’ve had that game. But hey, that’s above my head. I just want to be the best player I can be."

Burnt Orange Breakdown: Steve Edmond

June, 17, 2014
6/17/14
10:00
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 33 Steve Edmond
Senior linebacker


[+] EnlargeSteve Edmond
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsSteve Edmond is looking to put it all together in his senior season.
Recruitment rewind: The top-rated linebacker in Texas for the 2011 class, Edmond ranked No. 55 in the final ESPN 150 and chose Texas after taking visits to UT and Oklahoma. He put up some crazy numbers in his final season at Daingerfield (Texas) High, too: 159 tackles, 26 TFL, four sacks, eight forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two INTs (and he kicked PATs). The East Texas native had a reputation for being one bad dude on the field.

Career so far: Edmond appeared in 12 games as a true freshman backup, then moved up to a starting role when Texas' senior linebackers graduated. He started 12 games in 2012 and had his ups and downs, but did finish second on the team in tackles with 103. His play up the middle seemed to be improving last season (and who could forget that crazy game-winning INT at West Virginia), but Edmond's season ended early in November when a blindside block from Texas Tech WR Eric Ward caused a lacerated liver. Edmond was also in the news this spring for declaring his disrespect for Baylor.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Is the ceiling for Edmond an All-Big 12 caliber season? Maybe so. We've seen flashes of great things from Edmond in recent years, of a linebacker who can take on blocks, stop the run and make freaky athletic plays from time to time. What makes Edmond a little tougher to project is that he's now working with his third linebackers coach in three years. It's not outside the realm of possibility that Charlie Strong and his defensive coaches see a 'backer with the right size and speed to sneak up to the line of scrimmage from time to time in hybrid roles.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Seems like we bring this up every offseason, but the looming threat for Edmond will continue to be the progression of Dalton Santos. Neither has maxed out his potential yet, but both are now upperclassmen with legit playing experience. Unless Texas relies on three-man defensive line fronts this fall, there won't be many games on the schedule that call for base 4-3 sets. If you only need one of those two on the field at a time, and Santos proves he deserves plenty of action, perhaps we could see a timeshare at middle linebacker.

Future expectations: Edmond is one of those players who could be a fascinating weapon in the hands of this respected defensive staff. What will they see in him? He'll be a third-year starter, and though he has a reputation for being quiet, his voice will matter in the locker room. It's a contract year for Edmond, a final chance to prove to NFL scouts he can be a difference-maker at the next level. He might be a bit underrated, all things considered, but Edmond still has a ton to prove in 2014.

Best case, worst case: Baylor

June, 16, 2014
6/16/14
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One of my favorite annual sports pieces to read is Bill Simmons’ NBA Draft Diary. I also always have to read Mel Kiper’s yearly NFL Draft grades as well as the annual unveiling of Keith Law’s top 100 baseball prospects.

Another one of my favorites is Pat Forde’s dream and nightmare scenario for every team going into college basketball’s NCAA tournament.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with the best- and worst-case scenarios for every Big 12 team going into the 2014 season. Of course, the reality will fall somewhere in between. But this will forecast what a season would look like if every single imaginable domino fell into place. And likewise, if everything that could go wrong, well, did.

We begin this series with the defending Big 12 champs -- the Baylor Bears:

BEST CASE

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThere will be a lot of celebrating if things go swimmingly for Bryce Petty and Baylor.
Thanks to his work on pocket awareness with QB guru George Whitfield and a season of experience in his belt, Bryce Petty comes out looking better than ever. He throws for seven touchdowns in the christening of McLane Stadium and never looks back on his way to giving Baylor its second Heisman Trophy quarterback (Jameis who?) in four years. With USC still struggling, people everywhere begin dubbing Baylor college football’s next “QBU.”

Of course, Petty can’t win a Heisman without his supporting cast showing up, and they do just that and more. Antwan Goodley matches his 2013 totals and earns first-team All-American honors. Corey Coleman has a breakout campaign, setting the stage to become the next in the ever-growing line of big-time Baylor wide receivers. Redshirt freshman running back Johnny Jefferson lives up to the spring hype, leading Baylor’s running back stable with 1,100 yards on the ground. Left tackle Spencer Drango doesn’t surrender a sack all season to win the Outland Trophy. And led by mammoth defensive end Shawn Oakman, the defensive line makes good on Art Briles’ spring proclamation, and leads the nation in tackles for loss.

