The Will Anderson hype started picking up steam in December when he dominated practices before the Army All-America bowl. He enrolled early; but, with no spring ball, there wasn’t news coming out about the players. However, once fall practice finally began, the Anderson hype began again.
With such little experience returning at outside linebacker, the opportunity was there. Still, it’s been rare for a true freshman to make a significant contribution at OLB under Nick Saban.
Well, Anderson certainly lived up to the hype in his debut.
4th and 2: Anderson is left unblocked here and is tasked with playing the quarterback. He quickly pushes up and gets in the quarterback’s face. Anderson forces the QB to pitch the ball, tackling him in the process; and Dylan Moses (#32) finishes the play for the stop.
1st and 10: Anderson has his hand in the dirt on the left side of the line. He gets chipped as the tight end goes out for a pass, but he keeps his eyes on the ball. Anderson shoots towards the quarterback, his quickness forcing an off balance throw; and he gets a hit on the QB for good measure. The receiver still makes the catch; but instead of getting the pass in stride, he has to reach down and then spin after catching it, allowing Christian Harris (#8) to quickly make the tackle.
3rd and 11: Anderson is standing up on the right. Missouri brings a receiver in motion right to left, and the quarterback hands it off to him. The running back takes off to the left, and Anderson follows and engages him. He shrugs off the block and dives at the ball carrier. Anderson doesn’t get the tackle, but he forces the receiver to keep to avoid him and keeps the play going sideways. It’s a 6 yard gain, but it’s still fourth down.
2nd and 4: Anderson’s standing up on the left side. Missouri brings a receiver in motion left to right for an option play. The design leaves Anderson unblocked, and that is the fatal flaw. He crashes down and destroys the running back at the mesh point. The quarterback barely pulls the ball out and is so spooked by Anderson and now Patrick Surtain II (#2) in his face that he awkwardly pitches the ball away. It hits the ground, and Surtain ends up diving on it.
2nd and 9: Anderson is once more on the right. He attacks the outside shoulder of the left tackle and violently punches away his hands. Anderson starts to get past, and the left tackle ends up tackling him while the quarterback just gets a pass off. Anderson does still get the quarterback on the ground, however.
2nd and goal: Anderson subs in for Allen and immediately makes an impact. Missouri leaves a tight end to block Anderson, and it goes about how you’d expect. Anderson’s quick first step beats the tight end before he can reach him, and Anderson slices through the gap. The running back barely gets forward before Anderson is smashing into him.
And here’s another angle.