Sept. 13, 2009
Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
In Saturday's game against Wyoming, the Texas defense was able to keep the Cowboys' offense out of the end zone. The Longhorns held the Wyoming offense to just a field goal in the 41-10 victory, and even that came on a drive that started at the Texas 14-yard line.
An integral part of the strong defensive performance was senior defensive tackle Ben Alexander. Alexander tied for second on the team with a career-high six tackles, including one for a loss.
Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp is not surprised with the success Alexander has enjoyed early this season. Muschamp has seen first hand the effort Alexander has given each day to become a better player in his senior season.
"Ben's worked awful hard at the things that we asked him to work on in the offseason," Muschamp said. "He's getting his weight down and working on his lateral quickness. He's really played well for us."
Alexander understands that much of his success is due to the experience he has been able to collect while facing talented players each practice. The South Carolina native is quick to give his teammates the credit.
"I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable," Alexander said. "We've got great players here, and I go against those guys every day. When I go on the field, things take over from practice and carry over on the field and that's making me feel more comfortable. Competing against those guys makes me a lot better for when we play these other guys in the game."
Others have taken notice of Alexander's new-found comfort level this season. Sophomore defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, who considers Alexander a "big brother," has noticed the senior's attitude and work ethic translating to high-quality defensive line play.
"He's been playing great," Randall said. "He's gotten a lot stronger and lost more weight, so he's a whole lot quicker off the ball and he is beating people off blocks. His character has shown up a lot this year. Last year we had Roy (Miller) who was such a great leader that Ben really didn't have to say much, but this year you can really see his actions backing up his words."
Now in his last season, Alexander understands the defense will look to the more experienced players to lead the defense. The senior hopes to provide the leadership he was able to follow when he was a younger player.
"I feel, not pressure, but a sense of ownership. I have to step up and own that role," Alexander said. "I just feel like being on the field I need to step that up to play as well as I can."
One of the keys to any successful team is strong veteran leadership. Muschamp understands that Alexander can provide that not only with his play, but away from the field as well.
"He's got good leadership off the field," Muschamp said. "He's been a good example as far as his work habits in practice and throughout the week in preparation for the opponents in the first two games."
Taking the knowledge and skills he has accumulated in his preparation, Alexander is starting to notice the results when he takes the field on Saturdays.
"The coaches have told me that my lateral quickness and stuff like that has improved," Alexander said. "I feel that kind of stuff when I work on that on the field. Yesterday they ran a lot of zone, and I could feel myself reading it better. From watching film with Coach Muschamp before, I can see a lot of those things better. All of that stuff I can feel it kind of translate. I'm excited to see it more this season."