Will Anderson Jr. wastes no time taking big role at Alabama football's outside linebacker spot
It was an unavoidable reality that freshmen would be in the picture at Alabama’s outside linebacker position: there was little to no rotation behind the two starters, who have since been drafted.
Early in preseason practice, UA coach Nick Saban envisioned two of Alabama’s four freshmen at the position contributing to depth. With every passing practice, Will Anderson Jr. proved to be more than a depth piece.
Anderson far exceeded preseason expectations for playing time in Alabama’s season opener against Missouri, getting the start and playing all of UA’s defensive snaps in the first quarter. He contributed three tackles in UA’s 38-19 win.
“Will is a great player,” Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses said. “He’s my locker mate. I talk to him all the time, give him great advice. He’s really explosive, really fast, really quick. I really see him being a big factor in our defense down the road. I feel like he just needs to keep on developing.”
Anderson is already developing in the ways Moses and UA want to see. He wouldn’t have earned the every-down role if he hadn’t.
The expectation was for the little veteran presence UA has at outside linebacker, Christopher Allen and Ben Davis, to be the every-down players. Anderson and fellow freshmen Drew Sanders would fall in line to use their pass-rush skills in specific situations, ones that allowed the to contribute to depth while not exposing them to situations for which they’re ill-prepared.
Anderson proved ready to handle run-stopping responsibilities, too.
On a fourth-and-2 with roughly five minutes left in the first quarter, Missouri ran an option to Anderson’s side. Anderson played quarterback Shawn Robinson quickly, forcing an early pitch — early enough for Moses to track the ball carrier down for a loss and turnover on downs.
Plays like that are how Anderson earned an early nickname: Terminator.
According to quarterback Mac Jones, UA offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian labeled Anderson the Terminator in a film session, “because he’s always around the ball destroying people.”
As Anderson develops, he’ll have more opportunities to be around the ball. He’s already earned more than he would’ve had four weeks ago.
“He’ll get better and play a lot here,” Jones said. “His name, hopefully he can live up to the Terminator name.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson