LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander's type of play can make anyone feel some type of way.
Alexander's flashes of brilliance on film are as impressive as any on LSU's defense. He is a physical force in the running game and can also defend a slot receiver in man-to-man coverage. It is unusual for a linebacker to be that versatile.
Alexander has the capability of being LSU's leading tackler next season. But it all comes down to if he can master the little things required to be a great linebacker.
Here is why Alexander will break out next season.
Alexander will have more freedom to make plays next season as he moves from strong-side to weak-side linebacker to replace the departed Lamin Barrow. Barrow led the team in tackles comfortably and was arguably LSU's best defensive player the last half of the season.
Alexander is not as strong between the tackles as Barrow, but he does have more sideline-to-sideline range. Ball-carriers attempting to turn the corner on his side of the field are often unsuccessful doing so.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will likely give Alexander a green light to play more aggressively this season. There are few, if any, linebackers in the SEC better than him at darting into the backfield to make plays.
In the spring game, Alexander showed off his skills in his new role and jersey number. He only recorded three tackles but had a smooth 26-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Now I'm getting older, heart getting colder pic.twitter.com/0owJ4XHACy— Alexander the Great (@Showtime17Kwon) June 25, 2014
|LSU LB Kwon Alexander Career Statistics|
Alexander's most valuable asset is in pass coverage, as he possesses the swiftness of a defensive back. He should have more opportunities to make plays now that Barrow is gone.
LSU's base defensive formation is a 4-3, but defensive coordinator John Chavis runs plenty of "Nickel" packages. The Nickel substitutes a linebacker off the field in favor of a defensive back. Last season, Alexander was often the linebacker taken off the field in favor of Barrow and D.J. Welter.
Expect Alexander and Welter to be the linebackers on the field when Chavis calls for the Nickel. But even if LSU is in its base 4-3 package, the speed of Alexander is a near equivalent of having an extra defensive back on the field while not having to sacrifice a ferocious run-stopper.
An X-factor does not necessarily have to make the plays that make the highlight reel or stat sheet. Sometimes the little things are what make a difference in a defense.
Alexander can change offensive game plans. If he threatens to blitz pre-snap, a quarterback must also know he can sink back in coverage. The ground he covers can be frustrating for opposing offenses.
Alexander is also a superb special teams performer on both return and coverage units. His special teams duties may change now that his defensive snaps will increase, but expect him to shine if given the opportunity.
The LSU linebackers, despite losing Barrow, should be better as a whole. The Tigers' second-leading tackler, D.J. Welter, returns as the starter up the middle. Lamar Louis should join Alexander and Welter in the starting lineup. Backups Debo Jones, Kendell Beckwith and Ronnie Feist should keep the unit fresh.
Alexander was LSU's highest-rated player in the 2012 recruiting class. His All-SEC talent has yet to be fulfilled, but expect him to be the star of the group and the X-factor for LSU.
There is a downside for LSU if Alexander performs at his best. The junior could bolt early to the NFL next offseason if he has a stellar 2014 campaign. He references the future riches that could lie ahead in his Twitter bio.
If his dreams become reality, he could eventually be known as "Rich Homie Kwon."