Kwon Alexander is a complete tackle football player. He is also LSU's best linebacker.
Championships are won with stars. But they are also won by players who do the little things.
Alexander does so many little things well, it makes him a star.
Alexander did not have much preseason hype going into the season. But he is now gaining the attention of the media and Les Miles based on his shear athleticism.
Yet Alexander's best part of his game is his football IQ and instincts. Last week, Miles raved in a teleconference of the sophomore linebacker's special teams prowess.
And the tape backs it up.
Odell Beckham Jr. magnificently carved up UAB in his best career performance. One of Beckham Jr.'s many highlights was a 60-yard punt return at the end of the first quarter.
It was all set up by a great hustle block from Alexander.
As Beckham Jr. runs right, he is looking to split two UAB defenders labeled with blue dots. Alexander chases down one of the possible tacklers and lays an excellent block to spring Beckham Jr.
Aided by the block, Beckham Jr. is able to break the first wave of tacklers and continue his return.
Alexander is also great on LSU's kickoff team.
UAB returner Jamarcus Nelson set a Blazer record for total yardage in a game against Troy the week before. But Nelson could not get anything going against LSU., thanks in part to tight coverage units from the Tigers.
Nelson has received the ball and is beginning his move upfield. It looks as if the Blazers have set up a return to the right side or middle of the field. The LSU kickoff team is in hot pursuit, and leading the charge is Alexander (Kwon).
Alexander is one of the furthest players upfield, which shows his speed for a linebacker.
His job on the play is to be the contain man to the right side of the field. Because the play is going to the opposite side of the field, Alexander must stop any cutbacks to his side of the field.
The line of blockers in front of Nelson, also known as the "wedge" of the return team, are stuck in their tracks because the LSU "wedgebusters" do a great job.
Notice how Alexander takes a nice tight angle on the the returner while keeping his contain responsibilities. Not being too wide allows him to get to the returner quicker.
Nelson sees he has nowhere to run. LSU's Corey Thompson (No. 12), Seth Fruge (No. 48) and others do an excellent job of clogging the middle.
Nelson's next move is to attempt to cut back the other way. But Alexander's speed allows him to basically sit and wait for Nelson to come into his arms. His shoulders are perfectly square, Nelson has no escape.
Alexander makes an easy solo tackle, and UAB has awful field position inside their own 15-yard line.
There is no faster, more violent aspect of football than special teams. Both of those fit Alexander's skill set perfectly.
Alexander physically can be a menace for opponents. Yet his power is matched by his speed and ability to change direction in tight spaces.
But Alexander is an even better linebacker than special teamer.
UAB lines up in a single back set.
They want to run through the "C-gap", or the space located between the guard and tackle. As the play-side outside linebacker, the C-gap is the space Alexander (Kwon) is responsible for on this run.
As they play develops, the right guard and tackle double-team Anthony Johnson. The two tight ends to the right take care of Jermauria Rasco.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, they leave Alexander unblocked.
While the C-gap is open and well blocked at the line of scrimmage, the only way the play goes for a nice gain is if running back Greg Franklin can break the tackle of Alexander.
Alexander does an excellent job of recognizing the play quickly and attacking downhill.
Alexander wraps him up easily for a loss on the play. The play was simple, but it shows his closing speed.
On the next play, LSU, including Alexander, does a great job of rushing the quarterback and forcing a punt. The punt resulted in the aforementioned return by Beckham.
But probably the most valuable weapon Alexander possesses is his ability to defend the pass.
Alexander broke up two passes against Kent State. This was impressive after Mills and he had a miscommunication to allow Kent State their longest pass of the game in the first quarter.
Alexander's most impressive play of the game happened when he prevented a touchdown.
Alexander is lined up in an unusual position for a linebacker. He is man-to-man against a slot receiver, senior Chris Humphrey (CH), with no help. Most offensive coordinators would salivate at this matchup.
Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon begins to roll out right as the play begins to take shape.
Kent State runs the receiver lined up to the right of Humphrey to the inside in an effort to get Alexander caught up in traffic. Humphrey takes a nice, tight line around him as he begins his wheel route down the sideline.
Because Alexander was lined up so far off the line of scrimmage, he does not get screened by the outside receiver and the defensive back covering him. Alexander does a great job getting a quick read on Humphrey's route.
Notice Alexander's positioning. He is stride-for-stride with Humphrey with his eyes watching his every movement.
Alexander does a great job of pinning Humphrey to the sideline. Alexander engages with him, but to the level he is not committing a pass interference penalty. Reardon still decides to throw the football in hopes of Humphrey winning the battle.
But Alexander shows he is clearly the superior athlete. He engulfs Humphrey and is not even challenged for the jump ball.
Unfortunately for Alexander, he allows the ball to slip right through his hands. Humphrey is not quick enough to make a catch. But Alexander needs to make the catch for a turnover, as Kent State was allowed to kick a field goal right before the half.
Catching an easy interception is an easy fix for Alexander. The focus should be on his amazing ability to stay with a receiver in open space.
On Alexander's other pass deflection, he reads the eyes of Reardon and raises his right hand to bat the ball down. He gets amazing air on his jump.
Versatile linebackers who can defend the run and the pass are necessary for this modern brand of football. It allows defensive coordinators to stay beefed up against the run while losing no speed against the pass.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis loves subbing in defensive backs, especially when he runs his 3-2-6 "Mustang" package. But with Alexander on the field, he does not need to do so as often. Though, if he chooses to do so, Alexander is equal to having an extra defensive back on the field anyway.
Chavis knows Alexander's supreme skill set. It shows when "The Chief" feels comfortable lining up a linebacker against a slot receiver in man-to-man coverage, when he has plenty of defensive backs he could sub in to perform the same job.
There are reasons to why Alexander's name is not as big as it should be. He has suffered season-crippling injuries two years in a row, dating back to his senior season in high school.
Alexander started in LSU's second SEC game against Florida last season. He played well, helping Bennie Logan force a crucial fumble that resulted in LSU points before the half. But he eventually broke his ankle later in the game.
Alexander showed he was back to full health when he had the best performance in the LSU Spring Game. Lamin Barrow said afterward he felt the pass defense took a severe hit when Alexander got hurt.
Going forward, expect Alexander to get more snaps. He did not play that much against TCU.
Barrow has not been as potent as last year, but that is partially due to him getting used to a new middle linebacker in DJ Welter. Welter has struggled in space this season.
Lamar Louis, Tahj Jones, Deion Jones, Lorenzo Phillips and others will get more playing time as well. But none of them possesses the versatile talent of Alexander.
Alexander's stats may not blow people away like Kevin Minter's last season. But Alexander does the small things. He is an athlete that gives college quarterbacks headaches.
Chavis might be pacing Alexander in hopes of not getting him injured. Still, expect the talented sophomore to play more as the season goes along.
Because in the end, the tape rarely lies or deceives. And Alexander shines even brighter when games are watched closely.
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