NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander was frustrated last season.
An ankle injury he suffered during two-a-days hampered his ability to rush the quarterback and chase down running backs off the edge.
When he lost his starting job, Alexander was confused.
“Last year was an awakening for me,” Alexander said. “Just as fast as you get it, it can be taken away from you just like that. You start wondering why you're not playing. At times I didn't really buy into the system. This year I'm more focused, ready to get after it.”
A preseason All-Big 12 selection, Oklahoma's senior defensive end finished last season strong. The Baton Rouge, La., product played well in the spring. He's coming off the best two-a-days of his career.
Defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright has seen it before. When that final season arrives players want to leave a legacy.
"He's very motivated to have a breakout year, be somebody people remember as having been a really good football player at the University of Oklahoma," Wright said. "I think that means something to him. It's like all of a sudden the light came on."
Alexander has made 18 career starts, including nine games last season. But he never was completely healthy a year ago. He suffered a high ankle sprain during two-a-days, missed the season opener and spent much of the season trying to get healthy.
Wright said the ankle injury hampered Alexander. But the past six months Wright also has noticed Alexander has been more committed to the weight room, film room and the practice field.
"Frank has the ability to be a really good football player," Wright said. "But as we all know potential means you have not done it, yet. He's had spurts he's played extremely well.
"But to play well on a consistent basis, ala Jeremy Beal, and do it day in day out, week in week out, game in game out, he lacks that. That's what he's finally come to realize, where he's got to get to before he's regarded as a really good football player."
Beal finished his career second all-time at OU in sacks. Alexander has 12 career sacks. He had seven last year playing on a bum ankle.
This season it's feasible Alexander could record double digit sacks after finally taking Beal's message to heart.
"You can be as good as you want. But if you don't play with the right fundamentals, the right technique, you can become the worst player out there, not knowing what's going on, not knowing down and distance, backfield sets," Alexander said. "There is a lot of stuff that goes through your mind.
"Jeremy always stressed playing with good technique. He would come tell me, 'You're a better athlete than me but you need to start playing with technique and put it all together. If you do that you'll be great.' That's what I've been trying to focus on."
The highlight play of Alexander's career was when he sacked current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, forcing a fumble in a win over Kansas State his freshman year.
But the highlight games were two Big 12 title game appearances.
A month after sacking Freeman, Alexander recorded 3.5 sacks in Oklahoma's lopsided win over Missouri in a rematch in the title game.
Last season, Alexander matched his career high with four tackles for loss against Nebraska in the Big 12 title game.
"If I can get back to playing like that it's going to be good," Alexander said. "The key is I've got to be consistent. You can't do it one week and then come out slacking the next week. My big thing is to stay motivated and stay focused.
"I feel this was my best camp. I'm a lot older and wiser now. A lot of things I used to give in to, like saying it was too hot, things like that, I fight through it now. I have to be that light for the younger guys."
Alexander is focused to make his final chapter his best chapter.
"This year is a big year for me, school-wise and on the field," Alexander said. "I'm close to getting my degree. This is my last season at Oklahoma. I want to showcase my talents and put it all together."