-Duke Senior, As You Like It, 2.7.1-2
Shakespeare frequently juxtaposes men to beasts, illustrative of humanity against inhumanity. Humans are beings of intellect while beasts are purely emotive. Humans are spiritual. Beasts are carnal. Humans have love. Beasts only look to destroy. Another layer to the analogy is the mythological belief that humans can transform into beliefs, therianthropy.
At a young age, Edwin Alexander was given the nickname “Rougaroux.” For those unfamiliar, the Rougaroux is essentially the cajun werewolf, a common tale told in French Louisiana. Like other beastly myths, it primarily serves to inspire awe and fear in children in hopes of encouraging obedience. The Rougaroux is a character with a human body but the head of a wolf or a dog. It prowls the swamps and fields and forests, hunting and killing those who disobey.
LSU must hope that Alexander is more beast than man.
How Did We Get Here?
Alexander’s been an elite prospect for as long as can be feasibly remembered. The summer before his sophomore year, he attended an LSU and Alabama camps. That Fall, LSU became the first school to offer in November. Three days later, Alexander committed to LSU, the first of the 2016 class. A month later he was named to the All-State team. All seemed well, until four months later, when Alexander decommitted, seemingly out of nowhere. He collected another handful of national offers. The rhyme and reason of the decommit didn’t really make sense. Alexander didn’t seem to have any significant interest in other programs. He wasn’t traveling and taking visits. There were no staff changes to point to, either.
And that’s pretty much how the rest of his recruitment played out. Alexander remained uncommitted for the next year, but in that span, this is what his visits timeline looked like:
Sure, he was “uncommitted” but only in most mild ways until April of 2015, when he opted to commit back to LSU again. A story that looked potentially dramatic and frustrating went completely quiet and simple. This is exactly how you handle potentially touchy recruiting situations. Ed Orgeron and company deescalated the situation, put it to bed in a hurry and made sure any concerns Alexander and family had were quietly resolved.
What Can He Do?
Strengths: Size, First Step, Pad Level, Power
Weaknesses: Technique, Focus
Size: At one point, Alexander looked to be in that Dorsey mold of around 6’2” and weighing around 290-305. As of today, he’s listed at 333 on the roster. And this ain’t a lumpy-dumpy kid either. He’s built like a tank, just check out this pic from when he first reported.
First Step: It’s tough to evaluate this. Alexander as a young prospect was considerably leaner. What you see on tape is that he shoots gaps and wreaks havoc in the backfield with relative ease. Even taking his competition level into consideration, it’s impressive to see a big man get that type of get-off of the ball. Plays like the one at 2:20 are only made by rare, elite type athletes.
Pad Level: One thing that strikes me is that Alexander does a nice job of firing off low. He rarely goes vertical, which is a struggle for most, especially those with special physical tools.
Power: 1:45 is the best example. He just ragdolls the OL like he’s an inanimate object. He’s got raw, brute power. The play at 3:00 is my very favorite on the entire reel. Leverage, explosion, and power all wrapped into one.
Technique: He doesn’t have much. Yes, I noted above that he plays with great pad level, and I do lump that into overall technique, but here I’m referring more to pass rush moves and hand usage to get separation from OL. The former will come in time, but the latter must develop immediately if he hopes to play in 2016. Alexander is largely a bull-rush or bust type of player and he’s going to have to diversity and add more to his arsenal.
Focus: I have concerns about him as a college student and perhaps even more in fitness level. LSU does need Alexander to carry significant bulk for his new role, but you hope he can maintain good athleticism.
Alexander’s importance sky rocketed once Christian LaCouture suffered a season-ending injury. As of now, it appears Travonte Valentine is in line to absorb most of the snaps, but there remains a question as to his fitness level. How much of that role can Alexander share? Miles seemed high on him early on in camp, and I’d say there’s an excellent chance he winds up playing a lot in 2016.
Alexander must keep his grades and body composition in order if he hopes to live up to his promise. Two years ago, I would have sworn he’d be the next Dorsey. But today, Alexander looks like an entirely different type of prospect all around. His future is quite likely at the NT position, where he will eat up double teams and man the middle of the defense. It’ll be interesting to see how much of his explosion is maintained despite his added bulk.
It’s entirely possible Alexander is one of those rare, special physical specimens that can eat 14 pizzas and still run a 4.7 40 somehow. There are certainly moments watching his tape where you think he’s truly a special talent. But then, there’s that surrounding murmurings that make you concerned he may never fully tap into his immense potential. Can he stay focused and continue to mature? Will he take care of the off-the-field stuff in the same way he takes care of the on-the-field stuff? Those are big, important questions that won’t be easily answered. Having a role in 2016 may help relieve the process, as he seems the type of player that may wash out if given a RS and practically ignored.
That said, early returns look good. I suspect Rougaroux will turn out just fine.
High End: All-American and top draft pick
Low End: Washes out.
Realistic: All-Conference, NFL Draft pick.