"Second, he's got to understand that he's got to play within his abilities. His numbers last year were pretty good. He's the kind of kid who can leave here in a couple years with better numbers than Tyler did, but he's just going to go about it in a different way.''
Messinger and his staff base their projections about Alexander on what they saw from him during the three-week summer practice period in June, when SC went against past trends and participated in a number of 7-on-7 workouts, which emphasize the pass.
"I've been a bit of an old curmudgeon when it comes to 7-on-7 and traveling around the country doing it,'' Messinger said. "This year, I really loosened up a little bit because I saw how important it could be to us, especially with the skills-position people and some of those young guys. Even though they got a whole year under their belt, they still didn't have that edge yet. So we attended a lot of 7-on-7s this spring, and it really helped us.
"It really helped Jon. He's finally realized what a read is to him. Your read is based on your defense, not your offense. And he's learned the little things. His arm's gotten stronger, his footwork's gotten better. No doubt he's learned to read defenses better.''
Alexander feels that his game is now at a higher level.
"I do,'' he said. "I had a lot of offseason work. [Mays] helped me a lot reading the defenses [in the 7-on-7s], and he was still behind me and in my ear. But now it's all natural, and I'm out there with the line in front of me.
"And then on top of that, my linemen have been working all offseason. All summer, they gave me more time and I can go through my progressions and read our plays a lot better, and make a lot better choices.''
So what's the most important thing Alexander learned in the offseason? He didn't hesitate to answer.
"No interceptions,'' he smiled. "My main goal is no interceptions.''
Not even Tyler Harris could do that.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.