New blood at D-End

After finishing his second start of the season, defensive end Mark Anderson is looking forward to continuing in the role. <br><br>"I'm starting to feel more comfortable on the field," Anderson said.

Anderson first started three games ago against Southern Miss. Nautyn McKay-Loescher, the starter for most of the year at left end, was forced to miss the game due to a legal proceeding back home in Canada. Anderson took full advantage of the opportunity, starting and playing well.

"I think I'm getting better each game," Anderson said. "As the season goes along I'm getting better with every game we play. I'm going to keep working hard."

At 6-5, 239 pounds, Anderson has the potential to develop into an excellent defensive end. Last season he played outside linebacker, but the redshirt sophomore switched back to the D-Line in the spring.

Mark Anderson (left) and starting middle linebacker Freddie Roach (right) chat during last spring's Night of Champions.

Anderson commented, "I'm glad I made the transition from linebacker to defensive end. I came in as a defensive end as a freshman. I feel more comfortable with the position. I know I can make plays there. I feel like it was a good move for me."

For the early part of the season Anderson was essentially Bama's first defensive end off the bench. Versus Georgia four weeks ago, he didn't start but played 56 percent of the defensive snaps. Two weeks ago against Ole Miss he gave back the starting role to McKay-Loescher, but Anderson still competed on 40 percent of the Tide's defensive downs.

Week to week Anderson's value to the defense has increased. "I've been patient," he said. "The last couple of weeks I just went out there and tried to do my job. I tried to help the team as best I could. I want to improve each game so by the end of the year I can be where I want to be.

"Next year I'm trying to start."

Anderson's stat sheet after nine games shows 31 total tackles (11th-best on the team), three sacks and four quarterback hurries. Against Ole Miss the Tide defense struggled with tackling but was improved last Saturday against the Volunteers.

"We've got to go back to the basics, the fundamentals," Anderson said. "When you get the chance you've got to do it right."

Like the rest of Bama's players, the 2003 season has been sometimes frustrating for Anderson. But he sees hope. "Last year we had the attitude that nothing was going to stop us. This year we need to have the same mentality. We've got to know we're going to win if we do our assignments."

Versus Tennessee last weekend, Anderson started ahead of McKay-Loescher. He played 74 percent of Bama's defensive snaps, garnering five tackles (one for a loss) and a quarterback hurry.

Anderson (#47) swoops in to make the tackle versus Southern Miss. (Barry Fikes photo)

Now that he's gotten a taste of being "the man," he wants more. "We'll find out next Saturday who can lead," Anderson said. "We need more leaders to step up. I'm going to try to lead by example. We've got seniors that have been stepping up. We need someone to take over the team and lead us to victory."

So far the 2003 Tide squad has been plagued by hard luck, but no one questions their effort in practice. Anderson said, "The workouts are serious. We do a lot of precision drills. That will help next week. A lot of what we do will be in the game and will help us win."

Too often this year the Tide defense has been on the defensive. Ole Miss struck early and often, forcing Bama's stop troops back on their heels. Then last week against Tennessee the unit played better during regulation, only to backslide during the five overtime periods.

"We just made a lot of mistakes," Anderson said. "The other teams have played well and capitalized on our mistakes. We haven't played the best we could. But next week it'll be a different story."

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