“I feel a lot more responsibility now,” Alem said. “The downside to that is when you lose you feel that loss. It’s always great when you feel like you contributed to a win. But now when we lose – I played a part in that too. It’s much more emotional because I feel like I’m actually a part of what’s going on.”
The New Orleans native has been a pleasant surprise this season, leading LSU’s maligned defense in sacks and tackles for loss despite not starting a game. Through seven games Alem has five sacks and seven tackles-for-loss.
“I just practice what they tell me to practice,” Alem said. “When they feel comfortable they put me in the game. They’re definitely playing me more.”
Along with fellow defensive end Tremaine Johnson, Alem has even been able to show off his abilities at defensive tackle in the Tigers’ new Express package.
“There’s less space to operate with,” he said. “I played defensive tackle in high school, but that was so long ago. Now I’m using different moves because there’s less lateral space. You can’t use the same moves you would use out on the end.”
But all those pleasantries aside, it does not change the Tigers’ 3-2 mark in SEC play. Alem saw the field in 2007, but in his first go as a major player the LSU defense has experienced a major drop off.
As arguably the defensive line’s most productive member, Alem will have to help right the ship in his newfound role.
The Tulane Green Wave will perhaps serve as a more meaningful challenge to Alem than most other LSU players. Both Alem and his younger brother Chad Jones played football at Saint Augustine High School in New Orleans, a member of district 9-5A which often sends players to Tulane.
“[Tulane]’s offensive tackle played for Rummel, I played against him. I’ll be lining up against him again,” Alem said. “I remember we were both being recruited and I’m sure he remembers me too.”
As one would expect, the junior said the ancient rivalry means much more to older generations than the players on the field Saturday.
“I am by no means taking Tulane lightly,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s got the same spark as it did way back whenever. My daddy talks about it because he played for Tulane, but not much other than that.”
Despite all of this, Alem said the city of New Orleans never factored into his college decision.
“[Tulane] must have figured I was going to go to a bigger school,” he said. “Because I don’t think they even sent me anything. I looked at Miami for a little while … but I didn’t really want to go there that bad. I knew I’d be at LSU.”
Well into his fourth year as a Tiger, Alem’s place along the defensive front is finally becoming clear. Could it be the line that boasted the names Pittman and Jackson in the preseason will look to their backup to help this ailing defense?
For more on LSU sports and recruiting visit the TSD Premium Forum