Will Anderson: “I Still Haven’t Reached My Full Potential Yet”
Nick Saban has coached numerous All-Americans and first-round draft picks during his time in Tuscaloosa, but linebacker Will Anderson might top the list. The junior has been a dominating player for the Crimson Tide from the moment he stepped on campus in 2020, but Anderson says he has yet to reach his full potential.
“I still haven’t reached my full potential yet. Last year was a great year, but I feel like there is always room for improvement,” Anderson said.
The former five-star recruit started all 13 games as a true freshman. He finished third in the SEC with seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Anderson picked up second-team All-SEC honors and was selected as the Shaun Alexander-FWAA Freshman of the Year.
He followed that season up with one of the more dominating seasons for a defensive player in college football history. Anderson amassed 102 tackles and led the nation in sacks with 17.5. As well as 34.5 tackles for loss this past season. The uber-talented pass rusher won the Bronko Nagurski Award, presented annually to the nation's top defensive player. Anderson was a unanimous first team All-American and named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
He ended up with 31 first-place votes Heisman Trophy, which were the third-most of any player in 2021.
Anderson is never satisfied with what he’s accomplished on the field. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a Nick Saban coached player. Every year is a new year, whatever you did the season before is thrown out the window.
"I have goals every year, and those goals are going to be even bigger, better than the goals I set last year for myself," Anderson said in March. "Yeah, it's hit me. It was crazy to think about it. But I'm just focused on next season, getting ready to prepare for that season."
The Georgia native plays with a fire and passion that can galvanize a team around him. A veteran and leader in the Alabama locker room, when he speaks the team listens.
Anderson has set high expectations for the Alabama defense heading into the 2022 season.
"I think this year is gonna be something special,” he said in April. “You guys talk about the 2016 defense's pass rush, I feel like you guys are definitely getting ready to see that again because we have a lot of talented young guys on the edge and the D-line room."
It’s hard to find a 2023 NFL draft board that doesn’t have Anderson sitting at the top of it. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah raved about the Alabama linebacker in the summer.
“He checks every box,” said Jeremiah. “As a pass rusher, he has a dynamic first step. Anderson has long arms and he keeps opponents away from his chest. When his alignment is loose on the edge, he uses that runway to devastate offensive tackles with speed-to-power rushes. He is explosive as a looper on stunts, too. When he's aligned on the inside shoulder of the tackle, he wins with quickness to slip blocks and create havoc.
“Against the run, he easily stacks single blocks and sets the edge. He can knife through double-teams to tally tackles for loss. His effort is outstanding to chase from the backside. It's almost comical what he does to tight ends and running backs when they draw the unfortunate assignment to block him.”
The thought of Anderson elevating his game to another level will be problem for opposing quarterbacks.