AUSTIN, Texas -- Steve Edmond was big. But he wasn’t strong.
The reason why the Texas junior middle linebacker fell behind freshman backup Dalton Santos this spring was simple: He just didn’t love the weight room enough. He was tipping the scales at 260 pounds, and progress was stagnant.
Now, it seems, everything has changed. He’s 235 pounds again. Players say he’s a menace in scrimmages, making sideline-to-sideline plays and chasing down running backs behind the line.
Edmond underwent a much-needed transformation this offseason. We’ll find out Saturday just how far he’s come, but the results so far have received unanimous praise.
“Steve started gaining respect in the offseason by losing a lot of weight,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “He’s had a very good camp and it’ll be fun to watch him on Saturday night, because I think he’ll be so much better than what people saw last year that I think they’ll really be surprised and pleased.”
This time last year, Edmond made his debut in the starting lineup amid high expectations. He’s prepared to live up to them now.
What went wrong last season? Edmond wasn’t ready, or at least not as much as most assumed. Once Jordan Hicks went down with a season-ending injury, Edmond had no one to lean on for help, either. Edmond racked up 103 tackles, but on the days Texas’ defense struggled he was too slow to make reads and too hesitant to make stops.
When the offseason hit, Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had urged his players to take their commitment to training to another level.
“Our guys, they didn’t not prepare before,” Diaz said Monday. “They just didn’t understand the level they had to prepare at to be successful.”
Santos bought in, lost weight and started thriving in the offseason lifting. That had to push Edmond.
By the time Edmond took the field for spring practices, Diaz saw a slightly different player -- one who finally competed with urgency. But the real progress came after the spring game. That’s when the light bulb came on.
“We went into April, went back to the weight room, and now Steve started realizing, ‘Whoa, these weights are changing me,’” Diaz said. “All the sudden he saw his body change, and the way he moved around changed.”
He put that on display throughout three weeks of fall camp, leaving no doubts about who would man the middle of the Texas defense in 2013.
The Longhorns would prefer to lean on Hicks and Peter Jinkens once the Big 12 slate begins and nickel defense is a necessity, but Edmond’s efforts to lose weight put him in much better shape to contribute.
When his teammates saw him chasing down fleet running back Johnathan Gray on a swing pass in a scrimmage, they knew he was going to be trouble for opposing defenses this time around.
“He definitely got going,” Hicks said. “He’s been playing very well. He’s a force. Now he’s smarter, he’s more experienced and he’s a force back there. He’s helping lead this linebacker corps. It’s just going to make our defense that much better.”
All that progress gets put to the test on Saturday against New Mexico State. Edmond’s more confident now, but Hicks says his personality hasn’t changed much. He’s still the quiet East Texan with a propensity for big hits.
“He’s the same Steve,” Hicks said. “Steve doesn’t really change for anybody.”
But he changed for Diaz, and soon we’ll find out just how much he’s changed for the rest of the Longhorn defense.