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Alabama LB Will Anderson earns comparison to NFL legend Jason Taylor

Scrimmage Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) Photo by Je
Photo by Jeff Hanson of Alabama Athletics

National media members and Alabama fans are out of adjectives to describe Will Anderson Jr.

He is the most fearsome defensive player in college football. Since he arrived on campus as a five-star in 2020, the native Georgian put terror on the faces of quarterbacks. Anderson exploded onto the scene as a freshman, but he announced his dominance in the Southeastern Conference in 2021. The 6-foot-4, 243-pounder totaled 102 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries, and three pass breakups. He led the team and the nation in tackles for loss and sacks while capturing several individual awards. Anderson won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and Unanimous All-American honors. He garnered the respect of his peers by becoming a team captain, and he is not finished.

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Some compared his production and talent to Derrick Thomas. Thomas, an Alabama legend, is regarded as the greatest pass rusher in the history of the Crimson Tide. ESPN’s Matt Stinchcomb was at Bryant-Denny Stadium for Alabama’s spring game.

As a former offensive tackle, he told Greg McElroy and Cole Cubelic about what makes Anderson so intimidating.

Stinchcomb compared Anderson to a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

“A lot of people talk about Derrick Thomas with Will Anderson because of the production and first-step quickness,” Stinchcomb said. “He does not remind me of Derrick Thomas much at all. He is a long lever guy with crazy speed. He is more of Jason Taylor to me than Derrick Thomas. His speed to power, I don’t know how you do a good job anchoring against that. His first step is so great that you have to get out of your stance quickly, but then he transitions to power so well. He is so long. The most intimidating part is how long his arms are.”

Offensive linemen, running backs, and quarterbacks saw Anderson’s arms all of 2021. Jason Taylor made pro teams feel his arms for 15 seasons (1997-2011) in the National Football League. He was taken in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. The 6-foot-6, 244-pounder became a six-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year, three-time All-Pro (first team), and the NFL’s sacks leader in 2002 (18.5). Taylor is a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.

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Anderson has an opportunity to become a special NFL player.

He is projected to be the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 draft. Anderson is going after the Heisman Trophy in the fall.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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