With the team firing on more cylinders than ever, Baylor empties Darrell K. Royal Stadium by the third quarter then obliterates TCU, leaving Gary Patterson speechless in his postgame news conference.

The undefeated Bears march into Norman on Nov. 8 and edge the Sooners in one of the all-time great games in Big 12 history, catapulting Baylor to No. 1 in the polls, and to No. 1 in the minds of the playoff committee.

The Bears coast through the rest of the Big 12 season unscathed, securing them a spot in the inaugural four-team playoff. They squeak through in the first game, setting up a clash with the SEC champ in AT&T Stadium, just a hundred miles from Waco’s campus. With plenty of green on hand, the Bears capture their first national championship on a fourth-quarter bomb from Petty to Goodley, reminiscent of James Street’s heave to Cotton Speyrer that handed Texas the national championship in the Cotton Bowl Classic 34 years before.

In his postgame news conference, Briles tells the nation he plans to retire in Waco, and days later signs another extension to keep him there for life.

Fresh off the national title, Baylor lands a top 10 recruiting class, and with confidence swelling about the state of the program, athletic director Ian McCaw beefs up the nonconference schedule by ringing up Alabama and immediately agreeing to fill the Crimson Tide’s vacant slot in 2015.

Without Johnny Football, the Aggies finish with a losing record, and the Longhorns get drilled in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. In the NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys trade up to get Petty in the first round to be their heir apparent to Tony Romo.

WORST CASE

In his second year as the starter, Petty succumbs to the dreaded sophomore slump. He throws three picks in the opener, as Baylor just barely survives SMU in a sluggish unveiling of McLane Stadium.

The defensive line falls way below Briles’ expectation, the new secondary turns out to be a disaster, and the Bears wind up ranking in the bottom 10 nationally in pass defense.

Baylor also desperately misses the consistency of Lache Seastrunk and Tevin Reese, as the offense becomes too dependent on Petty and Goodley to make plays. Drango’s back issues flare up and, and right tackle Troy Baker never really returns to form from last year’s knee injury. In turn, Petty is under duress all season, and the Baylor offense doubles last season's turnover total.

The Bears survive the Ponies. But they can’t escape Ames, as the giant killers of the Big 12 upset Baylor after Petty fumbles on the first play of double overtime.

The stunning defeat sends the Bears into a mini-tailspin. They get battered by the Longhorns the following week in the game of Texas linebacker Steve Edmond’s career. TCU’s defense smothers Baylor the following week, handing the Bears a third straight loss. At 4-3, the Bears hobble into Norman and put up a gutty performance but can’t stop Trevor Knight, who all but locks up All-Big 12 quarterback honors.

Baylor rebounds to take down Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl, which gets other schools interested in Briles to be their coach again.

Edmond is named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Petty slips to the second round. McCaw adds Old Dominion to the schedule.
Big 12 play is well underway with a schedule full of conference games.

Last week, we kicked off our Big 12's Ultimate Road Trip series. This week we continue with the bulk of the 2014 schedule.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget were unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on several factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that each of us can pick only one game per week.

Let's continue with Week 6.

Oct. 4

Baylor at Texas
Kansas at West Virginia
Iowa State at Oklahoma State
Texas Tech at Kansas State
Oklahoma at TCU

Jake Trotter’s pick: Baylor at Texas

This renewed rivalry got another boost in the spring when Texas linebacker Steve Edmond, unprompted, called Baylor “trash.” Bears offensive tackle Troy Baker responded by posting a picture of the Big 12 championship trophy on Twitter and writing, “I love this trash too.”

After conference realignment destroyed several of the Big 12’s rivalries (Texas-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-Nebraska, Kansas-Missouri, Kansas State-Nebraska, Texas Tech-Texas A&M) the league needs some of its games to generate more heat. The Baylor-Texas game should bring plenty of that this season.

By knocking off the Bears, the Longhorns could recover some of their lost standing in the Big 12 the last five years. By taking down Texas for the fourth time in five years, Baylor could keep its thumb on its neighbors to the south, while remaining on the collision course showdown against Oklahoma on Nov. 8 to determine the Big 12 crown.

There will be plenty of heat in Austin for this game. And for me, plenty of barbeque, too.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: Baylor at Texas

This clash between Baylor and Texas is too good to pass up.

