NORMAN, Okla. — When the Sooners open up the 2011 season Sept. 3 against Tulsa at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, they may or may not have defensive end Ronnell Lewis at their disposal, but what they will have: highly motivated and leadership-savvy veteran Frank Alexander.

In fact, this time around he's taken it upon himself to be the guy this defense rallies around, especially without linebacker Travis Lewis for the start of the season and possibly Ronnell as well.

"I see it in a guy's eyes," Alexander said. "You know, when we go out there and practice, if I be vocal with them. You know, ‘Come on guys, let's go, let's do it.' I feel like they get motivated just from hearing me and Travis talking because they're like, ‘Okay, we've got the older guys behind us and stuff. With them behind us, we can go do it, too.'"

That attitude has carried him throughout this fall camp.

"I feel like I had my best camp this year, man, because I feel like I'm a lot older and wiser now," Alexander said. "And, you know, a lot of the things that I used to give in for, saying it's been too hot and things like that, you know, I just fight through it because I feel like I've got to be that light for the younger guys because if I give up, they're going to be like, ‘Oh, Frank's giving up, so we can't do it either.'

"So, you know, I feel like this camp, you know, I just was really motivated for it. You know, it's my last one so I got to make it count."

Defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said he's definitely noticed the elevation in Alexander's game.

"Frank has shown that all during camp," Wright said. "He has come out this camp and shown that he can be a better leader. He's working to be a better leader. You know, he's doing some of the extra things that you got to do to be a leader."

And just what exactly are those?

"He's picking up his game so that when he speaks, he's got some credibility," Wright said. "You know, to be a leader, you've got to be somebody out there that's doing the right things all the time. You got to be--the things you can't be doing, you can't be lining up offsides. You can't be busting calls. You can't be running the wrong call, all that kind of stuff."

Those have been things in the past he's had some trouble with.

"Frank had a tendency to do that because he had a little bit of a lack of focus," Wright said. "And consequently now, he does want to become a good leader, and so he's taken it upon himself to make sure that he doesn't make, you know, the foolish penalties, lining up offsides, jumping offsides. He's been, you know, [much better fundamentally]."

One of the ways he's doing that is by working on a part of their game players try to perfect all the time: technique.

"Man, technique is a big part of the game," Alexander said. "I mean, you could be as good as you want, man, but if you don't play with the right fundamentals and technique, you could be the worst player out there. You know, just as far as not knowing what's going on, not knowing the down and distance, backfield sets. You know, there's a lot of stuff that you have that goes through your mind at the time of the game."

Former defensive end Jeremy Beal was one of the best at that.

He had great game smarts, which propelled him and has been a something Alexander has modeled his game after.

"Man, Jeremy always stressed, you know, playing with good technique," Alexander said. "He always came and [would] tell me, he was like, ‘Man, you know, you're a better athlete than me, but you got to start playing with technique and put that together, you know. Technique and athletic ability and put it together and you would be great.' So, I tried to focus on that this season."

And it apparently has carried him so far throughout fall camp and into preparation for OU's first game in just 11 days.

Now, it's just about the C-word all athletes talk about.

"Gotta big consistent, that's the key," Alexander said. "You can't do it one week and come out and slack the next week, so, you know, my biggest thing is to keep staying motivated and stay focused, man, keep going first. And I know with that, everything's going to work itself out."

So far, it certainly has.

And he's become more assertive in the process.

"I think the fact that Frank has tried to become a good leader to that group has shown them that, hey, this guy is willing to pick his game up; he's willing to do a little bit more; he's willing to go a little bit further to help the rest of us when in all honesty Frank was just trying to help Frank," Wright said. "You know, he had enough on his plate to take care of him. Now, he's kind of taking it upon himself to kind of [say], ‘Hey, I got to get mine down and then I got to help these young guys, too.' And that's what I think he has down with these young guys that they've really appreciated."

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