NORMAN — Dominique Alexander had a terrific freshman season by any measure.
Taking over for the injured Corey Nelson, Alexander had eighty tackles in his first year and earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors as well as first-team Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America.
Alexander doesn’t remember it that way.
“I’d give myself a C-minus or a D to be honest with you,” Alexander said. “Really, I watched some of the game films and it’s like when I see myself now on film, I’m a totally different player. Sometimes I watch myself and I’ll be like, ‘I would never do that stuff now.’”
In the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, Alexander had a forced fumble and five tackles.
Again, Alexander looks back on that game more wondering “what if?”
“One time we ran a play and I was supposed to fit in the C-gap,” Alexander said. “He came right to me and I stood the running back up, but he fell forward. Now, I’ll drive straight through him because I’ve got a lot more power behind my legs. Even on that play where (Derrick) Henry came out of the backfield and I overran him by taking the wrong angle, stuff like that I look at like, ‘That would never happen now.’ I have too much experience.”
That experience really got kicked into high gear against Texas last year just after Nelson was lost for the season.
In his first start, the Longhorns picked on him early, taking advantage of Alexander for a pair of early third-down conversions.
In the end, Alexander settled in and finished with 19 tackles, though the Sooners lost.
Sooner defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ evaluation of Alexander is much more positive.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a linebacker play that well as a true freshman as he did,” Stoops said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a guy play that well, that early.”
But Stoops isn’t going to try to soften Alexander’s critique, either.
Speaking at media day just more than a week ago, Stoops said the defense as a whole needed to guard against complacency after a strong finish to 2013.
When asked later about Alexander specifically, Stoops said he wanted Alexander to guard against being too happy with himself.
“He certainly deserved a lot of accolades he got a year ago and we just want to keep him focused because he can be a tremendous player and playmaker for us,” Stoops said. “You can see he finds the football very well, plays well beyond his years. This hopefully will continue to progress.”
Alexander said he’s smarter as a sophomore, and he’s reacting quicker.
“I’m seeing things better,” he said. “When I see it, I just shoot the gap instead of thinking about it. I can just play loose and play fast.”