BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has high hopes for senior linebacker Donnie Alexander as Alexander heads into his final season with the Tigers.
Aranda discussed Alexander’s emergence as a team leader during a guest appearance on “After Further Review” on ESPN 104.5-FM in Baton Rouge Thursday afternoon.
“What I’m really excited about Donnie is the strides he’s made academically and personally,” Aranda said. “He’s an emerging leader. That’s so cool to see.”
The obvious comparison is to Duke Riley, who followed a similar path last year. Riley played sparingly during his first three years at LSU, but emerged as one of the Tigers’ most dominant defensive players last season. That leap was noticed by the Atlanta Falcons, who picked Riley in the third round of the NFL Draft this spring.
“You saw those same strides this offseason with Duke,” Aranda said. “He was the guy that would round guys up for players-only [meetings and workouts]. Duke did that on his own, and Donnie’s doing that now.”
Aranda said that Alexander is also bulking up. He was light for an inside linebacker last year, playing at 212 pounds as he filled in for starter Kendell Beckwith during LSU’s final three games.
“He’s gained weight for the first time in a long time,” Aranda said. “I think there’s a lot of momentum going Donnie’s way.”
The key for Alexander in training camp and into the season will be to show the same level of progress on the field.
“It’s a matter of connecting the dots when things go fast,” Aranda said. “But I’d put my money on Donnie right now with how he’s doing it.”
Alexander, a graduate of New Orleans’ Edna Karr High School, has three career starts but is poised to add to that total this year. In addition, his off-field leadership figures to be crucial at a position where the Tigers are ushering in three talented freshmen in Jacob Phillips, Tyler Taylor and Patrick Queen.