TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – With about three minutes remaining in the first half of Saturday’s A-Day game, Will Anderson Jr. asked an assistant on the sidelines, “How much more do you want?”
How much more of what he was offering exactly? Well, bags of course.
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound outside linebacker led the nation in sacks last season with 17.5 as a true sophomore. And if spring football and the A-Day game were any indication, Anderson isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.
Anderson popped the question after a first-half streak where he had two sacks. The assistant replied, “One more before halftime.” Team White would come out for another defensive streak, but Anderson was not one of them. He also didn’t play in the second half of the spring scrum, which left his sack total at two for the game, but that didn’t stop Anderson from being involved with his teammates from the line. of key.
As a sophomore last season, Anderson was voted one of four team captains along with Bryce Young, Evan Neal and Phidarian Mathis. He was also part of the leadership group. That leadership is something Anderson has expressed he wants to continue to develop, and it was on full display from the sidelines during A-Day.
“Everyone says leadership has no age,” Anderson said. “But for us to do this in the second year, I think it’s really special. Leadership is not an easy thing. Leadership is very lonely sometimes. But I think when you have the respect of your teammates and you do the right things every day, they have no choice but to respect you.”
Even when he was held up during the second half, Anderson was still actively cheering on his teammates and pointing out the things he saw in the game. He was one of the first people to run onto the sidelines in celebration after Jalen Milroe connected with Christian Leary for the first touchdown of the game for the White team.
Among the top seven of the white team, there was a competition to see who could reach quarterback the most. Dallas Turner finished with three sacks, Jamil Burroughs and Chris Braswell added two, and Jaylen Moody also had one.
Turner saw an increased role as the season continued into 2021 due to injuries and finished the year with 8.5 sacks as a freshman. Braswell played mostly on special teams last season but gained significant reps with the first-team defense throughout the spring. During several A-Day sets, Anderson would be held out until third down and was seen dragging the guys around him, especially Braswell.
Scroll to continue
Anderson will lead a pass-throwing group in 2022 that he compared to Alabama’s defense in 2016, which included pass-rushing specialists like Johnathan Allen, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson (no relation to Will.) One of the biggest positive changes he’s seen throughout the spring is the growing knowledge of younger people in the playbook.
“When it comes to passing rushing, one of the most important things is for the younger kids to learn the plays,” Anderson said. “It was never the ability, it’s just learning the games. And I think this year is going to be something special.”
In the postgame, head coach Nick Saban said the top seven impacted the game as much as anything, in part because of a failing offensive line for the Crimson Tide. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was the quarterback receiving all 10 non-contact sacks for the White team and spoke about the competitive nature of the on-court relationship between him and Anderson.
“Throughout the spring, we’re face to face every day,” Young said. “We’re both great competitors. We’re always going to talk a little bit of trash and compete, but that’s the fun ending. That’s why you choose Alabama. That’s why we all want to be here so we can playing against the best, training against the best.”
Young and Anderson both talked about the balance between competitiveness and fun. And Anderson had a lot of fun on Saturday. He was joking with his teammates, the coaches and the former player who were on the sidelines.
However, once he’s between the lines, Anderson is locked in. Even if he has a smile on his face, it’s no longer fun for the opponent.
Alabama brings the defending Heisman Trophy winner back to Young, and Anderson finished fifth a year ago. Individual awards don’t seem to matter as much to the pair, they just want to win. Even after A-Day, Young said he hated being on the losing team with Crimson.
Anderson was already arguably the best defensive player in County last season, and what’s even scarier for Crimson Tide opponents in 2022 is the depth that has now developed around him on the defensive front.
“We have a lot of talented young guys on the edge and in the D-line room,” Anderson said. “And it’s going to be something special this year.”