Donnie Alexander’s high school coaches kept gallons of chocolate milk in the Edna Karr locker room.
They were “personally” reserved for Alexander, said Norman Randall, Alexander’s position coach for three years. In fact, coaches had such a difficult time adding weight to Alexander’s frame that they also fed him “three to four” peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before and after practice.
Turns out, all it took was surgery.
Laid up for two months following a shoulder procedure in April, Alexander packed on the pounds. He’s currently at 230, about 15 pounds heavier than his playing weight in the spring and last fall.
The extra poundage is being felt — literally.
“One play in the scrimmage, I caught (running back Derrius) Guice coming though the hole,” Alexander said Wednesday, his first meeting with reporters since surgery. “After that play, I told (Devin) White, ‘They’re going to feel the 230 this year.’ ”
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Maybe more important than his weight is his health. He said he’s completely healthy, fully recovered from a lengthy rehabilitation — it went into June — for a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
He’s poised to take advantage of what many around the LSU football program are calling “his time.” A special-teams player for three seasons, Alexander is ready to take his rightful place in the linebacker lineage at this program. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of Duke Riley and Deion Jones, virtual unknowns until their breakout senior seasons led to second-round selections in the NFL draft.
“Basically,” Alexander started, “I just want to ball out. Let everybody know what they saw in the past isn’t my real style of play.”
What is that style?
“I can’t really describe it,” he answered. “It’s just something y’all are going to have to see when the season starts. I’m going to be laying a lot of smack down.”
He’s got weight behind that “smack” talk this year, about 15 to 20 pounds more than he played with in a rotating reserve role last season behind Kendell Beckwith.
Everyone’s starting to notice. If they’re not, Alexander is letting them know.
Coach Ed Orgeron used to refer to him as “Little Donnie.” That changed this summer while Alexander milled around Orgeron’s second-floor office in the football operations building.
“He said, ‘Coach, you’ve got to call me Big Donnie,’ ” Orgeron said. “I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”
Dave Aranda, the Tigers' second-year defensive coordinator, learned just how much the weight has helped during Saturday's scrimmage in Tiger Stadium. On an inside running play, a guard left his block on a defensive end and moved to the second level, gunning for Alexander.
The two met in the open field, Alexander delivering a “smack,” Aranda said, that knocked the guard back.
“The guard was kind of shocked,” Aranda said. “I was shocked, too, when I watched it. I go, ‘Donnie, I’ve never seen this from you. This is great.’
“He goes, ‘230, Coach — 230.’ He’s 230 pounds now. Donnie, he’s putting it all on the line this year. You’re pulling for people like that. It means a lot to him.”
Aranda left the guard unidentified. White, starter at the other inside linebacker position, divulged his name: starting left guard Garrett Brumfield.
“After he did that,” White said, “I was happy. Jumped up, gave him high-five.”
That type of story bodes well for his health, which has been uncertain this preseason. Alexander has practiced in a gold (limited-contact) jersey at times, and Orgeron said this week that freshmen Tyler Taylor and Jacob Phillips are fighting for a rotational spot to spell Alexander.
“Inside linebacker,” Orgeron said when describing open positions Tuesday. “Who’s going to go in for Donnie?”
LSU’s starting quarterback competition is over.
Alexander said he “feels good” and he’s “ready.” He can now completely lock out his shoulders and arms during collisions, something he couldn’t do last season as an old high school injury flared up. He said his injury and subsequent surgery are similar to edge rusher Arden Key’s issue.
The labrum is the cup-shaped rim of cartilage that lines and reinforces the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder. Without it, bones rub together.
Alexander had surgery in mid-April and returned to upper-body work in mid- to late June. Key had his procedure about six weeks later. He remains sidelined, not cleared for contact.
“He’d come ask me what stuff I was doing with the recovery,” Alexander said. “I was letting him know, ‘Yeah, you’re on the right track.’ ”
He didn’t spend those two months of recovery just sitting around eating. He worked out his legs and did some biking, too. But, yeah, he smiles: He mostly ate. Wings, pizza, protein shakes — he consumed it all.
The result? It’s being felt.
“Now I know, like, I won’t get pushed back,” he said. “People won’t push me around.”
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LSU picked a starter at quarterback.