There aren’t very many things that surprise you anymore when watching Alabama.
Year in and year out it produces top shelf talent who steps up to the challenge ever game, especially against its Week 1 opponents who they haven’t lost to since 2001.
So shock isn’t quite the adjective that’s used when talking about outside linebacker Will Anderson. Everyone knew he was talented, especially when he started as a freshman last season.
But to a certain degree Anderson has appeared to have exceeded expectations of where his trajectory was headed leading into 2021. He isn’t just the Crimson Tide’s top pass rusher and a feared defender in the SEC.
No, Anderson might be one of the (or simply the) best defensive player in college football.
That sort of praise is heavy for any second year starter, let alone after the first game of the season, yet when watching Anderson dominate a Miami offensive line which had a combined 190 starts amongst the group, it’s hard not to come away with glowing remarks.
Maybe this should have been where Anderson’s expectations were set, given that head coach Nick Saban called him a complete player just a few weeks ago.
“He’s been really good,” Saban said back in August. “Will is probably the guy that creates more havoc for our defense in terms of his ability to pass rush. He’s a more complete player now and understands the whole scheme, is very diverse as a player in terms of what he can do.”
Create havoc he did as Anderson capped off Saturday’s game with nine total tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss, while consistently collapsing the pocket around D’Eriq King who was brought down a total of four times and never settled into the game.
It’s said that the three most important spots on a football team are quarterback, left tackle and pass rusher and Alabama has three large green check marks in all of those boxes. When asked about the team’s pass rush, Anderson attributed the team’s success to scheme and unselfishness.
“I think it was as a we game planned this week,” Anderson said on the success of the pass rush. “We stuck to our game plan saying we had to contain him and we had to rush together and rush as a unit and nobody can be selfish. And we all just have to play as a team and play up front as a team and just hold our gaps and be responsible to do our job.”
Even with his devastating combination of strength and speed, neither of those characteristics may be the most frightening thing about his game. What scares teams the most is his classification.
He’s only a sophomore, and at the very least has two dozen college football games left to play and to further prove his stature atop the defensive rankings.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77