AUSTIN, Texas -- The view from Texas' last line of defense has changed.
Gone are any gaps or really even slivers of sunlight. The human eclipse responsible is Steve Edmond.
"He is a true middle linebacker," safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "I'm back there, and I'm looking, and holes open up, and he just fills them quick."
Quickly and with plenty of mass.
"He weights like 260, and he is fast," Vaccaro said. "Nobody moves him. When he stepped on my foot [during practice], I thought it was broke."
Here's what wasn't broken last year -- the Texas defense. While the offense stumbled, the defense stayed steady under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz.
But the guts of that defense are gone.
"We lost some really good football players out of the spine of our defense," Diaz said. "And what we have, we have some guys that have the potential to be good behind them. But that's still potential at this point. We're trying to find out in spring practice as much as we can about them."
Consider the coaches and players all pretty well versed in what Edmond can do. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound sophomore played behind Keenan Robinson in 2011. He saw action in 12 games, had 16 tackles, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss.
Certainly it wasn't statistically a stellar season, but it was enough to convince those around him that Edmond was ready to be the starter at middle linebacker in 2012.
"He is going to be huge for this defense," starting outside linebacker Jordan Hicks said.
"Me and Coach [Duane] Akina were talking about it today, he doesn't know how great he is going to be," added Vaccaro. "We're already a better team."
They are better because they are faster and bigger.
"No offense to anybody (from 2011) but it's faster," Vaccaro confirmed.
What this defense is not is a proven commodity. There are only two seniors -- Vaccaro and Alex Okafor -- and Edmond, a true sophomore, is in the middle trying to run things. So it is also not shocking that, to date, this unit also is not comfortable with all the complex requirements of his defense.
"They'll show up with the right play on one play, and then they'll go left when they're supposed to go right on the next," Diaz said.
"It's a little hard to drive the car as fast as you can drive it if you're not sure where you're going. And we're trying to get them to the point where they know where they're going."
What Texas does know, but maybe is not quite ready to state, is that Edmond will be the main guy behind the wheel, and he has the ability to put plenty of weight on the accelerator.
"He has good vision," Diaz said. "Understands and reads the games well. For his size he moves very well, which is what we like about him there [at middle linebacker]. And he has the ability to play the run and pass equally well, which will be important in the league that we play in."
But the coach couched that assessment by again bringing up Edmond's youth.
"If he's going to be in our first 11, he has to be one of our best 11 players," Diaz said. "So that's something that he's earning ... the trust of his coaching staff and the trust of his teammates."
Edmond already has earned their admiration for his athleticism.
"He's fast. His arms hang down to the ground," Vaccaro said. "And he probably has top-five hands on the team."
"He is big, long, strong and athletic," Hicks added. "He is a key factor of the defense this year."
And as far as Edmond's weight goes
"To me, I always think the weight is a number that I don't get jarred up on, because different people with different sizes can handle themselves differently," Diaz said.
So far Edmond has handled himself and everything in front of him on the Texas defense just fine.