Opinion: Up and Coming
Meet LSU’s Next Great Linebacker: Kwon Alexander
By Carter BryantPosted Apr 24, 2013
Kwon Alexander’s biggest fan would be former President Theodore Roosevelt, if he were still alive.
Roosevelt, like many LSU fans will in 2013, would probably love how LSU’s next defensive star plays the game with ferocity. But Roosevelt above all else would notice Alexander abides by his famous “Big Stick” ideology, which says to “speak softly, but carry a big stick.”
Nobody struck players like the soft-spoken sophomore linebacker did at the LSU Spring Game. Alexander was the game’s most dynamic player despite playing with the undermanned purple team, which lost 37-0 to the white squad stacked with starters.
Even though the Spring Game is a glorified scrimmage, it is hard to deny Alexander’s masterful performance. He led the purple team in tackles with seven and pass break ups with two. He also had the most solo tackles with five for either team.
Alexander’s lone tackle for loss, the only one registered by a linebacker that day, was a thunderous one. LSU’s bulldozing running back Jeremy Hill made purple Play-Doh of his opponents, except once when Alexander raced into the backfield and popped Hill in his tracks for a two-yard loss.
Yet Alexander was not impressed with his performance after the game.
“I did ok, but I could have done better. I could have gotten more tackles,” Alexander said.
The true value of Alexander is his versatility. He can defend the run and pass at a high level.
On a third down and short, freshman receiver Travin Dural lined up in the slot. Alexander played Dural in man coverage, stayed with him stride for stride throughout the route and broke up a pass that would have resulted in a first down.
For a linebacker to do that against a receiver is astonishing. But for Alexander, he says he feels comfortable covering any offensive weapon.
Alexander says his goal is to be the next great LSU linebacker by doing whatever it takes for his team to win.
“My journey is to be the best. Every night I dream of being the best,” said Alexander.
Last year, Alexander was brought into the linebacker rotation slowly as a freshman. He saw his snaps increase as he became more comfortable with the defense, eventually earning starts versus Towson and Florida.
But Alexander suffered a broken ankle against the Gators, an injury that sidelined him until the Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow said the LSU pass defense took a hit when it lost Alexander’s speed and awareness.
“Kwon is a Hell of an athlete, probably one of the best we have,” Barrow said. “Kwon has another element to his game that people have yet to see, and I think we will see it this season.”
LSU’s base defensive formation, a traditional 4-3, is geared toward stopping the run. On passing downs, LSU either played a Nickel or Dime defensive package. In these packages, LSU subbed in a defensive back for a linebacker.
Alexander’s athleticism gives LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis the luxury of a linebacker who can play in wide spaces, which allows the defense more options to play pass defense out of the base 4-3 formation. This could cause more issues for the opposition’s offensive play calling and pre-snap reads.
Last year’s leading tackler Kevin Minter left for the NFL a year early. Minter’s production will be missed, but Alexander can certainly have the same impact. His speed and his ability to defend the pass will put opposing offenses in a quandary.
Playing time will be up for grabs because of the depth LSU has at linebacker. Barrow will start at either outside linebacker, where he played last season, or at middle linebacker. The rest of the snaps will be divided among returning contributors DJ Welter, Tahj Jones, Lamar Louis, Deion Jones, Lorenzo Phillips and a talented freshman group.
Alexander has the potential to be a special player, even if he does not start. Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley was a consensus All-American last year despite not starting five games.
The only thing stopping Alexander could be his health. He suffered a significant injury not only last year, but also his senior season of high school football.
Alexander was put on LSU Football’s Unity Council, which is a group of players chosen as leaders of the team. Les Miles says Alexander’s resilience to fight back from injury has been an inspiration for the team.
LSU fans should already love Alexander for what he did on National Signing Day in 2012. Outlined in fresh purple suspenders and a bow tie, the Alabama native, on national television, picked up a LSU hat instead of the Auburn and Alabama ones sitting right beside it.
Alexander says the defense recognizes the uphill battle it faces with the amount of talent LSU lost to the NFL Draft. But he feels the amount of unproven guys will keep them playing hard as they try to make a name for themselves.
“Last year, we had a lot of stars. This year, we don’t have a lot of stars,” Alexander said. “Everybody is hungry and trying to make it. We are going to be a great defense for this year.”
Unfortunately, Roosevelt will never get to meet Alexander. But if Kwon and his teammates perform well enough, they could meet President Obama next year. A consolation prize even Alexander would find impressive.