Low grade, high expections for Alexander

He earned Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors and finished second in tackles on a BCS bowl-winning team as a true freshman.

Yet if you ask him about his performance during his first season at Oklahoma, linebacker Dominique Alexander doesn’t think much of his accomplishments.

“I give myself a C- or D,” Alexander said.

Apparently his 80-tackle debut season, which included double-digit tackles in four of the eight games he started, is not enough for Alexander.

“I’m a hard critic of myself,” Alexander explains.

Others, namely his defensive coordinator, view his first season in crimson and cream quite differently.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen a linebacker play that well as a true freshman,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a guy like that, play that well, that early.”

Alexander was thrown to the wolves as a freshman, tossed into the starting lineup five games into his first season after a season-ending injury to Corey Nelson. Turns out, Alexander was a wolf himself.

Although he had plenty of ups-and-downs as he got comfortable in the starting lineup, Alexander recorded 19 tackles against Texas, 11 tackles against Baylor and Iowa State, and 10 tackles against Oklahoma State as he improved with each snap and began to allow his natural football instincts to take over. Stoops had raved about those football instincts since preseason camp, but as Alexander got more comfortable with the demands of playing linebacker in the Big 12, his actual production began to skyrocket, exceeding most expectations.

“He can be a tremendous player for us and a playmaker,” Stoops said. “He finds the football very well and plays well beyond his years.”

Heading into his sophomore season, Alexander promises to be even better.

“When we were practicing in the spring, I felt like a totally different player than I was last year,” Alexander said. “I’m bigger, I’m stronger, I’m wiser. I’ve played a lot more and I have experience. I’ve worked really hard this offseason and I’ve seen it pay off.”

The difference is so stark that the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native often looks back on his freshman season and simply shakes his head in disbelief.

“Sometimes I watch myself and think, I’d never do that now,” Alexander said. “I see things and I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I watched the Alabama game on TV and I’d never do that now.”

Now, when he reviews practice film of himself, it's a much different story.

“I watch some of the game film [from last year] and then I see myself now, I’m a totally different player,” Alexander said.

A lot has changed for Alexander since this time a year ago. A year in OU’s strength program has made him bigger, he’s transformed his role from hopeful freshman to a critical starter, and even his jersey number has changed from No. 42 to No. 1.

The only thing that hasn’t changed are his lofty expectations for himself.

“I have high expectations,” he said. “I know I’m a better player now than I was last year.”