Charlie Strong gets the chance to send a clear message against a Bears squad that is used to sending the Longhorns home with an L.

Edmond’s words made it clear that Baylor, despite its recent winning ways against the Longhorns, still has a ways to go before it has the respect it must think it’s already earned. Expect the Bears to arrive in Austin, Texas with a huge chip on their shoulder and feeling disrespected.

Meanwhile, Strong can start showing the Big 12 his plan to return UT to national title contention is progressing quicker than most expect with a win over the defending champions.

Intense rivalry. NFL talent. Great coaching.

There are plenty of good reasons to spend Week 6 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium, so I can’t wait to head to Austin.

Previous weeks:

Week 1: Trotter -- SMU at Baylor; Chatmon -- West Virginia vs. Alabama (in Atlanta)

Week 2: Trotter -- Kansas State at Iowa State; Chatmon -- Kansas State at Iowa State

Week 3: Trotter -- Texas vs UCLA (in Arlington); Chatmon -- Tennessee at Oklahoma

Week 4: Trotter -- Auburn at Kansas State; Chatmon -- Auburn at Kansas State

Week 5: Trotter -- Texas Tech at Oklahoma State; Chatmon -- Baylor at Iowa State

Big 12 post-spring breakdown: LBs

May, 6, 2014
5/06/14
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With spring ball done, we’re re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Oklahoma (pre-spring ranking: 1): While the future of inside linebacker Frank Shannon remains unclear, the Sooners have a tailor-made replacement in Jordan Evans ready to go. Shannon was OU’s leading tackler a year ago, but Evans was the defensive MVP of the spring game in his place. Blitzing outside linebacker Eric Striker had a huge spring coming off his three-sack performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. And the Sooners had another blitzing linebacker in juco transfer Devante Bond emerge in March, which could give them flexibility to move Striker around. Dominique Alexander, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, solidifies OU’s perch atop this positional ranking, even with Shannon’s future in limbo.

2. Texas (2): Steve Edmond sparked controversy with his Baylor comments, but he also impressed coach Charlie Strong this spring with his knack for making tackles. Edmond and Dalton Santos team up to give the Longhorns a reliable combination on the inside. Athletic sophomore Timothy Cole took advantage of his opportunities with the first-team defense during the spring but should fall back into a spot role once Jordan Hicks returns this summer from a second consecutive season-ending injury. This will be a good group of linebackers, but Hicks playing up to his five-star potential is what could make it great.

3. West Virginia (3): After struggling at the “Spur” linebacker spot in 2013, Isaiah Bruce moved back inside this spring, where he starred as a freshman All-American two years ago. Bruce said he didn’t feel as comfortable playing outside and that showed, as he didn’t record a sack last season despite playing off the edge. Taking over in the Spur is converted safety K.J. Dillon, who was as impressive as any West Virginia defender this spring. With the ability to drop back in coverage, attack the run and rush the quarterback, Dillon seems to be a much better fit at the Spur. If he continues to progress at his new spot and Bruce gets back to his old self playing alongside tackling machine Nick Kwiatkoski inside, the Mountaineers will be stout at the second level.

4. Kansas (5): If the Jayhawks finally climb out of the Big 12 cellar for the first time in six years, it will be on the back of Ben Heeney and a Kansas defense that returns nine starters. One of those nine returners is Heeney’s linebacker wingman, Jake Love, who delivered a strong spring game with a scrimmage-high 10 tackles. The Jayhawks have several weaknesses, but the tackling of their linebackers is not one of them.

5. TCU (6): They get overshadowed by the units in front of and behind them, but linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet simply fulfill what’s asked of them. The Horned Frogs were surprisingly solid at linebacker last year. They should be even better in 2014.

6. Texas Tech (7): The Red Raiders received a huge boost in the spring from Kenny Williams, who made a seamless -- and voluntary -- position switch from running back to the “Raider” linebacker position. With honorable mention All-Big 12 pick Pete Robertson on the other outside spot and veterans Sam Eguavoen and Micah Awe and Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko manning the middle, the Red Raiders have a solid foundation. Ex-Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell, who attended Tech’s spring game, could give the unit another boost in the summer. He was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and could be eligible immediately at his next school.

