By Conner Farrell —
Over the past decade, the U of L secondary has been a hotbed of NFL prospects. From the likes of Johnny Patrick, Calvin Pryor, Gerod Holliman and most recently Josh Harvey-Clemons.
This season is no different for the vaunted and most experienced position group on the team. However, unlike the names listed above, one player has received accolades which none of them have to boast about. That player is junior Jaire Alexander.
Listed as a preseason First Team All-American, Alexander holds the honor of being the first to have received that in school history.
Coming off a season in which he led the team with five interceptions, Alexander’s ball hawking skills will be on display this season with the change of philosophy in the secondary. More zone coverage will be used under defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon.
Sirmon hasn’t watched Alexander in live-game action just yet, but he has experienced Alexander’s animated personality.
“We’re all looking forward to seeing him. (Alexander) has an ability to impact others with that personality,” Sirmon said. “With his talent and enthusiasm, he keeps us going on defense.”
The junior allowed six touchdowns last seasons. He said seeing Lamar Jackson in practice every day makes him a better player.
“He’s a Heisman winning quarterback, what more could you ask for?” Alexander said. “Lamar can run, throw and do whatever he wants. It just makes all of us better.”
Standing at 5-foot-11, Alexander may struggle with larger wide receivers who may be able to out muscle him. What he lacks in size, he makes up for it with blazing speed.
His incredible foot speed almost ensures that the corner will at least be able to make a play on the ball if thrown in his direction.
That speed not only helps on the defensive side of the ball.
Alexander’s punt returning provided some of the biggest plays of this past season, including the memorable 69-yard touchdown scamper in the rout of Florida State. Along with being sure handed on fielding punts and kicks, which plagued the U of L special teams last season, Alexander is equally important on the return unit as he is on defense.
Alexander will be the premier player on the U of L defense in the 2017 season. Not because of the host of preseason accolades or the potential of an NFL future, but because of the leadership the corner provides on and off the field for this team, along with the top tier talent.
Much like the rest of the fan base of U of L Cardinal football, Alexander and company are ready to make a statement in 2017.
You can follow Conner on Twitter @ConnerFarrell9.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal