There aren’t too many freshmen in college football that wouldn’t smile at these numbers. Thirteen games played, eight started, 80 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack and two forced fumbles.
They didn’t mean that much to him as they occurred, and they definitely do not mean as much to him now that he’s about to be a sophomore.
Alexander had no choice in the matter as a freshman as he was thrust into the spotlight as a starting middle linebacker after the season-ending injury to Corey Nelson.
His first start? The Red River Rivalry against Texas. He took his fair share of lumps and bruises during the final eight games, but it became obvious to everyone how bright the future is for the Tulsa Booker T. Washington product.
Obvious to everyone, except Alexander.
“I give myself a C- or a D,” said Alexander about his grade for his freshman season. “I’m a tough critic on myself.”
Tough critic is one thing, but it’s hard what else Alexander could have realistically done better in the latter half of his freshman season. It was the little things. They bothered Alexander a lot after the year, and it’s one of many reasons why he’s so eager to get back out there.
“When we were practicing in the spring, I felt like a totally different player than I was last year,” Alexander said. “I’m bigger. I’m stronger. I’m wiser. I’ve played a lot more and I have experience. I’ve worked really hard this offseason, and I’ve seen it pay off.”
It’s paying off in the summer, but everybody, Alexander included, wants to see it pay off this season. Despite all the constant praise from coaches and teammates, watching last season can be tough for Alexander.
“Sometimes I watch myself and think – I’d never do that now,” Alexander said. “I see things, and I’m like, ‘what am I doing?’ I watched the Alabama game on TV, and I’d never do that now.”
A change in his game won’t be the only different for Alexander as he switches from No. 42 to No. 1 this season. No huge reason for the change, he just said he likes the lower numbers and always the No. 1 in his jersey in high school.
It wasn’t just the Alabama game that made Alexander cringe. It was every game from last year where he now sees the difference in his game.
“I watch some of the game film and then I see myself now – I’m a totally different player,” Alexander said.
He’ll have to be. With the situation regarding the eligibility of middle linebacker Frank Shannon still up in the air, Alexander is going to have to be a leader. Like being a starter last year, he doesn’t have a choice.
But that’s OK for Alexander, who said he’s ready for the task.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Alexander said. “I know I’m a better player now than I was last year.”