7. Kansas State (8): Coach Bill Snyder seemed to be reasonably pleased with returners Jonathan Truman and Will Davis, who have locked up two of the linebacker spots. If D'Vonta Derricott, who was in the ESPN Junior College 50 and had offers from Miami, Wisconsin, Arizona State and a host of Big 12 programs, can make an impact at the third linebacker spot, the Wildcats could quickly solidify their biggest question spot defensively.

8. Baylor (4): Middle linebacker Bryce Hager will be fine once he finally recovers from a groin injury. That means Aiavion Edwards, who exited spring as the starter on the weak side, will be the key as the Bears attempt to overcome the graduation of All-Big 12 performer Eddie Lackey. Baylor, though, still has big expectations for juco transfer Grant Campbell, even though he finished spring as a backup on the depth chart. After a shaky first few practices, Campbell began to come on late in spring drills.

9. Oklahoma State (9): The Cowboys picked up a valuable transfer during the spring in former Michigan safety Josh Furman, who will be eligible immediately after getting his degree. Furman isn’t a star, but he has plenty of experience and could be a real asset teamed with juco transfer D'Nerius Antoine at Oklahoma State’s “Star” linebacker spot. On the weak side, fellow juco transfer Devante Averette really shined before suffering some mild injuries at the end of spring ball. The Cowboys will be even better there if 2012 four-star signee Seth Jacobs emerges.

10. Iowa State (10): The Cyclones remain in transition mode at linebacker while working to replace the production of departed All-Big 12 performer Jeremiah George. Redshirt freshman and former QB Alton Meeks was one of the defensive surprises of the spring; he currently sits atop the depth chart at middle linebacker. The other big defensive surprise was walk-on senior Drake Ferch, who beat out returning starter Jared Brackens on the strong side. Jevohn Miller is the third starting linebacker, but he figures to be a placeholder on the weak side until Luke Knott returns from last year’s season-ending hip injury.

Depth chart analysis: Texas

May, 1, 2014
5/01/14
1:00
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Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring, continuing Thursday with Texas. New coach Charlie Strong has yet to release an official depth chart, so this is only a projection:

OFFENSE (projected starter in bold)

QB: David Ash (Jr.), Tyrone Swoopes (So.)

David Ash
Max Olson/ESPNDavid Ash (left) and Tyrone Swoopes did little to answer Texas' QB questions this spring.
Texas had reason for optimism entering the spring when Ash returned with two years of eligibility and no signs of post-concussion issues. The foot fracture he suffered in April will sideline him for several months, and Strong hopes to have him back sometime in July. Swoopes showed flashes in the spring game. This group will look a lot better in June when Jerrod Heard enrolls, and Texas is still waiting on a decision from ex-USC QB Max Wittek.

RB: Malcolm Brown (Sr.), Johnathan Gray (Jr.), Joe Bergeron (Sr.), Jalen Overstreet (So.)

This group could end up being one of the Big 12’s best this fall, but there’s still work to be done this summer. Gray is still recovering from a torn Achilles but should be cleared in time for the season opener. When he’s back, he could be one of the conference’s most versatile rushers. Bergeron was held out of the end of spring practice to work on academics but is expected to rejoin the team this summer. Brown is in the best shape of his career and will be the workhorse as a senior. Overstreet thrived on outside runs in the spring game and could become a factor in the fall. Texas adds three freshmen to the mix this summer.

WR: Jaxon Shipley (Sr.), Daje Johnson (Jr.)

WR: Marcus Johnson (Jr.), Jacorey Warrick (RFr.), Jake Oliver (RFr.)

WR: Kendall Sanders (Jr.), Montrel Meander (RFr.), John Harris (Sr.)

TE: Geoff Swaim (Sr.), M.J. McFarland (Jr.), Blake Whiteley (So.)

The trio of Shipley, Marcus Johnson and Sanders received strong praise from Texas coaches this spring. Marcus Johnson and Sanders are both big-play threats and Shipley will be a four-year starter who’s one of the league’s best possession receivers. After disciplinary issues in his first two years, Daje Johnson is doing everything asked of him and will get the ball in a variety of ways. The depth behind them is young, with three second-year wideouts and five incoming freshmen fighting for playing time. Texas might not have a game-changing tight end, but Swaim had a great spring, McFarland reemerged as a pass-catching threat and Greg Daniels, who missed the spring, can set the edge as a blocker.

LT: Desmond Harrison (Sr.), Darius James (RFr.)

LG: Sedrick Flowers (Jr.), Alex Anderson (Fr.)

C: Dominic Espinosa (Sr.), Jake Raulerson (RFr.)

RG: Taylor Doyle (Jr.), Rami Hammad (RFr.)

RT: Kennedy Estelle (Jr.), Kent Perkins (So.)

After having one of the nation’s most experienced lines in 2013, Texas could roll with two seniors and three juniors this fall. There still could be lots of changes to this lineup, but Espinosa is a lock to start and the left side of the line is fairly established too. The 6-foot-8 Harrison disappointed last year but showed his potential this spring. Doyle was the surprise of the spring after playing in only two career games, but he still has to hold off Hammad, who has big potential. Curtis Riser could also be in the mix at guard, and Perkins -- who missed the end of spring ball with a knee injury -- is good enough to play anywhere on the line after working at guard this spring.

[+] EnlargeShiro Davis
John Albright/Icon SMIShiro Davis looks to have found a spot on Texas' starting defensive line.
DEFENSE

DE: Cedric Reed (Sr.), Caleb Bluiett (So.)

DT: Malcom Brown (Jr.), Alex Norman (So.)

DT: Desmond Jackson (Sr.), Hassan Ridgeway (So.)

DE: Shiro Davis (Jr.), Bryce Cottrell (So.)

Baylor has the Big 12’s best defensive line, but Texas’ starting four could challenge for that crown this fall. Reed and Brown are two of the Longhorns’ best players. Davis emerged to take over for Jackson Jeffcoat. The depth behind them is young and inexperienced, especially at defensive tackle, but Bluiett and Ridgeway should play prominent roles. Don’t be surprised if true freshmen Poona Ford and Derick Roberson enter the rotation right away, and Ford will need to fortify the depth up the middle.

OLB: Jordan Hicks (Sr.), Timothy Cole (So.), Demarco Cobbs (Sr.)

MLB: Steve Edmond (Sr.), Dalton Santos (Jr.)

OLB: Peter Jinkens (Jr.), Naashon Hughes (RFr.)

With nearly all of Texas’ veteran linebackers dealing with injuries this spring, there’s still plenty of uncertainty about this group. Edmond made a big impression on the new staff and his teammates and should hold down the middle with help from Santos. Hicks is expected to be healthy in June and is hungry to make up for two lost seasons. Cole made the most of his opportunities this spring and worked with the first team defense, while Cobbs was a spring game revelation after missing the entire 2013 season with knee issues. Jinkens and Hughes showed they can be dangerous as pass rushers off the edge. Kendall Thompson and Tevin Jackson will provide depth when they get healthy.

CB: Quandre Diggs (Sr.), Bryson Echols (So.)

CB: Duke Thomas (Jr.), Sheroid Evans (Sr.), Antwuan Davis (RFr.)

S: Mykkele Thompson (Sr.), Adrian Colbert (So.)

S: Josh Turner (Sr.), Chevoski Collins (RFr.)

Seems like these starting jobs are fairly locked in coming out of spring ball. Diggs and Thomas are clearly the best option at cornerback. Behind them, the trio of Evans, Davis and Echols has big potential. Evans is coming back from a torn ACL and missed the spring, giving the two younger DBs an opportunity to get a lot of second-team reps. There’s confidence in the play of Thompson and Turner so far, though they’ve had up-and-down careers thus far. Colbert and Collins are very young but will get their chances this fall. Texas brings in four freshmen this summer and several could make an early impact.

Texas spring wrap

May, 1, 2014
5/01/14
7:30
AM CT
A recap of what we learned about the Texas Longhorns following their first spring with new head coach Charlie Strong.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Strong isn’t messing around. From his high-intensity practices, to his willingness to stop and restart practice if the vibe isn’t right, to demanding players walk the half-mile uphill to the fields, the first-year coach is out to bring back a toughness that went missing with the Longhorns in recent years.

2. Texas will have two play-callers and, potentially, a handful of playmakers on offense in 2014. Offensive Joe Wickline and assistant head coach Shawn Watson will call plays, and Watson gets the final say. They know what they have in RB Malcolm Brown and WRs Jaxon Shipley, Marcus Johnson and Kendall Sanders, who all earned good reviews this spring.

