On Tuesday, the Big 12 Coaches named senior linebacker Rufus Alexander the conferences' Defensive Player of the Year.
Alexander is the leading tackler on the Sooners' top-rated Big 12 defense with 95 tackles, making him on his way for his second straight 100-tackle season. The last player to lead OU in tackles in back-to-back seasons was Rocky Calmus, who did it for three straight seasons from 1999-2001.
It is not every day that you get named the Defensive Player of the Year, and we celebrated with an OUinsider.com Two Minute Drill.
JH: Rufus, congratulations on being named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. It couldn't have happened for a nicer guy. Everybody is happy for you.
Ruuuufus: "Oh man, thank you. This is overwhelming. Just to get recognized is something, because there are a lot of great players in the Big 12. Then I am on a team with a bunch of great players, so this is a tremendous honor."
JH: Is it just incredible when people say that you are the best defensive player in the Big 12 Conference?
Ruuuufus: "Yeah, because I don't feel I am the best. I feel there is a lot of things I can work on and a lot of things that I can do better. If that is how people feel then I accept it, but I promise to stay humble."
JH: What did you think of C.J and Bird being named to that first team defense as well?
Ruuuufus: "I know. That is why I don't understand why I am the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year when we have guys like that on the team. They go out and make a ton of plays. Give credit to those guys, because they require a double-team and Coach 'V' comes up with great schemes allowing me, Bird and C.J. to come out there and make big plays."
JH: You know that Bird is going say that he and C.J. take up about five guys allowing you to make all the tackles?
Ruuuufus: "That is why I am over here saying that Bird is taking on double teams."
JH: He is going to say it is three or four that he takes up?
Ruuuufus: "Yeah, I already know so it is OK. I am going to give him the credit. If it wasn't for the guys up front, I couldn't make any plays because the offensive linemen would be on me right then and there. So those guys taking up double-teams allow me to roam free."
JH: Early in the year this defense didn't play up to its expectations, but now you have a Player of the Year, two other first-team selections and three others on second team. What does that tell us about how far this defense has come this season?
Ruuuufus: "It has come a long way with guys like DeMarcus (Granger), who have to grow into their position because they had not taken any significant snaps against other teams. He has grown into an exceptional player and I think he is going to make a lot of noise in the Big 12 next year. Guys like Steve (Coleman) and Cory (Bennett) taking up more of a starting role in games took some time to get used to.
"Then Bird coming back from that injury (bicep). Guys had to adjust to their playing time and how things were going to go. As you saw,as the year went on the guys adjusted as guys got more playing time. Guys got into the rotation in the D-line and D-end, and guys started to get better. They just learned how to read blocks and things of that nature and the defense got better with guys in the back like me, Zach (Latimer) and our safeties back there who make a ton of plays.
"We are out there just feeding off of those guys up front when they are requiring a double-team and pushing guys into the backfield and making tackles in the backfield. We kind of feed off of that and then guys in the backfield kind of feed of me, Zach (Latimer) and the other guys, and we make big plays like that."
JH: What are your thoughts on Nebraska and how well they can run the ball?
Ruuuufus: "You look at tape and they are a team that matured real fast and adjusted to the scheme really, really well. They are out there making a ton of plays and they have improved a whole lot from last year. As you can see, they won nine games and are in the Bi 12 Championship. You don't do that by just rolling your hat out there.
"They went out there and they got better in the off-season. It shows on film. Zach Taylor is out there and he is in command of everything. He is doing a good job of it and their offensive line has gotten better."
JH: It is pretty amazing that the game will feature the Defensive Player of the Year in you and the Offensive Player of the Year in Zach Taylor?
Ruuuufus: "I know. That is a credit to him and his coach. You knew last year that he was only going to get better because of the type of coach that coach (Bill) Callahan is. Zach is one of the guys who was the frontrunner for that and he came out there and he adjusted to the system well. He learned how to make all the checks and everything, and that is a credit to him."
Two Minute Drill: Rufus Alexander
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