Some players are harder to hold back than others. Kwon Alexander may play his way onto the field in 2012. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
There are two types of people in this world: Those who eat leftovers and those who are stupid. I always marvel at those who refuse leftovers. Maybe it's just the thrifty, 20-something in me (a $40 plate becomes a $20 plate when I eat it twice!), but from my eye some things just plainly taste better when leftover. Cajun and/or Creole food, for instance. I'm not sure I've ever met a gumbo that tastes better out the pot than it does the next day. Am I doing it wrong?
Which brings me to my next point, Kwon Alexander is this year's leftovers. Somehow, a former top 15 prospect slipped through the cracks, out of his home state and into the Bayou. Call it a personal preference (we all know Alabama would rather eat a terrible first dish they called their own than anyone else's leftovers and Auburn, well they can't ever figure out what they want, amirite War Tiger Plains Eaglesman?) Thus you have Kwon Alexander at LSU, the "leftovers" we gobble up like yesterday's gumbo... better now than before.
Few players can produce a highlight reel as sensational as Mr. Alexander's:
Kwon Alexander #17 (via OxfordYellowJackets)
One of them, may be his fellow incoming freshman. Kwon's early highlights were so sensational, many penciled him as a top 10, if not top 5 recruit in the 2012 singing class. Then, as is want to happen, he got hurt. And he took a tumble down recruiting rankings. No longer was Kwon a top 15 player, suddenly he "struggles in coverage." I imagine anyone with a torn ACL would. On Rivals, Kwon fell completely out of their top 250 by the end of the season. Though, he remained at 52 overall for Scout and 29 overall for ESPN, so not every recruiting service completely lost their mind because he suffered one of the most common and easy to recover from severe injuries in modern athletics.
Considering there is already one game in the books, we already know at least part of Kwon's story. He's good enough to play. He's healthy enough to play right now. He managed to record two tackles and a fumble recovery against North Texas. So that part of the story, we know.
But exactly how good can Kwon Alexander be? Is he good or bad leftovers? Will Alabama and Auburn regret "passing" (I use this term lightly. In recruiting this becomes party line when an instate recruit fails to land a recruit coveted by anyone else. I don't know if Alabama wanted Kwon, but I have a good confidence that Auburn pursued him). If early returns suggest anything, both in-state schools will be regretting the decision to pass on him over the next four seasons.
Firstly, Kwon possesses rare explosion and speed. Greater speed can be coached up, but that pure, raw, natural ability isn't inherent in everyone. Kwon has it. Watch the tape. He gets from point A to point B before you realize what point B is. It's a trait he shares with Debo Jones. Closing speed. It's a trait most great linebackers share. Watch London Fletcher close out a tackle. Ever notice how he seems to eat up a lot of space on those last two to three steps? It defies logic, but somehow, he closes it out. I would say Patrick Willis as well, but he's one of those terrifying players that is legitimately one of the fastest guys on the field, somehow.
Kwon flies around the field with seeming reckless abandon, but watch that tape carefully. He's not reckless for reckless' sake. He doesn't throw his body around, launching into people, trying to make huge highlight hits. He plays extremely smart. He diagnoses plays exceptionally well. His pure speed is, perhaps, only matched by his read and react skills. This bodes well for his growth in coverage.
In high school, he simply didn't have to drop into coverage much. Some took the liberty to say this meant he "couldn't" (which I'm sure was at least partially based on some camp evaluations... I hope). With Kwon, I don't see a guy who "can't." I see a guy who "hasn't had a chance to." He's got the agility. He's got the smarts. Now he needs the teaching. Coaching matters. Chavis knows how to coach linebackers. He turns scrubs into respectable starters. He turns respectable starters into All-Conference players. He turns All-Conference players into 1st round NFL talents. If you have a raw mass of potential with zero refinement, I say give him to John Chavis before anyone else. What comes out the other end will be a smart, disciplined football machine.
Kwon made a smart choice in coming to LSU. The opportunity to play starts... now. The linebackers looked respectable enough against North Texas, but any signs of trouble means the youngsters get first billing. The fact that he was able to come in in the summer and over take some other freshmen who enrolled early speaks to his talent.
He may be the state of Alabama's recruiting leftovers, but at LSU, we like them better that way anyhow.
High End: Future NFL talent and 1st team All-SEC linebacker.
Low End: Ali Highsmith caliber starter.
Realistic: Multiple year starter with the occasional jaw-dropping play.