Leading up to kickoff on the Ponderosa, TSD is ranking the 10 best players currently on LSU’s roster. We’ll take a close look at each Tiger, breaking down his career to this point and projecting impact for the 2015 season.
We’ve already profiled:
No. 6 Davon Godchaux
Today, at No. 5, we turn the page to one of LSU’s senior leaders and a stalwart on the offensive line in Vadal Alexander.
WHAT HE’S DONE SO FAR
Alexander is somewhat akin to Mills but on the offensive side of the ball. Both players, entering their fourth seasons, have contributed in a major way – and in different capacities – from just about the moment they stepped on to campus. Alexander arrived from Buford, Ga., a four-star prospect and Scout’s top offensive guard in the South. He enrolled early and immediately turned heads, one of the best pass-the-eye-test guys in recent memory.
As a freshman in 2012 Alexander played in all 13 games, starting the final nine and playing every snap at right tackle. He logged 656 snaps and 49.5 knockdowns, earning Freshman All-SEC honors. He struggled in pass protection in the Tigers’ bowl loss to Clemson, due in no small part to coming back quickly from an injury. Still, it informed a move to left guard, where Alexander played and started all 13 games in 2013. He posted team-highs that season in snaps played (810) and knockdowns (71).
Alexander retained his post at left guard last fall as a junior, playing once again alongside left tackle La’el Collins and leading the way for an offense that ran left just about as often as it lined up under center. He played in 12 games, starting them all, missing only the Arkansas game with a hand injury. Without a doubt Alexander has been one of the Tigers’ most physical, durable and productive players of the last three seasons.
PROJECTING HIS IMPACT IN 2015
Projecting where Alexander lines up in the fall of 2015 feels a bit like musical chairs right now. It all depends on when the music stops, or, all jokes aside, who else around Alexander shines. The current plan calls for the senior to get another crack at tackle, something that certainly was appealing to Alexander when he decided to forego the NFL and come back for one more college season in an effort to grow his earning power.
But Jerald Hawkins is a virtual lock to play on the blind side, in Collins’ old spot, which would leave right tackle for Alexander. Look for Vadal to begin there in spring practices. How long he stays there, and a seemingly inevitable move back to left guard is delayed, depends entirely on the development of LSU’s young offensive line talent. If a young guard like Josh Boutte rises to the occasion, Alexander might make sense staying at tackle. If a young tackle like K.J. Malone proves capable, it’s that much easier to slide Alexander back inside.
Those kinds of dynamics are yet to play out, but one thing’s for sure: Alexander will be the best run-blocker in LSU’s front five. Position coach Jeff Grimes just has to figure out where to plug him in. If Alexander can show his footwork is improved and he is a fit at tackle, it would bode better for his professional future. But the bet here is that by the time LSU kicks off next season, he’ll be mauling people from the guard spot.