3. Defensive line will be the strength of Texas’ defense, led by a pair of All-Big 12 caliber veterans in DE Cedric Reed and DT Malcom Brown. Senior Desmond Jackson is holding down the other interior spot, and Shiro Davis is emerging as the replacement for Jackson Jeffcoat. Depth behind them still a question mark, but those four starters are the real deal.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Quarterback. Duh. The foot fracture David Ash suffered before the final week of spring ball only amplified the scrutiny of this spot. Tyrone Swoopes had a few flashes and also some struggles in the spring game. Don’t be surprised if former USC QB Max Wittek joins the program in May and makes this a real competition, along with freshman Jerrod Heard.

2. The linebackers remain a source of uncertainty exiting spring ball, with Jordan Hicks among the three veterans at that spot who missed spring practice. DC Vance Bedford should feel good about Steve Edmond (his play, not his words), Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens back there, and Demarco Cobbs is back from injury, but who’s starting by the end of August?

3. Wickline comes to Austin with a reputation for being one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches. He’ll have a nice challenge finding his best five this fall. Center Dominic Espinosa might be the only lock among the Longhorns’ potential starters up front, and Wickline could choose from any number of lineup combinations for the opener.

One way-too-early prediction:

Presuming that Texas gets its quarterback affairs in order, this has the look of a nine-win team coming out of spring ball. How the Longhorns players buy in this summer and into fall camp will go a long way toward raising (or lowering) those expectations. Three of Texas’ first six games in 2014 come against likely preseason top-10 teams, so the Horns have to get a lot better between now and then.

Briles unfazed by Texas LB's 'trash' talk

April, 22, 2014
4/22/14
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Baylor coach Art Briles finally got his chance Tuesday to respond to Texas linebacker Steve Edmond's rantings against Baylor.

Three days after Edmond told reporters after the Orange-White spring game that, among other things, "I really don't like Baylor. I still think they're trash," Baylor's head coach offered a response that was predictably diplomatic.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
AP Photo/LM OteroCoach Art Briles and Baylor have won three out of four games against the Longhorns.
"I’m not aware of anything he had to say," Briles said in his Big 12 teleconference appearance. "Hard for me to comment on something I’m not aware of."

When a reporter further clarified that Edmond said he considers Baylor "trash," Briles didn't bite.

“Well that’s all right," he said. "Shoot, everybody's entitled to their opinion."

The senior linebacker's post-spring game comments evoked a big response from Baylor players and fans on social media, and no doubt gave Briles and his coaching staff perfect bulletin board material for when BU takes on Texas in Austin on Oct. 4.

Briles didn't think much of Edmond's complaint about how much the Bears celebrated their 30-10 victory over Texas last December. He has been in those shoes before.

"I wasn't particularly pleased at some of the places we weren't victorious, either," Briles said. "Our cause for celebration that game was for two reasons: winning the Big 12 and closing down Floyd Casey Stadium. I'm not going to spend a lot of time being protective of somebody's comments about our program when they don't understand it."

Edmond wasn't reprimanded by Texas for his largely unprovoked comments about Baylor, at least not publicly, but first-year coach Charlie Strong was disappointed by Edmond's comments.

"You know how kids are, they get so emotional and wrapped up in the game," Strong said on the teleconference. "But he's got to be smarter than that. I have a lot of respect for Coach Briles. He's done an unbelievable job at Baylor. Right now, that's the way it is. We haven't beaten Baylor."

Briles does have the scoreboard on his side. Baylor was won three of its last four against Texas, with two of those victories coming by 20-plus point margins. Sure seems like he has won the war of words with Edmond, too.

Top-10 player spring update: Texas

March, 27, 2014
3/27/14
3:00
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During the next two weeks, we’ll be breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.

These lists won’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus yet. Rather, they will include only the players on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now.

On Thursday, we continue with the Texas Longhorns.

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
John Albright/Icon SMIAfter a huge 2013 season, Cedric Reed will be the focus of the Longhorns' defense this fall.
1. Defensive end Cedric Reed: This is the guy Charlie Strong will build his defense around, a 6-foot-6, 258-pound senior who took his game to another level in 2013. During his monstrous junior campaign -- 79 tackles, 10 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles -- Reed often played just as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat, and sometimes better. Reed elected to return for his final season to not only earn his degree, but also to make a run at all the awards Jeffcoat collected and get Texas back to its winning ways.

2. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown: Brown has looked like a future NFL player from the day he first stepped foot on campus, and he started playing like it in 2013. In his first season as a starter, Brown racked up 68 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two sacks and five pass breakups. He'll be a menace for opposing Big 12 linemen, and the former top-15 recruit has a chance to get even better under new defensive line coach Chris Rumph.

3. Running back Malcolm Brown: Texas is going to run the ball plenty under new coordinators Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson, and Brown enters his senior season with a chance to become one of the Big 12's premier backs. He finished sixth in the league in total rushing and surpassed 125 yards in each of his final three games. Brown is in even better shape today physically and has a chance to do big things in 2014.

4. Defensive back Quandre Diggs: Entering his fourth season as a starter, Diggs has the potential to make a huge impact in the new defense that Strong and DC Vance Bedford construct. He led the Longhorns with 10 pass breakups from his nickel spot and added 2.5 sacks, but no interceptions, in 2013. Whether he ends up at corner, safety or back in the nickel, Diggs is hungry and out to prove he's one of the nation's best at his position.

5. Running back Johnathan Gray: The big question mark is, when will Gray get back on the field? He's still recovering from a torn Achilles suffered last November and is hoping to be full strength by the start of fall camp. Even if Gray misses a nonconference game or two, Texas will have big plans for him upon his return. He's one of the conference's most dynamic backs and a critical cog in the Longhorns offense. Don't be surprised if Gray, a freaky athlete, is back in pads earlier than expected.

6. Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley: Shipley is probably underrated at this point, even if his 2013 season wasn't too sparkling from a statistical standpoint (team-high 56 catches, 589 yards, 1 TD). But no matter who's starting at quarterback this season, Shipley is going to be the go-to guy. He's been a starter since he first arrived in Austin, and Texas' new offensive attack will find ways to get him in space.

7. Quarterback David Ash: Should Ash be higher on this list? When he's fully healthy, yes, he's one of this program's most important pieces. The junior is back on the field this spring but won't take any contact. His early efforts have been encouraging, but he still has some rust to shake off, and Strong has been somewhat noncommittal when it comes to calling Ash his starter. If USC transfer Max Wittek joins the program this summer, Ash will have to fight to hold down the job. But when he was healthy in 2012, Ash was a top-25 passer in several key metrics and still has a bright future if he can avoid another concussion.

8. Linebacker Steve Edmond: We finally saw Edmond take a big step forward in 2013, with 73 tackles and two interceptions, but his junior season ended early because of a ruptured spleen. In this multiple defense, it will be interesting to see if Strong and Bedford experiment with playing Edmond down at defensive end or in some hybrid roles. Dalton Santos will push Edmond, too, but expect the senior to play a major role in Texas' new-look defense.

9. Linebacker Jordan Hicks: It's hard to justify ranking Hicks any higher after he's missed 19 games in his past two seasons. He is not competing in spring practice right now while he completes his recovery from a torn Achilles, but once he's ready to go, Hicks should be one of Texas' best linebackers and one of its leaders on defense. He only has one season left to play up to his five-star potential, but staying on the field is more important.

10.Wide receiver Kendall Sanders: Several other Longhorns could take this spot on the list and have more playing experience, but Sanders is definitely worth keeping an eye on this fall. A smooth, speedy athlete capable of game-changing plays, Sanders has one year of game experience under his belt and a chance to take over as Texas' top deep threat.

Take Two: Biggest threat to OU and Baylor?

March, 25, 2014
3/25/14
10:00
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It’s Take Two Tuesday again, when we give our takes on a burning question in the league.

Today's Take Two topic: Who has the best chance of jumping up and challenging Big 12 favorites Baylor and Oklahoma for the conference crown?

Take 1: Max Olson -- Texas

Oklahoma and Baylor should both be considered top-10 squads in 2014, there’s no dispute about that. They’re in terrific shape going forward. But the way this league is set up, it’s hard to see either emerging undefeated by December.

The team best built to challenge them is Texas, at least on paper. Remember, for all its flaws in 2013, the Longhorns were two quarters away from winning the Big 12 despite major injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. They lose key pieces, but could come back better than expected.

That’s because there’s a new sheriff in town. Charlie Strong is dedicated to changing the mentality of this program and bringing back the toughness and accountability that went missing in recent years. He put together an impressive staff and brought in a revered strength coach. This program is undergoing big changes.

