Louisville's junior cornerback Jaire Alexander was honored as the team's Defensive MVP for the 2016 season during the program's spring game halftime ceremony and performed as such throughout the Saturday's Red-White scrimmage.
The Charlotte, N.C. native finished second on the Red team with seven tackles, but led the unit with a pair of tackles for a loss, including a sack. He also registered the defensive highlight of the afternoon when he stepped in front of Devante Peete to snag a Jawon Pass and return it 87-yards for a touchdown. The score came with less than a minute remaining in the first half to give the Red team a dominating 35-7 halftime advantage. He also broke up another pass.
"I'm not surprised - Jawon told me that he was gunning for me," he said after the 52-7 Red team win.
"Jaire Alexander obviously had a great game," U of L head coach Bobby Petrino said. "They need to understand not to attack as much as they try to. He's a tough matchup and has been all spring long. We're still working with him in getting better with his stance and technique, but he has great skills."
Alexander has been avoided by opposing quarterbacks for much of spring, signaling a trend that will likely continue into the 2017 season.
"It gets a little boring sometimes, but everything happens for a reason," Alexander said. "I'll get my time."
A second team All-ACC selection last fall, Alexander recorded a team-high five interceptions in 2017 and had another nine pass breakups. He's also a standout in punt returns. His ability to elude would-be tacklers has made him a threat to return one to the end zone every time he has the ball in his hands.
"When I get a pick its the closest thing I have to being on offense," he said, jokingly adding that "I feel like Lamar Jackson out there on defense trying to find the holes."
Dee Smith is Top Tackler
Junior Dee Smith, who saw time at both safety and linebacker, led all with 10.5 tackles, including one for a loss. He also had a second quarter interception, which he returned 26 yards to set up the Red team's third touchdown drive. Smith also had an additional pass breakup.
Walker tops White Team
Senior cornerback Ronald Walker was a key reserve last season, appearing in 12 games, after transferring from Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) College, where he ranked as the nation's No. 4 corner prospect by Scout.com. Starting for the White team on Saturday afternoon, Walker led the squad with eight tackles, plus had a first half fumble recovery.
Thomas a Pain
Senior linebacker Stacy Thomas is being leaned to be the quarterback for the defense this season and he capped off an impressive spring with a strong outing in the Red-White game.
Playing for the White team, Thomas finished with 6.5 tackles. He was key in stopping the running game and drew praise from Petrino for his ability to close the gaps.
"I thought Stacy Thomas was really a pain," Petrino said. "He was coming down hill and running through gaps. He would recognize plays, so that was really good to see. Stacy is a really good player and I thought he played real well."
The Red Team snagged four interceptions off of redshirt freshman Jawon Pass.
In addition to Alexander and Dee Smith's picks, linebacker Malik Staples and Larmaquez Thomas also recorded interceptions.
Thomas' was the first of the afternoon. He pulled it away from intended receiver Traveon Samuel to end the White teams second possession of the day. Malik Staples stepped in front of a Pass attempt to Devante Peete near midfield and returned it 36 yards to set up the Red team's final touchdown of the scrimmage.
Sacks & TFL's
Four players registered a sack on Saturday. Alexander, along with Tabarius Peterson and Gary McCrae each recorded one for the Red squad, with James Hearns getting the lone sack for the White team. Dee Smith, Malik Staples, G.G. Robinson also had tackles for a loss for the Red team. Chaz Ray and De'Asian Richardson had White team TFL's.