During his two years as a star linebacker at Rock Bridge, Van Alexander seldom was unable to catch up to the play.
In setting a school record with 400 tackles, Alexander was usually making the play.
In his first week as a Missouri Tiger, though, Alexander, 6 feet 1, 210 pounds, is trying to play catch up.
“It’s a lot more intense; everything is moving so fast-paced and moves so quickly,” Alexander said. “You just have to try and do your best to keep up.”
While he has to adjust to the pace on the field and the speed of the opposing players, Alexander, a two-time all-state selection and the No. 8 linebacker in the nation according to Rivals.com, also is trying to learn Missouri’s defense.
“There is so much more stuff to learn than high school ball also, so you just have to do your best to learn everything as quick as possible,” he said.
Linebackers coach Dave Steckel said there is much for Alexander to learn, but he is adjusting well.
“He’s doing a good job,” Steckel said. “We give them a lot of information in a short time that they have to digest and understand, so he’s doing pretty good.”
Pinkel said providing so much information to the players helps speed the learning process and he knows no other method.
“We don’t ease into anything; that’s not in my vocabulary,” Pinkel said. “That’s got to be one of the most difficult things for the first-year players because they don’t get out and get all the teaching of all the drills we do.”
Alexander said the full-speed practices and the volume of plays to learn are a shock, but the new experiences and the on-field competition help him to improve.
“Whenever there is competition on the team and everybody is striving to do their best, that just makes the whole team better and makes more competition,” he said.
Alexander, who is improving with every practice, would like to play this season, but he also sees the benefit in learning from the sidelines.
“Either way it’s a plus,” he said. “If you redshirt a whole year, you’re learning stuff and getting bigger. While, if you play, obviously you’re not sitting on the bench. You’re getting right in there and playing.”
Even if Alexander doesn’t play this season, he will learn by watching senior linebacker James Kinney and the other defensive starters.
Alexander has the luxury of rooming with Kinney during preseason workouts and gaining wisdom from him and the other veterans any time he feels behind.
“They’ve been helping a lot. They’ve been very helpful,” he said. “They’re asking me if I have any questions. And I know that I can always go up to them if I have any questions, and they will give a real helpful answer. I mean, they’ve all been real helpful.”