Junior nose tackle Ed Alexander struggled with his weight and injuries for most of his time at LSU.
Coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Hammond, Louisiana, Alexander was once considered a five-star recruit and ended up ranked 76 overall in 247sports.com's class of 2016 rankings.
Now Alexander is finally starting to get back to his old self. He's started the last five games for LSU and has made an impact as both a run defender and pass rusher.
On the season Alexander has 25 total tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and three quarterback hurries. Against Rice, he finished with four tackles and helped force a sack when he pressured the quarterback, who was taken down by sophomore defensive end Glen Logan.
It's those plays where Alexander stands out most in what is a mostly unnoticed role as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense where his job is to take up space and occupy two blockers.
"[Alexander] is the clean-up man," said junior linebacker Devin White. "He cleans everything up, and I come through after him to make sure everything is spotless. I'm so thankful to have him. He's the ultimate team player. I've been knowing him for a long time as a Louisiana recruit, and I'm just proud he's on this team."
Alexander has seen his role increase over the past few weeks, partially due to an injury to junior nose tackle Breiden Fehoko, but mainly because his improvement on the field. In the five games Alexander started, he has 17 of his 25 tackles and sacked Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
"We got Ed in shape. He can go," White said. "If anybody knows Ed from high school, he was a horse. We're getting him back to that Ed from high school, and now he's just being dominant."
LSU coach Ed Orgeron also noted how much better in shape Alexander is. He described Alexander — listed at 6-foot-3 and 331 pounds — as being more active and said the junior is "playing his best ball."
"That's a big guy," Logan said. "It's like he gets stronger and stronger as the season goes on, and when he's in the middle, you just know he's going to take a double team.
"The way he's playing is phenomenal."