And there’s enough talent on board to sustain another run at a conference title. Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson will build an offense around the run game trio of Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron, and there’s good depth at receiver and on the line. What Texas needs most is a full year from David Ash, but Max Wittek seems likely to become the insurance option there.

If Texas is going to challenge the league favorites, it’ll be with a defense that brings back leaders at all three levels (Cedric Reed, Steve Edmond, Quandre Diggs) and is full of experienced talent. This is a unit that will line up a bunch of different ways and cause a lot of problems.

Revamping this Texas program will take time, but the Longhorns could have enough to make another run in 2014.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Kansas State

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJake Waters was one of the nation's most effective quarterbacks during the second half of last season.
The Longhorns certainly have the talent and supporting cast to seriously compete for a Big 12 title. But until they find the answer at quarterback -- and I’m dubious they will in Strong’s first season – it’s hard to see them doing so.

The Kansas State Wildcats have no such issues. And they too have the surrounding cast to make a run at the Bears and Sooners for the league championship.

After struggling early, Jake Waters settled in at quarterback the last half of the season and cut talented playmaker Daniel Sams out of the rotation. From Oct. 26 on, Waters produced the 13th-best Adjusted QBR in the country, according to ESPN Stats & Info, while leading the Wildcats to wins in six of their final seven games (he threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns in the lone loss, too).

Besides Waters, K-State also boasts one of the top wide receivers in the nation in the uncoverable Tyler Lockett, who had the third-most receiving yards in college football during the same Oct. 26-on stretch.

On the other side, Bill Snyder replenished his defense with a trio of ESPN JC 50 signees in defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales, outside linebacker D'Vonta Derricott and cornerback Danzel McDaniel, who should fill the slots in the lineup where the Wildcats have holes.

K-State will have to earn its way into the conference title chase, with road trips to both Baylor and Oklahoma. But K-State gets the Longhorns in the Little Apple, where it hasn’t lost to Texas since 2002.

The Wildcats also get defending national runner-up Auburn in Manhattan, Kan., earlier in September. If they topple the Tigers in that Thursday night clash, the rest of the Big 12 will quickly realize that K-State is a legitimate contender.

Who to watch in spring: Steve Edmond

February, 27, 2014
2/27/14
9:00
AM CT
Editor's note: This is the fourth part of a weeklong series taking a closer look at Texas players worth watching when the Longhorns begin spring practices in three weeks.

Brian Jean-Mary had to like what he saw the first time he glanced at the Texas roster for 2014.

The new Texas linebackers coach followed Charlie Strong from Louisville and inherited a situation that might best be described as favorable, maybe even ideal.

Good luck finding another first-year coach whose position group includes seven players with starting experience.

[+] EnlargeSteve Edmond
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsSteve Edmond made significant strides in his second season as a starter for the Longhorns.
Jean-Mary gets to work with a veteran group that might be three-deep at each spot. He gets at least four seniors -- Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmond, Tevin Jackson and Kendall Thompson -- who know what they're doing and can lead the underclassmen. He gets the hard-hitting Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens, now juniors, and another third-year player in Timothy Cole who contributed in 2013.

But that depth is also indicative of what Texas hasn't had from its linebackers in recent seasons: Consistency. Injuries are as much to blame as anything else, but the Longhorns have rolled out all sorts of linebacker combinations in the past two seasons.

How will all these linebackers adjust to the new defensive scheme in spring ball? That's an especially good question for Edmond.

After a disappointing first season as a starter, Edmond took a step in the right direction in 2013. He finished with 73 tackles, two interceptions -- including the game-clincher at West Virginia -- and five pass breakups, but missed Texas' final two games after suffering a lacerated liver against Texas Tech.

With Hicks out for the spring while he recovers from his ruptured Achilles, it's on Edmond to not only lead this group, but also outperform his peers. Don't be surprised if you see Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford experiment with Edmond at a few spots, maybe even on the defensive line. The spring is the best time to explore those options.

We don't know the ceiling of Edmond's potential, but this is his third position coach in three years. Can Jean-Mary get the best out of him? If so, and if Hicks can finally stay healthy, Texas could have the best linebackers in the Big 12.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

February, 25, 2014
2/25/14
3:00
PM CT
As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This is the deepest linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. There’s reason to hope that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.

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