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2005 Season Preview Issue Available Now!!

Letter from the Editor

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Prelude To Greatness?

Breaking Down The Offense

Spring football eases pain




Rufus Alexander — LaizurePhoto
Rufus Alexander Q&A
Junior backer talks defense

One of the biggest question marks for Oklahoma as it heads into the 2005 football season is its defense, and how exactly the Sooners figure on stopping opposing offenses. After all, OU lost eight of its top 11 tacklers to graduation and the news got even worse recently when defensive end Larry Birdine was lost for the season thanks to an injury.

That equates to a lot of new faces all over the field for the Sooners this fall. Fortunately, defensive coordinator Brent Venables can count on at least one stabilizing force in the form of linebacker Rufus Alexander. Sooner Spectator writer-at-large Mark Stack caught up with the 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior recent to get his take on how the 2005 season will unfold.

Sooner Spectator: So far during the preseason, how do you feel the defense has progressed?
Rufus Alexander: We’re coming together as a team, but I think it will take some game experience for us to be where we would like. We got a couple new guys out there, but I think we are coming along nicely.

SS: How will the team pickup the slack from Larry Birdine’s absence?
Alexander: It’s going to be the whole defense. Every person is going to have to pickup their game a little more. I think the linebackers — me, Clint, and Zach — all have to pickup a little of that slack left by his injury. And the secondary has some good hitters out there. And one of those guys will elevate themselves with D.J. (Wolfe) coming along pretty well.

SS: The defensive line can be a big reason why they linebackers have success, so despite Birdine’s injury, how have they looked so far?
Alexander: They’re playing well. Bird is a big loss. I’m going to miss him. I love being out there playing with that guy because he’s one of my good friends. But he’s out and we still have to go play football and do our jobs. But I know there is a lot of talent up front, so I expect big things from those guys.

SS: What part of your game have you worked to improve this summer?
Alexander: I just tried to focus on my consistency and be more of a team guy. I feel I’m already a good team player, but I want to step that up. Try to be more a team leader where I can get everybody else up, even when I’m having a bad practice. You know, the little things that can change everything.

SS: Of all the new players or guys who are getting more practice reps, is there anyone that has surprised you so far?
Alexander: Really, all the freshmen have surprised me. They’ve picked everything up really well. The linebackers Ryan Reynolds and Curtis Lofton both picked up things real quick. Those guys learned quick. Same with Nic Harris and Reggie Smith. I think Zach (Latimer) also surprised me. He’s come along real well. He earned the middle linebacker position, and just ran with it. He especially has played really well.

SS: Do you expect to be playing alongside Zach for the whole season?
Alexander: I do. I expect him to keep it. I don’t think he’ll do anything that would get him taken out of the starting lineup. He’s proven to the coaches that it’s his job.

SS: There are a lot of young faces in the secondary. Have they impressed you at all?
Alexander: They definitely have. They have been able to control themselves, and not let any deep balls get behind them. They’ve been working hard at it all summer and you can tell. They’ve been at it. Coach (Bobby Jack) Wright coaches very hard, and they got to come to play every practice. So far, they have and they have looked good.

SS: Do you feel the season has taken forever to get here, or would you like a few more weeks of practices in the heat?
Alexander: Oh man. Yes. We started two-a-days real early, and it seems like forever since we’ve been practicing. I can’t wait to play, and I can’t wait to hear 80,000 people screaming for us. I’m ready to hit somebody other than my teammates.

SS: With a lot of former teammates now in the NFL, if you could watch only one Sooner on Sundays, who would it be?
Alexander: Jammal Brown. He’s a great guy. I loved watching Jammal play here. He’s one of those guys who will give you something every play. He’ll try and drive a guy as far down the field as he can. He’s fun to watch. He’s got great tenacity and is a strong-minded guy. I love watching him play.

SS: With so many starters from 2004 now gone, do you find yourself as more of a leader and more vocal in the huddle?
Alexander: Yeah, I felt I needed to be more vocal. Someone had to pick up the slack. We don’t have as many people back with game experience. We got Dusty (Dvoracek) and a few other guys, but we don’t have many vocal guys in the secondary, so I felt that I needed to become more vocal with those guys. Bring some encouragement and constructive criticism.

SS: Now that you’ve been a linebacker for several years, are you glad that you made the transition from the defensive line?
Alexander: Well, at first it was weird. The first time I had ever been in a two-point stance was when I got here. I knew I wasn’t big enough for defensive end, and really just wanted to fit in somewhere. That’s why my instincts kicked in and just wanted to go find the ball.

SS: What’s it like having everybody scream your name after you make a big play?
Alexander: It’s a tremendous feeling. I love the fans at OU. God has blessed me with having 80,000 people say my name, and it’s just an amazing feeling. I can’t thank everybody enough for all their support. It’s nice to know you have such great fans supporting you.