The redshirt junior linebacker out of Daphne HS (AL) is part of a unit topping the nation in sacks with 46. He leads the team with 10 quarterback hurries and is third on the team in sacks (5 for -37 yards) and tackles for loss (9.5 for -43). Ryan Anderson tops the team with two forced fumbles and is tied for fumbles recovered (2 for 0 yards). He recorded 33 tackles, 17 solo after 13 games.
Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook has pocket presence, a quick release and can avoid the rush. Anderson, 6-2, 249 pounds, could be a key figure to affecting the 2015 Johnny Unitas Award Winner. The offensive line led by two All-Americans, center Jack Allen and left tackle Jack Conklin have surrendered 17 sacks in 13 games, tied for 25th nationally.
Michigan State faced a Penn State Nittany Lions team with 44 sacks, second nationally. A direct challenge by Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio to his offensive line paid dividends as the unit shut out the Nittany Lions sack attack. One caveat to the story though, 6-7, 272 pound senior defensive end Carl Nassib, the nation’s leader (15.5) was on the field for only a few plays before being relegated to the sideline due to an injury.
Allen said on Tuesday during the media day at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, “They (Alabama) are a very physical team up front. They are great at shedding blocks and great at what they do. They are good tacklers and efficient in every move they make. We just have to be ready to take on that challenge.” Speaking specifically about the Tide’s pass rush, he stated, “They stunt and move an average amount. I think they are so good and physical up front they don’t really necessarily need to (stunt). There are teams that don’t have as good a D-Lines or defenses that they are trying to shift and move every play to kind of throw offenses off and create gaps for them to take advantage of and miss blocks and stuff like that but for them I think they are good enough for them to not blitz as much.”
According to Allen, the Alabama Crimson Tide is a combination of the best athletes from the Ohio State and Penn State defensive lines. “Every team has three or four really good guys. Alabama has 11 guys that they rotate in like that.”
Conklin does not lack for confidence. “We believe we are the best line in the nation. Yeah, we think we can keep them (Alabama) off the quarterback.” He has the utmost respect for the Tide defensive line though. “They (@A’Shawn Robinson and @Jarran Reed) are great players and they are a bit different because they are thicker. A lot of defensive ends I’ve played against personally this year are 250 or 260 pound type of guys. A lot of time A’Shawn Robinson will line up at defensive end. I think he is like a 290/300 pound type player. It’s a different type of player.”
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish team of 2013 with Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix and Shelton Day is very similar to this year’s edition of the Tide according to Conklin. “It’s a real big group that moves well. They are a read/react defense so they are going to take a second to react. I think that will help us in the passing game ultimately.”
Conklin revealed they have viewed the Arkansas Razorbacks and Tennessee Volunteers games to study the vulnerabilities since those offenses are similar to the Spartans along with the close margin wins. “Alabama is a good team and they are going to play hard. They are very similar in their style of play. They have tough, hard-nosed players that are going to work hard and try to out physical the other team.”
Anderson and company are SEC tough. Even though Michigan State is in the Big Ten, these two teams are from the same bloodline. One could say they are two cousins squaring off to determine superiority. Watch and listen as Ryan Anderson gives a scouting report of the Michigan State offensive line and reasons for the improved pass rush.