Alabama’s Will Anderson destroys people, game plans and dreams

Will Anderson Jr does not need much of an introduction as he has dominated college football in his first two seasons at Alabama en route to becoming the most feared defender in the country and the best overall player.

Anderson is poised to be a top-three pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and would have likely been the first player picked in the 2022 NFL Draft if he were eligible. Watching Anderson at closed scrimmages the last two springs were confirmation to what I had been hearing — he’s a freak.

Anderson destroys people, game plans and dreams.

The opposing offense has very little ability to do much since he wrecks the practices and scrimmages. Anderson did it from the jump as an early enrollee in 2020. Those in the program say he made life difficult for an established offensive line that won the Joe Moore award in 2020.

Despite facing double-teams and ample attention, Anderson led the country in sacks with 17.5 in 2021 and broke the NCAA’s single-season TFL record with 33.5.

Anderson is a tempo-setter and throwback player and the alpha entering his third and last season. Anderson practices just as hard as he plays on Saturdays and is a great mentor to the younger players on doing things the Alabama way. the no 5 prospect in 2020’s Top247, Anderson will be a top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft as most evaluators will likely have him as the best player available but there are also two elite quarterbacks that I wrote about last week that hold a lot of value.

What’s most scary is he’s nowhere near his ceiling but I did notice this spring that he has developed his hands and is using the side-scissors hand swipe to add to his elite get off, explosiveness, and bullrush.

This summer I’m doing deep tape breakdowns of college football’s top players, roughly going off my way-too-early 2023 Mock Draft. Then I’m taking what I learned on tape to do some concise strength-and-weakness breakdowns with a video clip or two. Here’s the report on Anderson, who I went super in-depth on last fall before the Iron Bowl.

STRENGTHS

Anderson’s tape shows incredible disruption vs. both run and pass, elite get-off and a non-stop motor. Anderson moves around in Alabama’s defense and plays on each edge in a three-point stance. He will also slide inside as a 4i despite weighing 100 pounds less than many offensive linemen. To survive inside, Anderson uses elite hand placement and is stronger and slippery than you think. Anderson plays with heavy hands and has an uncanny ability to always be around the ball. Anderson is relentless on the field and simply has the “it” factor as a dominating and feared presence.

Anderson’s elite explosiveness poses a lot of issues. Edge players that have the twitch to react first to the snap pose a lot of problems for an offensive lineman. If the lineman is late then his technique will make it difficult to block someone that has a step on him off the ball. Anderson is also excellent at running pass rush “games” (more on those here) and has a great feel for getting the offensive linemen on different levels and finding the quarterback in space. He also has the ability to drop into coverage as well as Alabama will bait the offense and bring fire-zone pressures to add to the confusion. Anderson demands two bodies if you’re going to account for him. Anderson is a very slippery athlete and has the ability to make himself small to disrupt behind the line of scrimmage.

Anderson spills the counter and then makes a TFL. One of a million plays that show he’s an ELITE two-way player that you cannot run at with much success despite being undersized.

WEAKNESS

“Weakness” and “Will Anderson” do not go hand in hand but I’ll nitpick and take Nick Saban’s word that pass coverage is his weakness. I doubt Anderson spends too much time worrying about this and is focused on getting to the quarterback.

IN SUMMARY

Anderson has played himself into the preseason Heisman race after being snubbed of an invite in 2021. Anderson will have an uphill battle to break last season’s marks of 17.5 sacks and 33.5 TFLs in 2022 as I really think Alabama is going to be judicious with his playing time against a ton of teams who they’ll roll through in Tuscaloosa (Utah State, ULM, Vanderbilt, Austin Peay). Anderson has a chance to cement his legacy as the greatest defensive player since Derrick Thomas.

Previous 2022 player Film Studies:

CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State: What makes CJ Stroud among the best players in college football

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama: How Bryce Young can take another step

Blake Brockermeyer is a College Football Analyst for 247Sports. He was an All-American OT at the University of Texas and was a first-round NFL Draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 1995. He was a defensive quality control analyst for SMU from 2018-2020. He has sons on the Texas (Luke) and Alabama (Tommy, James) football teams.

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